• Hyundai Xcent.
    Hyundai Xcent.
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Hyundai Xcent review, road test

28th Apr 2014 3:38 pm

Hyundai's latest offering looks like it has all the makings of a big seller. We give it the road test treatment to see if it's a winning combination.

  • Make : Hyundai
  • Model : Xcent

Hyundai's Xcent compact sedan maybe new on the block, being the carmaker's first offering in the segment here, but it's already generated a lot of interest. When we last checked with dealers, 11,000 bookings had already been registered and they claimed over a lakh enquiries for the new compact sedan.

The Hyundai Xcent sedan is an all-new car based on the Grand i10 hatchback. Its sub-four-metre size qualifies it as a small car and thus earns it the same low rate of excise duty as the hatchback – that means a smart compact sedan for not so much money.

The Xcent is available in both diesel and petrol avatars, with an automatic transmission option on the petrol car. But before you put your money down for the latest new Hyundai, read our road test to check if it's worth it. 

The Xcent’s 1.1-litre diesel engine immediately puts it at a displacement disadvantage to its nearest rivals, the Honda Amaze and Maruti Swift Dzire. The fact is, the Xcent’s relatively small engine bay cannot accommodate a much larger engine to begin with. That ruled out the use of the 1.4 CRDi motor from the i20, and instead what you get here is the same three-cylinder U2 CRDi unit that made its debut under the hood of the Grand i10. However, the engine has been tweaked for use on the Xcent, with revised ECU mapping and the addition of electronic control for the turbo’s wastegate for longer sustained boost. The result is a flatter torque curve with a 13 percent improvement in torque and a 1bhp increment in power to 71bhp.

What’s nice is that you can see the benefits of these improvements in the real world. There’s very little of the turbo lag you’d typically expect from such a small-capacity diesel motor. Progress is smooth right from the get go and the gradual build up of power makes the Xcent diesel a very friendly car to drive in the city. Things stay that way till about 3,800rpm, after which the power simply falls off a cliff. This is best (or rather worst) experienced when attempting to overtake at highway speeds. There’s nothing to gain by holding gear, so it’s advisable to short shift and keep the engine in the mid-range. Shuffling through the gears, though, poses no problem. The five-speed gearbox is smooth and the clutch light by diesel car standards. And for a three-cylinder diesel engine, refinement levels are fairly good. There is some patter from the engine and vibes at low engine speeds, but things smoothen out as you build speed. The engine does get quite noisy as you rev hard, but like we said, there’s no point venturing into the upper reaches of the rev band.
In terms of outright performance, the Xcent diesel is seriously off the pace compared to the Amaze and Dzire. 0-100kph comes up in a lazy 18.61 seconds. It’s slower through the gears as well but what the numbers hide is the linearity with which the Xcent diesel gathers pace. 

The Xcent petrol is similar to the diesel version in the way it grants you easy access to power at low speeds. Variable valve timing and drive-by-wire on the 1.2-litre, four-cylinder Kappa 2 motor help bottom-end responses and make the car feel peppy and light on its feet. The responsive nature of the engine also lets you occasionally get by in a higher gear than usual. Not that gear changes call for much effort – the light clutch and slick-shifting five-speed gearbox ensure that. To be honest, in the confines
of a city, there’s little more you’d want from your car.

When in the mood for some fun, the Xcent petrol doesn’t disappoint either. The wide spread of torque provides ample power right up till 5,000rpm. Performance, indeed, is far better than just being acceptable for this class of car. 0-100kph takes 14.23 seconds, with the car topping out at 172kph. You’d also like this motor for its refinement – it’s smooth, quiet and a match for the best in this class. There is some gearbox whine though.

 

 

The Xcent comes with a dual-DIN audio system with a CD player. It can also be connected to your mobile phone or portable audio player through aux, USB or Bluetooth. In addition to this, the system also features 1GB of internal storage to let you store about 150 songs in MP3 format. Syncing the system with your phone is pretty straightforward and gives you the option to copy your phone’s contacts into the head unit. We had no problems using the Bluetooth telephone function, although  the sound quality from the car’s four speakers is just average. 

 

 

The tweaks to the 1.1 CRDi diesel motor have made a positive difference in fuel economy too. Driven through congested Mumbai traffic, the Xcent delivered a very impressive 16.2kpl which betters the Grand i10’s figure of 15.4kpl. Out on the highway, the lower drag of the Xcent’s sedan body style came into play to allow the Xcent to deliver a superb 20.3kpl. That’s an average economy of 18.3kpl, which is good enough for about 780 kilometres between fuel stops! The petrol Xcent is good in its own right. We got 11.5kpl in city driving and 16.3kpl cruising on the highway.

 

 

The Xcent is built on the same 2,425mm wheelbase as the Grand i10 and the two cars are near identical right up to the C-pillar. That means everything, like the peeled-back headlamps, slot-like grille, angular fog lamp inserts and thick side strips are carried over unchanged. Even the glasshouse is the same. It’s only the chrome lining on the Xcent’s hexagonal grille and this top-spec car’s larger 15-inch wheels that are unique to the sedan.

