2023 Hyundai Grand i10 Nios first drive review: Can it beat the Maruti Suzuki Swift?
I wanted to begin this review by saying that the facelifted Hyundai Grand i10 Nios is an old wine in a new bottle, and while that might essentially be the case, there's a lot more to the story of the new Nios than just that. For the 2023, the Hyundai receives prominent visual tweaks to the exterior, a few more creature comforts on the inside and it is now powered solely by a naturally-aspirated petrol engine. This is not the most comprehensive of updates, but you have to remember that the older Nios is still a hatchback that has remained fresh since it was first launched in 2019, and the facelift only builds on the facets that its predecessor got right in the first place. But does the update mean it can better the long-time segment benchmark amongst premium hatchbacks, the Maruti Suzuki Swift?
2023 Hyundai Grand i10 Nios design
The facelifted Nios retains the proportions of its predecessor but the big change is the reworked front fascia. The projector headlamps are the same shape and size as before but where the main change lies is lower below, with an all-new bumper design that includes the new gloss black front grille and the LED DRLs, which are now repositioned where one would usually find the fog lamps. The shape of the DRLs has also changed from the earlier boomerang to a tri-arrow.
There are no changes to the silhouette, but the design of the 15-inch alloy wheels present on the top-spec variant is new with the facelift. The rear gets a major design change too, in the form of new LED tail lamps that now run across the tailgate of the Nios. There’s a new colour option on offer as well, called Spark Green, and while the styling changers are bound to polarise opinion, the Nios continues to be a smart-looking hatch, especially in this fiery red that our test car was painted in.
After spending a day testing, I also noticed a very subtle update to the Hyundai emblems at the front and back – they are now flatter, not unlike the updated logo that debuted not too long ago on the newer Kia models.
2023 Hyundai Grand i10 Nios interior
Unlike the changes on the exterior, the updates to the interior of the facelifted Nios require a closer peek. The overall design of the cabin is identical to the earlier i10 Nios with the same dashboard design, complete with the funky aircraft-inspired air-con vents and the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system continuing to make their appearance.
The digital instrument cluster has been traded in favour of traditional analogue dials with an MID in between, and the facelifted i10 Nios gets a machined finish for the Hyundai emblem on the steering wheel. Cruise control is another addition in terms of the features, only building on the Nios’ impressive features list that includes automatic climate control, automatic headlamps and a wireless phone charger. Ergonomics are spot on as well, with the chunky buttons for the infotainment being a very nice touch as they continue to be easy to access.
The not-so subtle changes are in the form of an update to the seat fabric design and the Grand i10 Nios gets three colour schemes for the upholstery – a dual-tone grey and black interior (pictured on our test car), all-black with red inserts (which was present on the now-discontinued Nios Turbo) and all-black with green inserts. The dimensions of the i10 Nios continue to be unchanged, and it continues to remain roomy for four with adequate kneeroom and headroom for the rear passenger, though shoulder room can be a squeeze, especially with three abreast in the rear bench.
2023 Hyundai Grand i10 Nios engine and performance
The Grand i10 Nios is now solely offered with a 1.2-litre nat-asp petrol engine that produces 82bhp of power and 114Nm of torque. This engine can be mated to either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 5-speed AMT transmission, and it was the former that we had on test. You also get the option of a CNG powertrain, and Hyundai claims that the Grand i10 Nios is the first car in the segment to get an engine that complies with Real Driving Emission (RDE) norms which will come into force this year. The petrol engine is eager to rev and has a good turn of performance when you want to drive enthusiastically, but the majority of buyers who will use the Nios primarily as a city runabout will be delighted to know that it continues to be very refined. It does not have the enthusiastic spark of the Swift’s 1.2-litre nat-asp mill, but for the most part, it handles whatever you throw at it with ease. The healthy amount of torque and low-down grunt means that you can trundle around town in a gear higher than normal without being bogged down by the need to constantly downshift. On the highways, the Nios can cruise at triple digit speeds easily, and it's only when you get past legal speeds that it can feel a little out of breath. The 5-speed manual is a typical Hyundai unit as well, with slightly notchy throws – not like the Swift’s hot knife through butter nature – but the shift action is smooth and the clutch is light too, with the presence of a dead pedal making things stress-free.
2023 Hyundai Grand i10 Nios ride and handling
It takes all of three corners to know that the Nios is an enthu-cutlet to drive. The front end grips hard on turn in and though the protest from the MRF tyres might dissuade you from caning it, the grip on turn in and the chassis setup of the Nios ensures that there is no funny business when you drive it enthusiastically. It inspires confidence whether you are darting past slow-moving traffic in the city or on a highway cruise, and there’s none of the flighty sensation from the Nios when you go mile-munching with it at a cruising speeds. The steering is not brimming with feel but it does a decent job of communicating what is going on with the front wheels – and if you have the ability, you can even switch off ESP and coax the Nios into slides with elan – a fact that we demonstrated on our YouTube channel not too long ago!
Does that mean the i10 Nios is for the enthusiast and that is the end of that? Not at all. If anything, the surefooted dynamics only help cater to a greater range of driving ability, and piloting the Nios around town is very easy. The driver’s seat can be adjusted for height and the good driving position makes it all the more easier to pilot the hatchback through the worst traffic jams with precision.
The ride quality of the Nios is supple too, absorbing most of the surface imperfections nicely, though larger bumps can make themselves felt. For comparison, the Swift has a firmer edge to its ride quality that also endows it with sharper dynamics. But unless you are a really enthusiastic driver, you won’t have any complaints with the way that the Nios drives.
2023 Hyundai Grand i10 Nios verdict
The Hyundai Grand i10 Nios was already a premium hatchback that was fundamentally sorted in most aspects and the facelift, while polarising opinion in terms of its design, has made the Hyundai even more appealing. Another factor that might switch buyers towards the Nios is the price, starting at Rs 5.68 lakh (ex-showroom) for the base manual variant. That means it undercuts the base manual variant Swift by nearly Rs 30,000, and that gap widens to nearly half a lakh when it comes to the top-spec AMT-equipped variants of the hatchbacks. Does that mean it has dethroned the segment favourite? Not exactly. The Swift continues to be the enthusiast’s choice with its superb dynamics, but that said, the Nios comes quite close in most aspects and is the better pick for a value-centric buyer.