Four years ago, when Hyundai first launched the new ‘Fluidic’ Verna in India, it did the seemingly impossible: knocked the Honda City off its perch as the king of the C segment. The King is Dead, Long Live the King. But that’s history; today’s C-segment cars have taken the game to the next level, and Hyundai is the one who’s fallen behind.
We drive the ‘new’ Verna, and see if it’s good enough to beat the best in what is now an extremely competitive and crowded segment of the Indian car market.
Design & Engineering
So, is it just a cosmetic job, or is the new Verna actually better?
Viewed head-on, the new Verna gets a new bumper, grille, bonnet and headlights, so much so that it looks completely different to the earlier car. The hexagonal outline to the front grille has been done away with, and instead the new Verna gets two bold chrome bars running across the width of the grille between the headlights. The headlamps themselves are new, more sharply styled and now come with projector lighting elements as standard.
The new Verna gets a new bumper like a I mentioned earlier, and with it new fog lamps also. The daytime-running lights or ‘DRLs’ as they’re popularly referred to on childish blogsites, have been axed as well.
There are no changes to the sides of the Verna, with the same distinctive crease running along its length. This crease continues to remain the defining element o the Verna’s design, giving it a tiped-forward and ready-for-action look.
Walk around to the rear of the Verna, and the changes are far more subtle. The tail lamps retain the same basic shape, although the lighting elements within them are different. The rear bumper has been re-profiled slightly, and Hyundai has added reflectors to the bumper to lighten the visual mass at the rear of the car. The exhaust is now hidden behind the rear bumper to give the car a cleaner look.
Interiors & Comfort
Inside the cabin, there are no changes to speak of. The new Verna is identical to the existing model save for one or two small differences. For one, the interior illumination for the stereo and driver information display has changed to blue text on a black background. The earlier version had black text on a blue background.
The other change, more significantly, is the addition of what Hyundai calls an ‘ergolever’. This lever allows the rear passenger to move the front passenger seat forward, and also change the backrest angle to allow for more legroom. This concept was pioneered by VW with its Vento in the Indian market, but Hyundai’s execution is better. The lever falls easily to hand and is light and simple to operate.
Hyundai is known to sell cars with high feature content, and the new Verna is no different. It is practically packed with every convenience feature a buyer could ask for, including a Bluetooth stereo, reverse camera, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and faux leather upholstery. However, one feature that is missing on the new Verna, and which most of the competition now has, are rear AC vents.
The rear seat itself is reasonably comfortable, but the low seating position means rear passengers will have to crouch slightly to get inside, and real tall people will find the seating position slightly awkward. The Nissan Sunny still has the best rear living quarters.
Where the new Verna redeems itself is at the front. The seats are well bolstered, supportive and quite plush at the same time. The driver’s seat has a wide range of adjustment, and so finding the right driving position is very easy.
Hyundai now offers the Verna with in-built music storage of 1GB, similar to what we’ve seen on the Grand i10 and new Elite i20. The stereo itself is fantastic, with great punch and aural quality in the cabin, even when the music was being played through a flash drive in MP3 format.
Performance & Handling
Where the Verna did receive its share of criticism was as far as its handling was concerned. Hyundai has taken this criticism on the chin, and the new Verna is much-improved. Hyundai has reworked the suspension substantially, changing the spring rates, the dampers and also adjusting the mounting points slightly. Since major changes to the chassis were not possible, Hyundai engineers concentrated on re-designing the suspension bushings. The net result is a car which feels more planted, with none of the wallowy nature of the previous car. The overly-light steering, which we also criticized in our earlier review, has been improved by way of a new motor and a recalibrated rack and pinion, for a more positive feel.
Pic courtesy Ritesh Madhok
Now the new Verna drives like a mid-size sedan should, with a well-planted feel. It still isn’t the sharpest-handling mid-size sedan on sale in India, and body roll still makes its presence felt through switchback corners, but the overall feel is far more taut and precise.
Ride quality has always been one of the Verna’s positive attributes, which is still sacrosanct. The cabin feels quieter and the suspension is barely audible even on bad roads.
