It’s 5:50am and there’s a nip in the air. I’ve a long day ahead of me: early morning shoot, pages to finish in office, press conference to attend and finally dinner with friends. All that and 40-odd minutes in the gym, if I can squeeze it in. Now all the running around would be fine, but today’s urban commute includes at least three cross-town treks. I draw a rough map in my head and it looks something like a five-pointed star; the one you draw without taking your pen off the paper. Anyway; hi-ho, hi-ho . . .
Dashboard quality is impressive; every element functions seamlessly - especially Bluetooth.
I toss my bag on the passenger seat, engage the clutch and gently squeeze the starter button. The Grand i10 has already begun to impress. The keyless entry allows me to keep the key in my pocket; the doors open and close with a degree of precision I haven’t experienced in a car of this class. The way the starter button lights up when I tap it feels great. What also instantly impresses is the quality of materials on the inside and how seamlessly everything functions — the beautifully built matt-black buttons on the dash, the lovingly crafted steering wheel and gear lever; and I just love the way Hyundai’s Bluetooth system works.
I’m connected with Nikon-wielding Ashley seconds after a couple of taps on the green phone icon located lower down on the steering wheel. It pulls up a list of recent calls on hitting it once, and allows you to select and call the number in a jiffy. The clarity of the system is so good, you don’t need to strain to be heard.
CABIN: Beautifully built cabin feels like from a class above.
Reverse selected via the light clutch, I take off. Okay, “take off” is probably not the right analogy. Memories of driving the Grand i10 on wide open three-lane highways in Rajasthan are still fresh in my head, and they aren’t happy ones. This car’s three-cylinder diesel motor clearly felt out of breath there. But here, in Mumbai’s urban environment, without miles and miles of open road, it seems reasonably up to the job.
PERFORMANCE: Diesel engine runs out of breath easily on open roads.
The urban driving environment and lower speed range suit the characteristics of the engine and gearbox much better. There’s a smoothness to the power delivery you just don’t expect to encounter after the rough offbeat idle. Kept in the narrow but effective part of its powerband, the Grand i10 offers quick responses and a decent little dollop of torque. You soon learn that long pulls to the redline are counterproductive, and desist. The message is clear: if you want a bit more power, go to the next gear. It’s not quick but power is sufficient, as long as you don’t expect or ask for too much.
As the day wears on and the kilometres pile up, I discover what else makes the Grand i10 such a great city car. For a start, it feels very grown up for an affordable hatch; it is surprisingly refined, smooth and well-insulated. And tagged on to the great build quality and the smoothness of the motor on the move is also the fact that this car needs the least amount of effort to drive. Let me clarify — driving in stop/start traffic is a chore, but less so in this car. And it’s not that the controls of this car are only light. They are extremely light, yes, steering, gearbox, clutch, brake pedal and even the accelerator. But none are so light that they feel totally disconnected. The Grand even willingly turns into corners, despite the longer wheelbase.
BACK SEAT: Passengers get tossed around at the rear.
Later that evening, I do get to hear some complaints about the car. Passengers sat on the rear sets have plenty of legroom. But they’re getting tossed around quite a bit, especially over the sharp expansion joints and lumpy patches on Mumbai’s Marine Drive. A car with an extended wheelbase (for India), like this one, is seldom as stiff as the original, and that normally means you need to use a stiffer suspension. Still, I did 130-odd kilometres in the city in a single day and didn’t feel any worse for wear.
As an overall package, the Grand i10 is a very impressive city car. Based on an all-new platform designed and engineered at Hyundai’s technical centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany, it is nicely built, well-equipped and feels effortless to drive in the city. As a city car, its ‘fitness for purpose’ is second to none. But as the kilometres pile up, will we find the ride too stiff? And will we crave more power and performance? These and other questions we’ll answer in our next report. Stay tuned.
This hatch is surprisingly refined, smooth and well-insulated for its price.
Price: Rs 7.46 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 17.5kpl (overall)
Maintenance costs: None