We’ve just been for a quick spin in the new Hyundai Xcent. For those of you not in the know, the Xcent is Hyundai’s new sub-four metre sedan that’s based on the Grand i10. That means it has its work cut out given that it is going up against the hugely successful (and competent) Maruti Dzire and the Honda Amaze.
Set your eyes on the Xcent and you know it looks right, certainly a lot nicer than a Dzire. There’s a nice sense of proportion to the Hyundai
– the roof flows smoothly into the boot and the short nose also helps balance out the design. If anything, it’s the simple tail-lights that make the rear look a bit plain, but it’s not too bad either. That the Xcent looks nice is no coincidence – Hyundai had a sedan in mind when it launched the Grand i10, the car the Xcent is based on. In fact, everything up to the B-pillar is identical to the hatchback, save for a bit of detailing.
Dimensionally, the Xcent shares the Grand i10’s 2,425mm wheelbase, which is longer than the Amaze and a hair’s breadth shorter than the Dzire’s. The Xcent isn’t as wide as its direct rivals – the 1,660mm width is narrower than the Amaze’s 1,680mm and the Dzire’s 1,695mm.
The big difference though is when you step inside the Hyundai. The dashboard is shared with the Grand i10 and that means the quality is good, the design is appealing and it is easy to use. It is a big step up over the Amaze’s quirky dash and at the least, a match for the Dzire’s interiors.
There are small additions to the Xcent’s cabin over the Grand i10’s — the cubbyhole under the centre console gets a closeable lid and it also features automatic climate control. The front seats, also from the Grand i10, are very comfortable, while the rear seat gets the same amount of space as the hatch. Rear-seat comfort is good and the seat back angle is a bit more reclined than the Grand i10’s. There is enough space to stretch your legs and you can easily fit four large adults inside. The fifth passenger, sat in the middle on the rear bench, is in for a bit of a squeeze, but for short journeys, this shouldn't be too much of a problem. The wide opening doors also make getting in and out of the back really easy. The adjustable headrests and a rear centre armrest do enhance comfort as well. The 407-litre boot is also the largest in this class.
Start the 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel and you get a few vibes at idle. Things smoothen out as you rev it a bit. There is some lag at low revs -- it isn’t as responsive off the block as the much bigger engine in the Amaze and doesn’t have the punch of the Dzire’s engine either. In the Xcent, the mid-range is where you should be as it is where the engine feels the strongest. Post that, the power flattens out and there’s not much point revving the engine to its redline. Hyundai says that a few tweaks to the ECU and a new electronically controlled wastegate (for the turbocharger) bump up power by 1bhp and 2.1kgm of torque over the Grand i10. This difference isn’t immediately apparent. As for refinement, you do get some diesel patter from the engine bay, but it is nowhere near as vocal as the i-DTEC engine in the Amaze. Hyundai claims an ARAI tested 24.4kpl.
The 1.2-litre Kappa2 petrol engine is much peppier. The 81.8bhp high-tech motor features variable valve timing (VTVT) and a drive-by-wire throttle. When you drive it first, you are convinced the engine makes more power. Tap on the throttle and the motor will make the car leap forward smartly. Throttle responses are crisp and lightening quick, and you do tend to enjoy this when you are in the mood for it. Hyundai is offering this engine with a four-speed automatic as well. Like the Grand i10 though, the Xcent feels easy to drive, with light controls and a slick gearshift.
The suspension layout of the Xcent is unchanged over the Grand i10 and that means independent MacPherson struts up front and non-independent torsion beam axle at the rear. Hyundai has tweaked the suspension settings to arrive at a more sedan friendly ride, but as the road we drove (the airport road at Hyderabad) was brilliantly smooth, we’ll reserve our judgement for later.
The other stand-out bit of the Xcent are its features. There are three variants - base, S and SX. The base variant gets central locking, a cooled glovebox, AC, power steering, front power windows and an engine immobilizer. On the outside it gets, body colored bumpers and wheel covers.
The Xcent S variant comes equipped with goodies like fog lamps, body-coloured door mirrors and outside door handles, turn indicators on the wing mirrors, along with electrically adjustable and folding wing mirrors. It gets an integrated music system with radio, CD, MP3, aux-in, USB and Bluetooth compatibility. The music system also offers a 1 GB internal memory. On the inside, it gets chrome finish on the gear knob, steering-mounted controls, rear AC vents, front and rear power windows, adjustable driver's seat and tilt steering. It even gets a rear defogger and rear parking sensors.
The top Xcent SX variant comes with leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather wrapped gear knob with chrome coating, and push button start/stop in addition to what you get on the S. This variant also gets a reversing camera, driver and passenger airbag, and 14-inch alloy wheels along with the option of choosing 15-inch diamond-cut alloy wheel. The Xcent also gets two airbags and although ABS is optional.
You get all of this at quite a reasonable price. Petrol variants start at Rs 4.66 lakh and go up to Rs 6.47 lakh for the top SX (O) variant while the diesel starts at Rs 5.56 lakh and goes upto Rs 7.38 lakh which means the Xcent is cheaper than the Honda Amaze and Maruti Dzire. As is, the Xcent, with its attractive looks, long list of features, appealing interiors and frugal engines looks set to shake up the segment.