Hyundai Grand i10 Nios: more than its predecessor Santro


The Nios bears more than a passing resemblance to the Santro up front, thanks to its similar overall shape

With this new generation of the Grand i10, Hyundai has set its sights firmly on eating into the sales of the Maruti Swift — the second-best-selling car in India. The new hatchback is 40mm longer and 20mm wider than the old Grand i10 — which will continue to be on sale, albeit repositioned a little lower — and the wheelbase is also up by 25mm.

Hyundai Grand i10 Nios: more than its predecessor Santro

On the design front, the Nios bears more than a passing resemblance to the Santro up front, thanks to its similar overall shape, upswept headlamps and big ‘cascading grille’. However, finer details like the projector elements within the headlamps, low-set fog lamps, and unique boomerang-shaped LED DRLs give the new car more distinction. The grille is now a single-piece unit — not split — though, the way it extends down to the base of the bumper makes it look a little out of proportion.

Hyundai Grand i10 Nios: more than its predecessor Santro

The side has more nice details like sharper creases, 15-inch diamond-cut alloys (Asta trim) or 14-inch gunmetal grey alloy wheels (Sportz trim) and a textured blacked-out section in the C-pillar, with ‘G-i10’ embossment. At the rear, the Hyundai ‘H’ has gotten positively huge, and while the relatively small tail-lamps do well to accentuate the car’s width, there’s a whiff of Tiago or Figo about their design.

Hyundai Grand i10 Nios: more than its predecessor Santro

The more apparent leap forward comes inside the cabin. The interior borrows much from the Venue and Kona, though it gets some unique design elements, such as the hexagonal textures on some surfaces and the use of light-grey plastics in place of the usual black or beige. Then there is the Mercedes-like single-piece gloss-black binnacle housing both the 8.0-inch touchscreen (largest-in-class) and the part-digital instrument cluster.

Though it all looks cool, material quality isn’t a huge step-up from the old car, and there are some bits — like the window switch array — that don’t feel great to touch.

Hyundai’s power play has always been to offer class-leading features, though with the Nios, there is a sense that they’ve reached saturation point. While it does offer kit like rear air-con vents, wireless phone-charging and the ability to keep the rear-view camera feed on permanently via the infotainment screen, it misses out on auto headlamps and wipers, six airbags and split-folding seats, which are offered on some rivals.

The touchscreen misses out on the Venue’s connected tech — understandable at this price — but it’s otherwise loaded up with all the stuff you’d expect, and Hyundai’s operating system remains one of the slickest in the business. The part-digital cluster functions well, but frankly, it feels more an aesthetic choice than a feature advantage.

It may have smoothened out in recent years, but the ‘tall boy’ design philosophy is still evident in the Nios. You’re perched relatively high up in the driver’s seat with a great view out, despite that large instrument housing behind the steering wheel. The front seats are well-cushioned and also get added side-bolstering to hold you in place, though those with larger frames might find them a little small. Hyundai’s decision to go with a nice textured fabric is one I rather like. It’s not your usual fabric seat material, and instead, looks and feels far more chic.

Another thing worth commending is the space in the rear. Clever packaging means the seat offers good space, comfort and support, and you get a better sense of roominess, thanks to the large glass area. The boot — at 260 litres — is right at par with the segment as well.

Under the hood, Hyundai has stuck with the 1.2-litre petrol and diesel engines from the old Grand i10. The biggest change is that the petrol now meets BS-VI regulations — the diesel will be updated at a later date — and both units can be had with a 5-speed AMT gearbox option. We spent time with the diesel-AMT and petrol-manual variants.

The 75hp 1.2-litre, three-cylinder diesel engine has an audible clatter, but it’s not the worst around. Power delivery is very smooth and linear, and the only spoilsport in this case is the AMT gearbox, which does give you a bit of ‘head nod’ on shifts — using the manual mode can get you around this. The pause notwithstanding, the AMT’s shifts themselves are smooth, and the diesel engine’s added torque means you can modulate the throttle to stay in one gear for most of your driving needs. However, while good in the city, it isn’t a standout highway performer.

Even less suited to the highway is the 83hp 1.2 petrol. While it was never the most exciting unit to begin with, the upgrade to BS-VI seems to have been sapped even more of its power. Power delivery feels really flat throughout the rev-range, and you really have to work the engine to pick up the pace — especially out on the highway. At city speeds, you will often find yourself in a lower gear than anticipated, in order to make smooth progress. Luckily, the gearshift and clutch action are as smooth as ever.

Hyundai has also made improvements to the car’s dynamics to make it feel more stable and reassuring. The steering, while still light enough, has more weight and feedback to it, and you now get a better sense of what the front wheels are doing.

Moving to the ride, the diesel-AMT with its 14-inch wheels, taller tyres, and stiffer suspension set-up, had a more planted ride, and soaked up some huge craters beautifully, albeit at low and medium speeds. The petrol Nios is set up a lot softer, particularly at the rear, and our car was on the 15-inch wheels. The result was a bouncier ride and some crashing through potholes. Neither version is ideal for the highway, but the diesel did inspire a bit more confidence.

It might not have dropped any segment-breaking features this time, but value still seems to be the Grand i10 Nios’ calling card, with a price that — spec for spec — undercuts its major rivals, even if only slightly. In this class, value is important, but then so is desirability. Hyundai’s done a great job here, with exteriors and interiors that feel modern and inviting. Ease of driving — a Hyundai strength — has returned, with an added sense of maturity to the dynamics. The engines are adequate, but not this car’s strongest suit — particularly the petrol — although the option of an AMT on both engines gives it a convenience not there before. The Nios comes across as more than its predecessor. But with such strong rivals, is that enough? It’s a complete package, but too much of an evolution, with not enough revolution. We wish it shook things up more, as it would need to, in order to really put a dent in the Swift’s sales.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 2:18:01 AM |

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