Keen rivers will really appreciate the 1.6 diesel motor’s punch and drivability though. This motor produces 128 PS and a massive 260 Nm of torque, making this easily the most powerful diesel sedan in the segment. The best part is that drivability is supreme too, and Hyundai’s CRDi diesel engine pulls appreciably from under 1,500 rpm, with a real shove once you cross the 2,000 rpm mark. Honestly, no other car in this segment will be able to match the new Verna on a smooth highway. The 6th gear also allows for this car to take advantage of the high torque, and top speed is almost 200 km/h!
There are three other motors on offer, including the 1.4 CRDi diesel (also found in the i20) and 1.4 and 1.6 VTVT petrol engines. Further, Hyundai will offer the new Verna with a 4-speed automatic transmission as an option with the 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, making for a total of 6 powertrain options. No other car in this class offers such a wide range of engines to choose from.
Interestingly, Hyundai’s product team have told us that the 1.6 VTVT petrol and 1.6 CRDi diesel together account for over 80 % of all Verna sales, which goes to show that Indian car buyers do indeed care about performance.
Fuel economy is very important in the Indian context, and the ARAI figures for the Verna are as follows:
1.4 VTVT MT 17.4 km/l
1.6 VTVT MT 17 km/l
1.6 VTVT AT 15.7 km/l
1.4 CRDi MT 24.6 km/l
1.6 CRDi MT 23.9 km/l
1.6 CRDi AT 19.1 km/l
While we didn’t have enough time on hand to do a comprehensive fuel run on the new Verna 1.6 CRDi tested here, I did manage 25 km/l from the 1.4 CRDi diesel i20 though in real-world conditions, which gives you an indication of what this car is capable of.
Speaking to existing Hyundai customers though, I have not come across any complaints about fuel economy from any of them, although the 1.6 VTVT Gamma petrol does have a reputation for being thirsty in town.
Hyundai has yet to reveal the full range of variants and options with the new Verna, but it is heartening to see that the new Verna will be available with ABS as standard on all variants. Mid-spec variants are expected to get 2 front airbags as well, while top-spec variants will have 6 airbags. Hyundai is also offering a number of convenience features which augment the new Verna’s safety credentials, including rear parking sensors, reverse camera and automatic headlamps.
I must mention the speed-sensitive door locks too. When slowing to a stop, it isn’t uncommon for passengers to unlock the doors in anticipation of alighting from the car. In the new Verna, this is impossible to o, since you can unlock the doors only when the car comes to a complete halt. This is very useful, especially in case you happen to overlook engaging the child safety lock.
In the final analysis, the new Hyundai Verna comes across as a substantial step forward from the earlier car in the areas that matter. It feels much nicer and far more involving to drive. Agreed that it doesn’t look as distinctive as the earlier car in its new avatar, but the new look actually makes it look a little similar to the larger Sonata, which always helps to create a premium product association.
The cabin is very well made, and the new Verna creates a sense of occasion which really feels a cut above the competition. The new City for example feels low-rent and tacky when you consider the dashboard and front part of the cabin. The stereo is excellent too, and the full gamut of toys on offer make the new Verna feel truly premium. If Hyundai were to throw in a sunroof as well, it would really round off the package!
The new Verna is still found wanting in a couple of key areas though, viz. in terms of the rear seat. Like we mentioned earlier, the Nissan Sunny and Honda City have more spacious seats, while the Vento and Rapid offer better cushioning and posture. Considering that a large proportion of car buyers in the C-segment are chauffer-driven, this spoils Hyundai India’s chances somewhat.
I never thought I’d say this, but for the mildly enthusiastic driver, the new Verna is a serious option, particularly in 1.6 CRDi guise. The motor pulls on and on and on, the gears shift well, body control and steering feel are better, and the brakes are strong.
We can only speculate what the new Hyundai Verna will cost once it is launched, but expectations are for the base 1.4 VTVT petrol to start below Rs 8 lakh. The top-of-the-line 1.6 CRDi diesel with an automatic transmission will nudge the Rs 15 lakh mark though, which brings it perilously close to a D-segment car. It will be expensive, but like I said, if you drive yourself and want a premium C-segment car, nothing in the market at present feels quite as posh as the new Verna.
Honda City, Maruti Ciaz, VW Vento, Skoda Rapid, Nissan Sunny