Launchpad Hyundai's new hatchback Eon attracts with its styling, well-built interiors and promise of fuel efficiency

The all-new Eon's appearance is so swanky, you need to be constantly reminded that it is a budget hatchback. And that tells you about Hyundai's approach towards the Eon — to make customers believe that they are buying a proper modern car and not something that has been hanging around for a long time.

Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language has been brilliantly executed on the Korean carmaker's cheapest car yet. Up front, the car shares a resemblance with other Hyundais, thanks to its smart hexagonal grille and large swept-back headlamps. There is no shortage of style on the front bumper either that comes with neat recesses for the fog lamps and flows seamlessly into the large front wheel arches. The wheels feature smart covers that make them look like alloys.

View the Eon from the side and your attention will be drawn to the bold character line that kinks upwards towards the tail-light. The rear wheel arches are quite pronounced too but these make the rear wheels look a tad small from certain angles. Rear-end styling is smart with a large windscreen and really distinctive crescent-shaped tail-lamps.

The Eon's wide-opening doors open to reveal a smart interior. Beige is the colour of choice for the lower portion of the dash and door pads (on all variants) and this gives the interiors an airy ambience. The hexagonal theme from the car's frontal styling is carried over to the dashboard as well and the whole look is quite pleasing.

Taking pride of place on the dash is the CD player that also features AUX and USB connectivity. Just below this, the chunky air conditioning dials are not only nice to look at but work well too. Worth a mention are the deceptively small central AC vents that actually do a fine job of channelling air through the cabin. Fit and finish are impressive and the plastics, which have a hard-wearing feel about them, look good too.

The Eon comes with a fair amount of space to store odds and ends. You get a large glovebox, the front door pockets feature bottle-holders with enough space for a map book, and you can even fit a bottle in the cavity on the dashboard top. However, rear passengers have to make do with a single bottle-holder just behind the gearbox.

The single-piece front seats provide fair back support but their tapering shape means your shoulders are literally unsupported. Under-thigh support is not impressive and we found the fixed headrests a tad short.

The rear doors open wide enough but the flat seat with built-in headrests feels too reclined and taller passengers will be short on shoulder support in the back as well. Under-thigh support could be better and headroom is limited.

Open the Eon's boot and you will be pleasantly surprised by the space on offer. At 215 litres, it is large enough for a big suitcase and you have the option to fold the rear seats forward if more space is needed.

Hyundai has equipped the Eon with a three-cylinder, 814cc engine. In essence, this is the 1.1-litre motor that powers the i10, with one cylinder less. The engine does, however, get a counter balancer to keep vibrations in check. Bore and stroke measure 67 x 77mm while the engine features a three-valves-per-cylinder SOHC arrangement. Peak power output is 55bhp. The Eon shares its five-speed transmission with the Santro and features a mechanical linkage.

Turn the ignition on and the engine settles at a quiet idle. Vibrations are well-contained and it is only the quivering gear lever that really reminds you of being in a three-cylinder car.

The launch event had us drive largely on the deserted NH76 from Udaipur to Devala and back, but it was the route from our hotel to the highway that really gave us a feel of the Eon in the environments it is built for.

Get going and you'll hear a typical three-cylinder thrum from the engine. Power delivery at slow speeds is slightly jerky. What also became apparent the more we drove was that the engine does not have the pep of the Alto K-series' larger motor. Power is adequate to keep up with city traffic but you do need to pre-plan when overtaking bigger vehicles. Shifting down a gear helps when power is needed most.

What's impressive is that the engine doesn't feel bogged down when you switch on the air-con. The Eon is primarily a city car but give it space and it will happily cruise at 120kph with the engine still not sounding strained. Hyundai claims a 21kpl ARAI economy figure for the Eon — impressive indeed!

One of the Eon's strengths is its ride quality. The car uses MacPherson struts in front that work in tandem with a torsion beam suspension at the rear. Despite the small diameter wheels, ride is very absorbent, even on pothole-laden streets. The little Eon even takes smooth undulations in its stride. Slightly firm springs and a long wheelbase also serve to give the Eon good straightline stability on the highway.

Handling is good fun, helped largely by the direct feel of the Eon's electronic power steering. City driving requires little effort and tight parking spots are hardly a worry, thanks to the Eon's tight turning circle.

However, the steering lacks self-centering action and this can be a concern at highway speeds.

The Eon comes in six variants, prices ranging from 2.69 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the barely-equipped D-lite base variant to Rs 3.71 lakh for the top-end Sportz version.

The Eon ticks many boxes. It may not have the space of the Tata Nano or the power of the Alto K10, but it tempts you with its combination of eye-catching styling, well-built interiors and promises of great fuel economy.