The tail section doesn’t look like it was tacked on to the rest of the body as an afterthought, as in the case of the Maruti Swift Dzire. Instead, there’s a nice sense of proportion here, with the roof flowing smoothly into the boot, which has a smartly contoured bumper and an attractive lip. If anything, the boot looks a bit too tame, and the well detailed but tiny tail-lights don’t help give it presence either. On the whole, the Xcent looks neat, with styling that’s a pleasing, if slightly subdued iteration of Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language.

Under the skin, the Xcent sticks to the norm with its suspension setup – MacPherson struts up front
and a rear torsion bar. However, Hyundai has stiffened the rear suspension compared to the Grand i10 to deal with the additional weight loads sedans are generally subject to. For the record, the petrol and diesel Xcents are each 15kg heavier than their Grand i10 counterparts. In terms of safety equipment, ABS is standard only on the top-spec SX trims, while driver and passenger airbags come only on the S (O) and SX (O) trims.

 

 

Much like the Grand i10, the Xcent will impress you the moment you set foot inside. Modern Hyundai cabins are high on quality and here too you’ll find the general level of fit and finish to be of a very good standard. Those behind the wheel, in particular, will love how the chunky steering and smartly detailed gear lever feel as good to hold as they are to look at. It’s a well laid out cabin too. The two-tone dashboard, identical to the one in the Grand i10, places all audio and air-con controls within easy reach. A welcome inclusion on the Xcent is an automatic climate control system that works well enough to maintain a cool temperature in the cabin. What’s also nice is that each of the round vents up front can be individually opened or closed to direct air flow as per your liking. However, the rear air-con vent (a first in this segment) isn’t particularly effective and in our view is a bit of a waste as it unnecessarily robs space from the middle passenger.

The Xcent offers a fair amount of adjustability for the driver, so long as you opt for the middle or top-spec versions. Steering rake and seat height adjustment make it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The front seats, though slightly narrow and a tad on the firm side, are supportive enough. However, a cause for concern is that the fixed headrests are too short and unlikely to provide adequate protection from whiplash in the event of a rear collision.

Rear occupants, on the other hand, will appreciate the safety and comfort the adjustable headrests come with, but might find the seat base a tad short. Also, compared to the Grand i10, the Xcent’s rear seat back has been reclined a few degrees too far to compensate for the loss in headroom owing to the angle of the rear windscreen. The cabin’s average width also means the Xcent’s rear seat is best suited to two passengers. On the plus side, there is a good deal of legroom and the foldable centre armrest is well positioned too. Incidentally, the centre armrest comes with two cupholders, in addition to the two cupholders up front, one-litre bottle holders on each of the doors and the large (and cooled) glovebox. Even luggage space is very impressive, with the well-shaped 407-litre boot taking in large suitcases with great ease.

In terms of equipment, the Xcent is much like any other Hyundai. That means top-spec cars are particularly well equipped, with features like a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and go, automatic climate control, auto folding mirrors, steering-mounted controls, an audio player with 1GB of onboard storage, aux and USB compatibility, Bluetooth and an electrochromic rearview mirror. Phew!

 

 

To give you an idea of the progress Hyundai has made in the ride and handling department over the years, here’s a fact. The Xcent tackles the bumps better and generally feels more surefooted than the more expensive Verna did at launch back in 2011. No, the Xcent still doesn’t ace this section of the test,

but as Hyundais go, it’s a big step in the right direction.

Potholes and the like are dispatched with some firmness from the suspension, but still, it’s never to the point of being uncomfortable. In most scenarios, the ride feels like an improvement over the Grand i10. Perhaps that’s down to the stiffer rear setup on the Xcent, or possibly the switch to larger 15-inch wheels and tyres. However, suspension travel is quite limited and the car does tend to thud on big bumps. Excellent sound insulation helps maintain the calm in the cabin, with the workings of the suspension never intrusively audible.

Out on the highway, the Xcent feels adequately planted, but the overall ride isn’t as flat as we’d have liked. The vertical motion is more pronounced at the back especially when the car is not loaded up.

As for the electrically assisted steering, it isn’t what you’d call lifeless and weighs up enough to give you confidence at high speeds. But venture out on to a twisty course and you’ll be able to tell that the Xcent’s basic underpinnings are nice and stiff, and that it’s the inconsistent steering feel which is the weak link. Within the confines of a city, though, you’ll be more than happy with the minimal effort required to twirl the light steering and ease the Xcent into, say, a tight parking spot. The small turning circle and hatchback-like dimensions help here in a big way.

Both our test cars were the fully specced models with the optional ABS system. While stopping power was good, the brakes on the petrol car felt rather grabby at low speeds.

 

 

Hyundai does its homework well with intense market research prior to developing a new car. The Xcent is proof of this approach, because it offers buyers almost all that they could want from a compact sedan. Its well-proportioned design and sizeable boot are just the start. You also get a well-equipped, high-quality cabin that is comfy, so long as you don’t routinely travel with five on board. Both petrol and diesel engines are also well suited to urban settings, and the light controls help here as well. Refinement is good and, to be honest, theres little room for serious complaint.Its only the unexciting driving experience and the diesels lack of punch that work against the Xcent, really. If those aspects dont bother you much, the well-priced Xcent makes a really fine choice of compact sedan. Lets hope Hyundai can meet the demand, because the Xcent has the makings of a big seller.

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