In our budget segment crazy market, hatchback offerings are fighting tooth and nail for market share. In this overcrowded space, Hyundai has managed to squeeze in a fresh offering between its i10 and i20 hatch -- the Grand i10, the fifth hatchback in its line-up. Now this isn’t just a stretched-out i10 – it’s an all-new car with a wheelbase stretched for India. The Grand i10's lines are much neater and crisper, and there’s very little of Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic’ design. The Grand looks like a more grown up and bolder Hyundai, further justifying its positioning. Also, it’s got a new diesel engine under the hood. This 70bhp, 1,120cc engine is the first to be manufactured here at Hyundai’s plant in Chennai. The engine is essentially the 1.4-litre unit from the i20 with one cylinder less. But convincing buyers to opt for the Grand i10 won’t be a walk in the park. Sure, it is spacious, comfortable and comes with a diesel engine, but so does the Toyota Etios Liva. The Liva was also recently given a mid-life refresh, thanks to criticism the earlier car received from customers for feeling cheap. It now comes with a lighter shade of interiors with better plastics that go a long way in making the cabin feel more upmarket, greater sound insulation and more equipment. It really is much improved.
Both these hatchbacks have what Indian car buyers are looking for. So how does the new kid on the block fare against Toyota’s Liva?
Start up the car and you’ll notice that the three-cylinder diesel flutters and vibrates a bit at low engine speeds. This is especially prominent in traffic when coasting, and you can immediately tell that it’s a diesel engine under the hood. Put your foot down, however, and the engine smoothens up beautifully. There is a bit of hesitation at low speeds and it takes a bit to get moving, but once on the move, it feels like it has sufficient power for city driving. The mid-range feels peppy, the super-slick gearbox is easily the best in the class, and the Grand i10 settles into an effortless cruise when driven in a relaxed manner.
But the Hyundai lacks the outright pull of the Liva, which has a bigger motor. In fact, it takes the Grand i10 a lazy 20.25 seconds to get to 100kph, and this can be a bit of an issue when you’re overtaking on the highway.
The Liva, with a 0-100 time of 15.86 seconds is not an exceptional performer either, but it’s much better than the Hyundai. It accelerates from a standstill in a linear manner and the responsive engine means that you will never really be waiting or wanting for more power in the city. Toyota has tailored the Liva for city driving – it’s got a light clutch (but not as light as the Grand i10’s) and a smooth shifting gearbox. And you’ll enjoy driving the Liva on the highway more than the Grand.
The Liva’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine also remains largely vibe-free, but it does sound a bit gravelly and is the more audible of the two, getting progressively noisier as you build revs. And this is despite Toyota improving the insulation levels on the refreshed Liva. Continued..
Ride and handling
For a diesel car, Hyundai's Grand i10 is exceptionally light to drive. The super-light clutch, electric power steering and gearshifts make this car a breeze to drive in the city. Its soft suspension does a good job of dispatching speed breakers and potholes, but it does thump over big, sharp bumps. And, on patchy roads, though it shows decent composure, it’s nowhere near as stable as the Liva. The light steering, while great in the city, feels a bit vague at higher speeds.
At low speeds, the Liva’s ride feels a bit jiggly over uneven surfaces, but it’s not jarring. Up the pace and the ride smoothens out and is quite comfortable. It cruises with a flat and consistent poise, giving the driver a huge amount of confidence at speed. It’s pretty nimble for its size and easy to manoeuvre around town, thanks to a tight turning circle and light electric steering. It’s not a thrill to drive either because of its average engine, but it’s still better than the Grand. Continued..
On the inside is where the Hyundai Grand i10 excels. The minute you step into the cabin, you feel like you’ve spent your money well. Slide into the comfortable driver’s seat and the first thing you’ll notice is the chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel that looks like it belongs on a much more expensive car, like a Hyundai Elantra. Finding a comfortable driving position isn’t too hard either, thanks to the seat height adjustment. The buttons on the steering wheel have a feel of quality about them and the rotary knobs for the air-con have a premium knurled finish. The two-tone dash is well designed and the plastics look and feel upmarket. The top half is finished in black, and the bottom half is beige, giving the cabin a premium feel. The dash-mounted gear lever is also superbly detailed. In fact, we’d say that the cabin is easily the best in its class.
The Liva, on the other hand, feels a full generation older in comparison to the Grand i10. Toyota has gone for a more function-over-form design with the cabin. However, the carmaker has recently done away with the flat, thin seats of the older car and replaced them with a more comfortable set. Its driver’s seat has height adjustment too. The improved door pads and the faux wood trim go a long way in lifting the ambience of this plain-Jane cabin. The central instruments get icy-blue backlighting, but we did miss having a rev counter. The new air-con controls feel much better and have a nice tactile feel about them – an improvement over the previous ones, and the new music system is a lot less tacky than the previous unit. There are also plenty of cubby holes around the cabin for your knick-knacks.
The big advantage the Liva has is that it’s wider than the Grand, so seating three abreast is easier. Thigh support is very good and the seats are set at a well reclined angle. The Grand, with the additional legroom, is decent too; in fact, max legroom is similar, at 89mm and 90mm for the Hyundai and Toyota, respectively.
When you put the two together and compare cabin quality, it’s the Hyundai that comes out on top, and by a long margin. It’s got that feel-good factor that the Liva simply lacks. Continued..
Equipment and safety
When it comes to equipment, the Liva has a decent list. We tested the GD variant, which comes with decent kit. It’s got 12-spoke alloy wheels, power windows, central locking, tilt-adjust steering, ABS with EBD, keyless entry, optional airbags, and a two-DIN music system with CD, MP3 and USB connectivity. You can only get Bluetooth on the top-spec V petrol variant, as is the case with steering-mounted controls and an Aux-in port.
The Hyundai Grand is packed to the gills with features. We tested the top Asta variant of the Grand and it comes with more than you will ever need. It gets a music system with CD, Aux-in, Bluetooth, USB, and 1GB of internal storage, electrically adjustable mirrors, steering-mounted audio controls, push button start, tilt steering, cooled glovebox, driver-seat height adjust, rear AC vents, an MID (Multi-information Display) screen, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear parking sensors, ABS, front fog lamps, and two airbags.
If it's a tough, no-nonsense hatchback with good driving manners and affordable maintenance over the years that you want, then the Liva would be the perfect choice for you. It’s spacious on the inside, stable on the highway and rides with the poise of a saloon. The improvements to the new Liva have also made it a better car overall. However, despite this, you can’t ignore the feeling that this car is built to a cost and still feels quite basic and old school in its construction. This feeling is further cemented when you get into the cabin of the thoroughly modern and up-to-date, new Grand i10. Quality levels on the inside are just brilliant, it comes loaded with equipment, it’s almost as spacious on the inside, it’s light and easy to drive in the city, the diesel motor is smooth and to sweeten the deal, it retails for a competitive price of Rs 6.45 lakh. Yes, it occasionally feels a bit out of breath on the highway and may not be as stable at high speed, but if you’re after a good city car, then look no further than the Hyundai; it is everything you need.