Hyundai’s turbo-petrol cars have turned out to be dynamically sound and fun-to-drive. We find out if the new Grand i10 Nios Turbo builds on the same script
Turbo-petrol engines have been powering expensive cars for a long time, but now carmakers are democratising them and as a result, they are making their way into the affordable end of the car market. But thinking of fun-to-drive turbo-petrol hatchbacks, the only car that comes across is the Volkswagen Polo. Fiat offered the Abarth Punto a while ago, but the brand’s India operations are now shut. Maruti Suzuki pulled the plug on the Baleno RS owing to poor demand and what we’re left with is only the Polo with its brilliant 1-litre TSI engine. Before you chance on bombarding us with explosive reactions for not mentioning a Ford, let me clear that the Figo with the 1.5-litre diesel is also an exciting car to drive, but again, it isn’t offered with a turbo-petrol engine so that is out of the equation here.
However, there’s another brand apart from Volkswagen who has entered the warm hatch territory and that is Hyundai with the Grand i10 Nios Turbo. It employs the same 998cc, direct-injection turbo-petrol engine from the Venue Turbo, albeit in a lower state of tune. The powerplant produces a shade under 100 horses at 6000rpm and puts out 172Nm of torque between 1500-4000rpm. Hyundai is offering the Nios Turbo only in the Sportz variant that sits right below the range topping Asta, and it costs Rs 7.7 lakh, ex-showroom, making it one of the most affordable turbo-petrol cars in the country. Over the regular Nios in the identical Sportz trim, the Turbo demands a premium of Rs 1 lakh, roughly. Before diving into its performance, let’s look how the Nios Turbo differentiates itself aesthetically.
From the outside it remains identical except for the Fiery Red paint scheme with a blacked out roof, a combination that’s only offered on with this turbocharged variant. There’s obviously the Turbo badging on the grille and at the rear. The changes are slightly more distinguished on the inside with all-black interiors. You can have either aqua teal or red inserts subtly splashed across the cabin to make it look sportier. On this test car, the side air vents get red surrounds and the air con knobs are finished in red as well. There’s red stitching on the fabric upholstery and overall it appears well executed, with no visible loose ends. The black interiors though are not unique to the Turbo and they can be had with regular dual tone variants as well.
When we tested the Nios petrol last year, it turned out to be a peppy little hatchback with improved road manners. The Nios Turbo with it’s turbocharged engine dials performance up significantly. Find an empty stretch of road, put your foot down and the Nios Turbo moves with a lot of enthusiasm. The 120kmph speed alert beep starts annoying you before you’re expecting it to and the Nios Turbo felt like it could go a lot faster than that without breaking a sweat. There’s a healthy dose of torque delivered from as low as 1800rpm and once you’re past the initial turbo-lag, the Nios lunges forward with the acceleration staying strong till 4000rpm before the boost fades out. Go flat out in the third gear and the speedo indicates 135kmph at the redline. This has me convinced that the Nios is a proper mile munching machine and in Indian conditions, it will never run out of breath. The last time I enjoyed driving a hatchback so much was behind the wheel of the Polo 1.0 TSI, and I never thought I would say this about a small Hyundai, but the Nios Turbo comes close to the Polo in terms of outright acceleration. It’s lightweight and compact making it properly fun-to-drive.
The engine feels refined at idle with no vibrations filtering into the cabin. Once you get going, the three cylinder clatter feels familiar because we have experienced it in many other turbo-petrol Hyundai cars lately, but it’s comparatively muted in the Nios Turbo. The engine is tractable and you can cruise comfortably at 40kmph in the fourth gear, so pottering around town is comfortable. The quality of gear shifts is familiar too, smooth and effortless. The clutch and gear-shift action is light and easy and you can row through the ‘box without breaking a sweat. But there are certainly no buttery smooth shifts like the Japanese ‘boxes.
There’s a hint of tightness in the ride quality and at slow speeds you do feel the undulations of the surface, but as you build up speed, this firmness keeps the ride from getting tossed around. At higher speeds, the Nios Turbo feels sure footed and stays flat over rough patches. However, the ride feels softer than that of the Polo. The steering weighs up nicely as you build up speed, but it feels lifeless and there’s no feedback of what’s happening underneath. The last grouse I have is regarding the tyres. There’s too much squealing and screeching from the MRF rubber and I wish they provided better grip to put down the torque from this turbocharged engine.
The Nios Turbo does not have the dynamic polish of the Polo, but overall it is much nicer to live with, feeling more modern and sophisticated. It’s only one-year-old, feeling a lot newer thanks to a design that embodies Hyundai’s latest design language inside and out. Space at the rear isn’t cramped like in the Polo and there’s a host of premium kit on offer like wireless charging, projector headlamps, and DRLs among others. Moreover, its performance puts a smile on your face and Hyundai has managed to create a great overall package that delivers on all fronts at a price tag that undercuts the most affordable Polo TSI by Rs 20,000. There’s finally another capable pocket-rocket and we cannot wait to drive it back to back with the Polo to see which one comes out on top.