The car you are looking at is Hyundai’s new answer to the Maruti Ciaz and the Honda City. It is the fifth generation Verna (the first Verna in India way back in 2006 was the third generation car) and, it is built on Hyundai’s K2 platform, the same as the one in the Elantra. Because it uses a modern chassis, Hyundai says the noise, vibration and harshness levels are at an all time low and, because the chassis is now much stiffer, Hyundai says the Verna rides and drives much better.
Yeah, they all say that. I had a 160km go in it and here’s what I think.
Really all new?
Well, you already know the chassis is all new. Fifty percent of the new chassis comprises advanced high strength steel while the rest is made up of high strength steel, ultra high strength steel and hot formed steel. What all this means is that the car is stronger and more crashworthy than before.
The obvious pointer that this is a new car is, of course, the design. It is, for one, a bigger car – Hyundai says overall length is up by 65mm, width is up by 29mm while the height remains the same. It looks a lot like the Elantra with its trapezoidal grille and swept back projector headlamps. Sharp creases run along the side and the rear roofline is almost fastback which, looks really neat. The tail lamps are very cool with their LED elements (available only on the top variants) and there’s an interesting blacked out section on the lower part of the rear bumper that gives it a nicely squared off ass. On the whole, the shrunken Elantra looks may not lend it the visual size that the Ciaz has but this is no doubt a very nice looking design.
What about the insides?
Ok, the good news is – there’s more space inside. Let’s start from the back. You can now stuff 20 more one-litre bottles into the new boot thanks to the increase in overall length. With the new chassis the wheelbase is up by 30mm while Hyundai says rear legroom and headroom are up by 44mm and 3mm respectively. This is good – the backseat of this kind of car is used a lot. However, despite the increase in space, the new Verna’s rear seat isn’t as spacious as that of its rivals. The Ciaz definitely has more kneeroom while the City’s rear seat is set higher and easier to slide into. The Verna’s swooping roof line also cuts into headroom and six-footers may find their heads brushing the roof liner. No complaints whatsoever on front seat space though and the seats themselves offer a lot of adjustment.
And oh, the dashboard – it has a clean, easy to use design but somehow doesn’t feel too rich. Maybe it is the colours used or the lack of chrome (yes I did wish there was a hint of the stuff), or maybe it was that the top half felt slightly hard to touch so this is one place where there is room for improvement.
That new 7-inch screen however works like a charm. The touch response is really good and you don’t have to poke it to get it to respond like you have to in the Ciaz.
This top-of-the-line SX (O) has some killer features – you get cooled seats, an Arkamys sound mood system, rear air-con vents, a sunroof, hands-free boot lid operation and six airbags.
A very interesting feature on the SX (O) is something known as Hyundai Auto Link. A Bluetooth dongle connects to an app on your smartphone and displays on-the-go data like engine rpm, vehicle speed and engine load. It also tracks distance travelled, time taken for each driving session and overlays it on a map to show you your driving route. It also records the number of times you accelerated and braked hard and shows this via five bars. The more green bars you have, the better you are driving.
Are the engines all new?
No. What gets carried over, albeit with a few revisions, is the 1.6-litre diesel and 1.6-litre petrol motors and no, you cannot buy the new Verna with 1.4-litre motors like before because Hyundai has discontinued them from the lineup. Crucially though, both diesel and petrol engines are available with a choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.
Power and torque figures of both engines remain largely unchanged but Hyundai has importantly, worked on improving the low speed response of the engine. The diesel I drove now makes 245Nm at 1250rpm (the old Verna made only 177Nm at the same rpm) and this makes a huge difference in the way the car responds. Where you would be forced to downshift in the old car, here all you have to do is feed it some throttle. This improvement in torque delivery has made the already fastest in segment car even faster and more responsive. The powerband is wide too – the engine starts boosting at around 1250 rpm and the shove keeps increasing till 4000rpm. Additionally, the clutch and the gearshift action light and progressive so you can have a lot of fun throttle blipping and matching revs on a nice road.
Oh, and before I forget, the diesel make 128bhp and 260Nm of torque and both figures are significantly higher than the competition.
Is it fun to drive?
For the first time in the Verna’s history, I can answer in the affirmative. The McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension may be standard fare in this class of car but Hyundai has tweaked a few things for the Verna. They say there’s less longitudinal displacement when a front wheel hits a bump and this allows the suspension to work better. They are also using a hydraulic rebound shock absorber. At the rear, the angle of the rear shock absorber in relation to the wheel has changed and it uses new mounts and this, combined with the longer wheelbase of the car means the Verna has newfound stability. On the twisty hill roads an hour out of Cochin, the Verna was holding on onto the road over crests, dips and quick direction changes and, unlike its predecessor, felt like suspension, chassis and steering were working in harmony. Speaking of which, the steering is well weighted and linear enough – it was easy to place this Verna exactly where I wanted it on the road. There’s good chassis balance, it doesn’t fuss about direction changes and hangs on gamely when you push it hard. At no point does this car feel floaty or unsettled.
At this point I should slap myself – going on and on about the handling. I don’t think Verna owners look for extreme cornering forces. I think ride takes a preference over skidpad numbers for this kind of car and I am happy to say that it rides well too. The ride is flat and composed and there’s none of that high speed bobbing motion you used to get in the old Verna. Bump absorption is very good and there is very little suspension noise. Only the sharp ones thud through but even this is hardly something you would complain about.
Should you buy one?
There is absolutely no doubt that this is a big step up from the old Verna. Hyundai seem to be finally getting the hang of their old nemesis – the black art of balancing ride and handling – and now with the stronger engines, the unique equipment on offer and the sharp looks, the Verna will most definitely claw back the market share it had gradually lost over the years. Of course the price will sweeten the deal too. The new Verna starts at Rs 7.99 lakh for the base 1.6 petrol and goes on to Rs 12.62 lakh for the diesel automatic (both ex-showroom) – prices that compare favourably with the competition.