Hyundai’s new Eon is a significant car for the Korean manufacturer, and a model which marks a new strategy and approach to the Indian market. For the first time in its illustrious history in India, will there be two products from its stable competing at a similar price point. The new Hyundai Eon is slightly cheaper than its Santro stable mate, but the two cars’ prices overlap across the range. But let’s not judge the Eon that way, and instead let’s look at it independently, to evaluate the car for what it is. Of course, there are certain other assumptions one must get out of the way immediately, and that concerns Hyundai’s biggest competitor in this class – Maruti. The Hyundai Eon is definitely an attempt to tempt buyers away from the hot-selling Alto range, but its brief isn’t as simplistic as that. It will no doubt poach buyers away from other popular Maruti models as well, including the Wagon R and Santro.
Design & Engineering
To look at, the new Hyundai Eon appears both stylish and modern. The ‘Fluidic’ architecture is clearly evident, with a swooping beltline which starts just aft of the large headlamps, sweeping all the way back into the C-pillar. The big headlights and prominent hexagonal grille also ensure that the Eon is unmistakably a Hyundai, drawing a direct lineage to the face-lifted i10 and the new Verna. The chamfered wheel arches are also reminiscent of other modern designs, viz the Chevrolet Beat and Maruti A-Star. From the rear, the large tail lamps seem to have been inspired from Hyundai’s earlier i30 model. The only not-so-pleasing aspect of the Eon’s design is its rear bumper, which appears heavy and ungainly. Perhaps, Hyundai’s designers could look at incorporating some rear reflectors to alleviate this heaviness, like they have with the i10 and Verna.
Interestingly, the Eon shares the same wheelbase as the Santro, but it would be premature to assume that the Eon is simply a re-styled and re-bodied version of Hyundai’s stalwart. It’s true that the engine in the Eon is also a scaled down version of the Santro’s, but that’s largely where the similarities end. Of course, Hyundai’s engineers have made intelligent use of what they had lying around the shop floor, but the Eon is better for that, since it has tried and trusted mechanicals, and yet is frugal to manufacture and thus, cheap to sell.
There are a number of improvements to the Eon however, including optimised front suspension geometry to give the car better cornering stability, and tighter packaging for more interior room. The Eon’s engine is canted forward, and an electrical power steering system is used as well, which not only requires less space than a hydraulic unit, but also consumes less of the engine’s power, thus making the new Eon more energy efficient into the bargain.
The engine itself is a three-cylinder unit with three valves per cylinder, derived from the Santro’s 4-cylinder iRDE unit. It produces an impressive power of 56 PS and 74 Nm of torque, which is more than adequate for city use.
Interiors & Comfort
Hyundai recognised that a premium and modern looking interior would be key to generating interest among buyers, and they have definitely pulled it off. The dashboard and centre console, as also the instrument binnacle are modern and funky looking, yet quite practical too. The glovebox is large, and there is a big stowage space on the dashboard in front of the passenger as well. At the rear though, there are no seat back pockets or door pockets, which mean little or no stowage for rear passengers.
The seat cushioning is slightly on the softer side, which on longer commutes, is not ideal, as I experienced some lower back discomfort.
The AC controls felt slightly fiddly to operate as well, but the large buttons for the stereo are easy to operate on the move, plus it has the benefit of a USB port. The stereo has only 2 speakers though, and the sound quality isn’t the best going around, so music lovers should consider this fact before opting for it.
The Eon’s dashboard and centre console have fluorescent yellow back lighting, which is a departure from Hyundai’ now common blue back lighting, which is standard across the model range from the i10 upwards.
The Hyundai Eon has one of the biggest boots in this class, meaning you’re not cramped for space, and a full-size suitcase can fit inside comfortably. You can flip the rear seat for more space, if required.
Rear passengers however are definitely going to feel the pinch, especially if the driver and front passenger are of a taller stature. There are some inherent compromises when you have a compact wheelbase to begin with, and it shows up in rear seat space.
Performance & Handling
The Hyundai Eon’s performance characteristics are a mixed bag of some good and some not so good. I really like the way the Eon accelerates smartly, belying its tiny 814cc engine. That’s a function of its shorter gearing, no doubt, but it retains a good spread of drivability as well. In Kolkata traffic, it closes distance and gets through gaps very easily, and dare I say it, better than some other three-cylinder cars in this class. On open roads however, it struggles to maintain higher speeds, but then this is not a car which should be used this way. The AC also puts a lot of load on the engine, and on hot afternoons with four passengers and the AC on, the Eon does have a challenge on its hands. We can live with that though, because the Eon is pretty frugal at the pumps, but more on that later.
The electric power steering felt woolly, however, and I didn’t like the feedback I got. I tried a non-power assisted version later, and liked it better. Yes, power steering is a boon in city traffic and while parking, but the Eon’s system could do with better feedback.
The Eon’s brakes are very powerful, and have a good amount of bite, with good feel from the pedal as well. Braking from high speed however, sees the car shifting weight over the front axle significantly, and you can feel the tail going light and twitchy. I expect it will be better with some passengers in the back, but if you drive sensibly and remain alert, the need for braking like that should not arise. For the record, the Eon is not available with ABS, even as a cost option.
This is the big talking point for the new Hyundai Eon, and rightly so. It records a spectacular 21.1 kpl in Indian Driving Cycle (IDC) tests, but these are under ideal conditions and no way representative of what the Eon is capable of in the real world. That’s what we are here for, and autojunction.in recorded a frankly impressive figure of 14.3 kpl in city traffic, with the AC on. This is a truly impressive figure, and full marks to Hyundai for having delivered on this front.
The Eon benefits from fuel saving technologies, like the electric power steering system and intelligent alternator management, which de-couples the alternator when not required, thus preserving engine power. There is a gear-shift indicator as well, which indicates to the driver the optimum time to shift gears, thus ensuring the car is always in the right part of the power band for most efficient use.
Safety is a priority for all carmakers today, and in the case of the new Hyundai Eon, there has been every effort to ensure the safety of passengers in the case of any unfortunate eventuality. Crumple zones and an engine immobiliser are offered on all variants, while the top-of-the-line Sportz variant also benefits from a driver-side airbag. However, ABS is not available on any variant, not even as a cost option, and this deducts some points from the Eon’s overall safety rating. A minor irritant is the lack of a day-night inside rear-view mirror, which is a basic feature, and should have been standard in the Eon. We hope Hyundai rectifies the same because dazzling lights from the traffic behind is extremely disconcerting for the driver.
There’s much to like about the new Hyundai Eon. It’s a stylish little car which is good to drive in city traffic, has a substantial boot, and is fuel-efficient as well. it is well priced too, and there’s a good spread of variants, form the basic D-Lite model, which starts at Rs 2.73 lakh ex-showroom without AC or power steering, to the fully-equipped Sportz variant, which has power steering, front power windows, built-in music system, front fog lamps, title steering, remote central locking and a driver’s airbag as well, priced at Rs 3.79 lakh, ex-showroom, Kolkata.
For the money, the Eon represents a very tempting choice, in a chic, stylised package.