The Eon is the latest recipient of Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language and comes with a level of styling flair not seen before (nor even expected) at the bottom of the car pyramid. Few expensive cars, let alone budget ones, have the eyeball-grabbing appeal of the Eon.
The baby Hyundai’s lines are distinctive, though the hexagonal front grille and swept-back headlamps do link it to other models in Hyundai’s range. The triangular fog lights, neatly recessed low down in the bumper, look really attractive. Even the stubby bonnet gets ridges on either side that rise sharply to meet the A pillar. An interesting design element is the front bumper, which flows into the large and stylised front wheel arches.
There is no shortage of style strokes on the sides either. A bold waistline that originates behind the headlights and kinks up to the taillight looks really unique. An arc-shaped line at the bottom of the doors is another of the Eon’s umpteen light-catching details. If there is an area where we feel Hyundai should really have toned down the styling, it’s the wheel arches, which are too pronounced and make the wheels look a tad small. And we’re talking about the top model here, which comes with 13-inch wheels. The 12-inchers on the base models will look positively puny. The rear end has a relatively short overhang and features smart crescent-shaped taillights. Build quality is superb for a car at this end of the spectrum. The tight panel gaps and overall fit and finish point belong to a car in a higher class and the flap-type door handles are the only place where you feel Hyundai has skimped.
Developing the car completely from scratch would have made it impossible for Hyundai to meet
the Eon’s tough cost targets, so a fair bit of the underpinnings are shared with Hyundai’s original
car for the masses, the tall-boy Santro. The 2380mm wheelbase is common and the suspension uses the same MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear layout. Braking is via a combination of front discs and rear drums and ABS, not surprisingly, is absent from the features list on any trim. However, the top-spec Sportz variant we tested does get a driver-side airbag, making the Eon the cheapest car in India to come with this essential safety kit. Impact protection also includes a square-shaped radiator support panel, reinforced floor panel and door
side-impact beams. However, since the Eon will not be sold in Europe or other developed markets; we doubt it meets international standards of crash-worthiness.
Slip past the Eon’s wide-opening front door and you’ll be convinced you’ve got more than your money’s worth. The quality of plastics is good enough to belong on the bigger and pricier i10. Fit and finish is really good and there is nothing visibly low-rent about the cabin; except for the old-fashioned door locks on top of the sill. The beige plastics on the lower portion of the cabin further enhance the upmarket feeling.
The dashboard itself is smartly styled, with the centre console following the hexagonal theme of the Eon’s frontal styling. The dull silver trim also adds a touch of class here. The central AC vents are small and, expectedly, do not have a wide spread. We liked the large, easy-to-use knobs for the AC controls and also the convenient placement of the Aux/USB ports on the music system. The simple instruments that include a speedometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge (there’s no rev counter) are easy to read on the move. A small digital readout here also indicates ideal gears for best fuel economy. Hyundai has scooped out a useful storage cavity on the top of the glovebox that is large enough to hold a bottle. The front door pockets can also a hold a bottle each and the big glovebox is very useful too.
Drivers will appreciate the good visibility out of the front windscreen, though the thick A pillars do create a small blind spot at T-junctions. Finding a good driving position is simple, and is made easier still by the tilt-adjust steering available on higher variants. Back support from the slender, single-piece front seats is quite good, but their tapering shape means your shoulders are left unsupported. The fixed headrests are a tad short too.
Entering or exiting the rear seat is not all that straightforward and requires you to angle your feet to avoid touching the body. Space at the back is comparable to the Alto’s but much less than in the Tata Nano, which remains the benchmark for roominess. Rear kneeroom is adequate so long as the front occupant doesn’t push his seat all the way back. Headroom, however,
is not all that good. Also, the narrow rear windows make the Eon feel smaller than it is. Passengers in the back will also have to make do with a slightly short seat squab and limited shoulder support.
Boot space, at 215 litres, is quite good for a car this size. You can even fold the rear seats when more space is needed. However, the loading lip is high and slightly narrow too.
The Eon is sold in six variants covering a wide price span. While the base D-lite variant does without basics like air conditioning or power steering, the top spec Sportz model we tested featured a CD player with USB and Aux capability, front power windows, keyless entry and steering tilt-adjust.
The Eon comes powered by a three-cylinder, 814cc petrol engine. This motor is actually the 1.1-litre iRDE unit from the Santro (and original i10) with one cylinder less. Basic architecture remains the same, with a three-valve-per-cylinder, SOHC arrangement. With 55bhp on tap, the Eon slots right between the standard 800cc Alto and the larger-hearted Alto K10 on the power scale.
Hyundai’s three-pot motor was never going to be as smooth as its four-cylinder counterpart, but refinement levels are just about acceptable for the class. Hyundai has equipped the engine with a counter balancer which cancels out vibrations to some extent. However, there’s a distinct imbalance at idle and you can feel vibrations filter through, notably via the gearlever. Things smoothen out when you tap the throttle but there’s always a thrum which you can’t miss.
We always liked the bottom-end pep of the long-stroke iRDE engine but sadly, in this three-cylinder avatar, the energetic character is missing. There is a flat spot when accelerating from very low engine speeds, so this motor needs to be revved a bit to gain momentum.
The Eon does feel quite comfortable once on the move and keeping up with city traffic isn’t a problem either. It’s only when overtaking vehicles that the lack of outright power comes into play. Mid-range and part-throttle responses are mediocre and the Eon only ambles along until you get into the powerband. Also rev it past 5000rpm and the engine note goes from a thrum to a thrash.
Clearly this motor has no sporting pretensions and, as you’d expect, performance isn’t staggering. The Eon takes 6.46 sec get to 60kph and 17.6 sec to 100kph. These figures do compare well with both Altos though. Hyundai has geared the first three ratios quite short to make the most of the engine’s limited power, so in-city drivability is acceptable for the most part. It is important to keep the engine in the powerband as it is not a quick-revving unit and does take quite some time to get back up to speed. This feeling is oft experienced when upshifting early from second to third gear.
The Eon borrows the Santro’s five-speed manual gearbox that features a mechanical linkage. Gearshifts on the short-throw ’box are quite notchy, especially in first and second gears, but the light clutch requires little effort to use.
What’s good is that highway journeys can be undertaken with piece of mind as the little Eon is
quite relaxed even at 80kph and happily cruises at an indicated 120kph. It’s only when travelling with a full load that the Eon feels slightly strained. But as the saying goes, there is no replacement for displacement.
A light steering makes the Eon well suited to Indian city traffic conditions and a tight turning circle allows cheeky moves through traffic. However, the Eon isn’t fun to drive and the uneven feel the steering offers contributes to this. There’s lots of slack around the straight-ahead position, but when you pile on the lock, the steering suddenly quickens to the point of being over-responsive. This takes some getting used to at higher speeds and the quick turn-in can also catch the novice driver off-guard. Another negative is the lack of sufficient self-centering action, so you have to keep a firm hand on the steering at all speeds.
Straightline stability is adequate and though strong gusts do rock the car, the overall impression is that the Eon is well planted, especially over minor undulations. Low-speed ride quality is another area where it showed a plushness you wouldn’t really associate with a budget city runabout. Yes, it does thump over bumps, but the suspension does a good job of softening the jolt. Over bad roads, the Eon feels out of its comfort zone and the ride isn’t as flat as we would like. There’s a fair amount of vertical movement, owing to its softly sprung setup.
Suspension noise is also pretty well contained, though road noise gets intrusive as you go faster. In terms of braking, the Eon offers good feel at the pedal and also doesn’t veer much under panic stops.