We drive the 2023 Hyundai Verna
We drive the 2023 Hyundai VernaShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

2023 Hyundai Verna first drive: City, Ciaz, Slavia and Virtus rival tested

The bold new Hyundai Verna is hugely promising and with the 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, aims right at the enthusiast

Sedans are making a comeback. We have already seen strong demand for the  Volkswagen Virtus and Skoda Slavia, the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz is due for a full model change very soon and the Honda City was recently updated in anticipation of the all-new Hyundai Verna. And now here it is, the sedan that takes this segment to another level of performance, features and ADAS, all tucked into one neat package. The 2023 Hyundai Verna promises so much on paper, it quite frankly is hard to ignore. Here's what you need to know.

2023 Hyundai Verna styling

‘Bold’ can’t seem to do justice to the design of the new Hyundai Verna. It’s like a Lucid and Lamborghini went on a steamy date at a budget restaurant. But what’s there to complain if you are reminded of cars way out of your league? The radical front end will be instantly noticeable by the light bar that runs the entire width of the car. The rear gets a similar styling element too, forming a neat H for Hyundai. As is the trend, the bumper gets the main headlamps, and with the Verna, comes with integrated cornering lamps. The parametric grille is huge, but doesn’t feel oversized. Move to the sides and you see a clearly upmarket satin chrome finish on the door handles and the window sills, as well as heavily sliced and pushed out rear haunches that give the Verna a very purposeful and athletic stance. The new Hyundai Verna is 95mm longer, 35mm wider and runs on a 70mm longer wheelbase. It clearly is half a segment above its predecessor, or very close to what an Elantra used to be. For reference, the Elantra was 4620mm long (85mm+), 1800mm wide (35mm+) and 1465mm tall (10mm-), with a 2700mm wheelbase, just 30mm more than the new Verna. 

Cabin get a minimalist design but is loaded with all the bells and whistles
Cabin get a minimalist design but is loaded with all the bells and whistlesShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

2023 Hyundai Verna interior and features

As radical as it is on the outside, the new Hyundai Verna’s interior is classy and minimalist. The choice of colours and materials, the buttons, the seats, they all look like they will age well, starting with the brand new two spoke steering wheel. While opinion has been divisive on social media, I think the new steering wheel is beautiful. What is without debate is how nice it feels to hold and comes with a host of new features since the Verna gets ADAS now. The car you see in these pictures is the 1.5-litre turbo petrol with the 6-speed manual gearbox. You get a 10.25-inch centre screen oriented towards the driver, an interesting switchable type infotainment and climate control system, and seat heating and cooling for the front passengers. Entertainment duties are taken care of by a Bose 8-speaker system that does a lot more justice to the name than it does in the i20. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable for fore-aft movement and for the backrest angle too, but it doesn’t get electric height adjustability. 

Step into the rear seat and you notice where the increase in length has gone. During customer clinics of the new Hyundai Verna, the biggest reason identified by Hyundai for customers choosing competition (mainly the Ciaz) over the Verna was rear seat space. And that’s why kneeroom has gone up by 93mm and legroom too has increased by 120mm. The rear bench is wider with excellent underthigh support and, if not the best, is definitely right up there with the best in this segment. However we will reserve our final verdict till we do a full-fledged comparison with the Verna’s rivals very soon. Boot space has gone up too, 528 litres of it, making it the best in segment. 

The 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated Verna gets beige leatherette upholstery with copper piping and topstitching. Makes the cabin look airy and classy, definitely not a step down compared to the black and red upholstery of the Turbo Vernas. You even get 64 ambient lighting colours and a rear windscreen blind, features that up the desirability quotient a fair bit in this segment.  

1.5-litre tubro-petrol engine makes 158bhp
1.5-litre tubro-petrol engine makes 158bhpShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

2023 Hyundai Verna engine and performance

We are familiar with the 1.5-litre nat-asp engine so I jumped straight to the 1.5-litre turbo Hyundai Verna at the media drives. For a majority of the drive, I was going to sample the one with the manual gearbox. While it gets cruise control, only the DCT gets Smart Cruise Control (SCC) and Leading Vehicle Departure Alert (LVDA), features I had no intent of using on the brief drive. The manual Turbo Verna doesn’t get rear disc brakes too, a shocking omission since it is the enthusiast’s Verna. Nevertheless, we exited Gurgaon and got on to the newly opened section of the Delhi-Mumbai expressway. 

