Test Drive Review: 2019 Hyundai Grand i10 NIOS

Test Drive Review: 2019 Hyundai Grand i10 NIOS

Hyundai aims for the Maruti Suzuki Swift with the new Grand i10 NIOS. Does it strike at the best seller?

Close on the heels of the Venue, and in time for the festive season comes Hyundai India’s big volume spinner, the Grand i10 NIOS and this time it is targeted bang against the segment best seller, the Maruti Suzuki Swift. Interestingly the current Grand i10 continues in the Hyundai line-up, pared down to two variants only, and if you’re sniffing around for big discounts the Rs 70,000 off on the old car will spark your interest. This writer however thinks it will create unnecessary confusion in the minds of buyers who’ve already shopped around and already seen a minimum of 10 other cars, or Hyundai’s strategy might work and increase their overall share of the segment. As for the new Grand i10 NIOS, it has grown in size to now directly compete with the Swift and this being a Hyundai it gets loaded with features that make it very attractive. The powertrains include a 1.2-litre BS6 petrol and the 1.2-litre diesel that is BS4 compliant right now and will be shifted to BS6 by the year end. Both are available with an optional AMT transmission.

Hyundai Grand i10 NIOS cuts a striking shape

India might be the first market where the Grand i10 NIOS is being launched but this is a global car made as much with European interests in mind as it does Indian requirements. Compared to the old Grand i10 the wheelbase is stretched by 25mm to a Swift-matching 2450mm. The overall length and width have grown to 3805mm and 1680mm, but the Swift is still the larger car. How closely the NIOS has been benchmarked against the Swift is also evident in the powertrain with the petrol displacing an identical 1197cc and making and identical 81.8bhp of power while the diesel also makes identical power and torque figures.

What the NIOS has going for it is striking styling. It does look like a Hyundai, an evolution of the Grand i10, but I see no problem in either statement considering Hyundai has been making very good looking cars off late. The LED DRLs at the extremities of the (gloss-black) air dam lend a distinct visual signature and it definitely is striking, especially in the lovely shade of red of our test car. The tailgate gets prominent NIOS badging while the taillamps have a faint hint of Tiago to them. The C-pillar gets G-i10 branding while the 15-inch rims on this top end Asta variant fill up the wheel arches quite well. Opt for the AMT though and you will be stuck with 14-inch rims of the Sportz trim as the top-spec Asta isn’t offered with the automated manual transmission.

A new interior with more space and wireless charging

To take on the Swift the NIOS needed more interior space and it gets it. The increased wheelbase and re-profiled seats liberate more interior room and your knees will not be digging into the back of the front seats. Shoulder space though is tight for three abreast and even up front the driver will knock elbows with the passenger. Hyundai claim the NIOS has 15mm more shoulder space than the Swift though on first impressions I do think the Swift is more spacious. I will need to do a back-to-back comparison to give you definitive verdict.

To add to the sense of space the NIOS gets light grey hued upholstery and trim. Much better than beige! No soft touch plastics at this price point but the fit-finish and quality are quite good by class standards, and so are the equipment levels. The speedo is housed in a 5.3-inch digital cluster, the glovebox is cooled, rear seat passengers gets air-con vents, there’s a reverse parking camera and the top end variant has a wireless mobile phone charger. The 8-inch touchscreen doesn’t get in-built maps but that’s of no use really considering Google Maps always works better and Apple Car Play and Android Auto are on offer.

BS6 petrol, BS4 diesel

I think Hyundai has done a smart thing by sticking to the BS4 diesel for now. They clearly say BS6 development for the diesel is ready but they don’t want to saddle the buyer with the added costs of the NOx reduction and participate matter trapping emission equipment. The BS4 diesel will come by early next year in time for the switchover, and we estimate prices will also go up by around Rs 40,000.

The diesel is the familiar 1.2 U2 CRDi common-rail unit that now runs a 2000 bar high pressure pump. Max power is 74bhp while max torque is 19.4kgm, both figures identical to the Swift’s 1.3 diesel that is coming to the end of its life and will not be upgraded for next years BS6 norms. Hyundai however claim they have 10 per cent better bottom end power while claimed mileage is 26.2kmpl.

The petrol is BS6 compliant, makes 81.8 bhp of power and 11.6kg-m of torque, and had a claimed mileage of 20.7kmpl.

Both engines get the option of an AMT automated manual transmission.

NIOS is a peppy little small car

Small cars are becoming better and better to drive and the NIOS sticks to this script, exhibiting improved road manners and an eagerness to get a move on. We tested the 1.2-litre petrol on the top-spec Asta and the enthusiasm of the engine is evident in the way it launches, how quickly that annoying 80kmph buzzer sounds off, and also the ease with which it can keep pace with fast city traffic. Stick it in third or even fourth and the good bottom end grunt ensures you don’t have to shift gears often, though that said the gear shift quality is quite good and you won’t complain while rowing through the ’box.

Out on the highway the NIOS does get to triple digit speeds quickly but post 120kmph it runs out of breath. It can get up to 150kmph but that will take a while and you will need the assistance of a gentle downward slope to get there before the non-stop 120kmph buzzer drives you nuts (not Hyundai’s fault, the speed buzzer is now mandatory).

What is noticeable is the NIOS is now more polished on the highway and doesn’t get thrown around by cross winds or even bumps. There is a touch of firmness which is evident in the city where you can feel small ruts and dips — it doesn’t crash into them uncomfortably, but you can feel it — but that tightness in the suspension ensures it doesn’t wallow or gets tossed around on the highway. You can drive it as fast as it can go without your knuckles turning white or constantly correcting the steering. The steering is light and without feel but not too light as to become alarming on the highway.

In the city the NIOS is a breeze to drive and is the environment where it works best; where all small cars should work well! And as we found out when hurrying to make our flight it actually is quite happy to be caned, to be hustled through gaps and scurrying away from the traffic lights.

Is the Grandi10 NIOS a Swift beater?

That’s the Rs 7 lakh — and 15,000 unit volume — question isn’t it? Prices first. At the bottom end the NIOS undercuts the Swift by Rs 15,000 while at the top end the difference grows to Rs 39,000 which, Hyundai hastens to add, is actually Rs 60,000 if you add the additional features the NIOS gets. So the NIOS is better value for money, except these calculations don’t take into account the 5 year unlimited mileage warranty that is now offered free on the diesel Swift.

However we’ve not been buying the Swift merely on the basis of its sticker price, are we? To us enthusiasts the Swift — despite getting softer and losing some of the steering feel — has always been a great car to drive with an eager and willing chassis. And on that front, the NIOS doesn’t put that big a smile on your face, nor does it feel as grown up.

Credit where credit’s due though. With the NIOS Hyundai have improved on the Grand i10 so comprehensively and considerably that it can now be considered as a proper rival to the Swift. So close in fact are the two that a Swift vs Grand i10 NIOS verdict will have to wait till we get the two together for a head-to-head shootout.

Click here to watch the video of the First Drive Review!

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