This direct injection turbo petrol motor makes 158bhp and 253Nm of torque, considerably more than its rivals, and promises a 0-100kmph time of 8.1 seconds. Step on the gas and the slick 6-speed gearbox runs through first and second gear as you redline the engine, and you glance at the speedo and you notice that you are already at 95kmph! Third gear takes me on the wrong side of the law of the 120kmph speed limit expressway. While the gearing is long and there is plenty of pull from the new turbo-petrol engine, cruising at 90kmph in 6th gear is also easy. I averaged between 100-120kmph for an hour on the expressway, checked the fuel efficiency figure on the dash and it indicated 17kmpl. How is Hyundai doing that without the cylinder deactivation tech you get in the Virtus and Slavia? That’s a question we’ll need to find an answer to soon! 

Most powerful engine in its segment
Most powerful engine in its segmentShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

The DCT Verna gets shorter gearing owing to an extra gear which will help achieve better efficiency, and the rear disc brakes improve stopping power, but besides that, there is no reason to pick the DCT over the manual Verna. The latter feels alive and engaging, way more than I was expecting of a Verna.

2023 Hyundai Verna ride and handling

There is a maturity now to the way the new Hyundai Verna rides that makes it close to if not on par with its European rivals. This is at least true of the turbo Verna, as the suspension is tuned slightly stiffer compared to the nat-asp Verna due to the higher performance figures. The car feels planted through undulations, handles expansion joints on flyovers with European maturity and goes over potholes with way more poise than I recollect of a Verna. Will it give the Volkswagen Virtus and a Skoda Slavia a run for their money on a winding road? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it will come mighty close. Unfortunately the lack of corners on our route couldn’t let me exploit the Verna’s cornering abilities, but more on that soon as we get our hands on one around home. 

2023 Hyundai Verna efficiency

The new Hyundai Verna aces it on the efficiency front on paper at least. The nat-asp Verna returns a claimed 18.6kmpl (MT) and 19.6kmpl (CVT) and the turbo Hyundai Verna comes up with an even more impressive 20kmpl (MT) and 20.6kmpl (DCT). In the real world, if you could get 12-14kmpl in the city and stretch it to 17-18kmpl on the highway, the turbo engine sure is going to be a big winner for Hyundai.

The Hyundai Verna just might shake up the segment it sits in
The Hyundai Verna just might shake up the segment it sits inShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

2023 Hyundai Verna Verdict

Prices of the new Hyundai Verna start from Rs 10.9 lakh for the base nat-asp Verna, going up to Rs 17.38 lakh for the top spec DCT turbo petrol variant. Besides the Ciaz, which is now half a segment below the competition, Hyundai has managed to undercut its rivals on the pricing front. For the top spec variants of the nat-asp Verna, you do have to pay a little extra compared to its rivals for all the features it comes with. The 1.5 NA Hyundai Verna will be the mainstay of the lineup, and will take on the likes of the Honda City and the 3-cylinder Volkswagen Virtus and Skoda Slavia. However, from an enthusiast’s perspective, our eyes are set on the 1.5 turbo-petrol Verna, and we look forward to some corner carving in our neck of the woods to find out if it has the handling chops to take on its European rivals. In every other aspect, from high speed stability to ride quality, to comfort, to the list of features on offer, to refinement and drivability, the 2023 Hyundai Verna is hugely impressive. Since this new engine is locally produced, Hyundai have been able to aggressively price it compared to the 1.5 TSI Virtus and Slavia, undercutting them by over Rs 1 lakh. Hyundai is expecting the segment to expand by a CAGR of 21 percent over the next two years, and sales of the new Verna to double its predecessor’s monthly numbers. Their confidence in the product is justified. The new Hyundai Verna is a sureshot winner.  

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