2017 Hyundai Verna: First Drive Review
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We have got our first taste of Hyundai’s new generation Verna. The brief drive at Hyundai’s test track on the outskirts of Chennai tells us a lot about what this South Korean brings to the segment to rival Honda’s City and Maruti Suzuki’s Ciaz. As no cameras were allowed at the event we won’t be able to show you the car in depth. However, we can share with you a glimpse of what the new Hyundai Verna feels like in the flesh.
Hyundai’s new Verna has been in the public eye since 2016. The Elantra-like low and sporty design was first showcased in China, but the version we get in India is based on the Russia-spec Solaris, as the Verna is called there. The differences in terms of design are minor -- for instance, the headlamp design for India doesn’t have a step in the lower edge and the turn signal position is slightly different. Lower down, the fog lamp housing isn’t drawn into a wide airdam, like on the China-spec car. The Verna features bi-xenon headlamps with daytime running LEDs and projector fog lamps.
Viewed from the side, the Hyundai Verna has a striking crease running under the window line. Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 makes for a dramatic design but looks more mature. From this angle the Verna looks most like its elder sibling, the Elantra. The Verna we drove came shod with 195/55 R16s, which is the same size as the outgoing car. The tyres come wrapped on diamond-cut alloys. Lower-spec variants are expected to carry over the 185/65 R15 rubber.
The Verna, now in its third generation, has grown larger, and is built on the all new K2 platform which is more rigid as 50% of it is made up of high-strength steel. The steel and the design used reportedly help improve crash protection. The new platform also stretches the footprint and expectations of this class. While Hyundai hasn’t shared the specifications we expect the new Verna to measure 4,405mm (30mm longer than the previous model) in terms of length, 1,729mm (29mm wider than the previous model) in terms of width, and its wheelbase has stretched to 2,600mm (30mm increment over the previous model) now. So it’s longer and wider, but at the same time to give it that sleek look the roof line has been kept low at 1,469mm (6mm lower than the previous model). In comparison the Honda City sports a length of 4440mm, width of 1695mm, height of 1495mm, and an identical wheelbase of 2600mm.
From the rear the raked roof flows smoothly into the high-set boot. Like on the Verna before, rearward visibility will be compromised by the design. The Verna also has a distinctive tail lamp design, with three lamp clusters set in them. The bulky bumper is made to look sleeker by giving it a bit more design elements at the bottom.
Step inside and you sense a design that looks more mature than on the outgoing car. The quality of plastics and materials continues to carry the high benchmark we have come to expect from Hyundais. However, the dash design isn’t quite as striking or modern as we would have expected from an all new car. The lines, and switches are strong and simple, and feels a bit too familiar.
The centre console is broken into three horizontal sections with the seven-inch touchscreen system sitting right on top, between the large air-con vents. As expected the system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The top end variants also features on-board navigation. Below that sit the controls for the automatic climate control. The aircon system is said to feature Eco Coating Tech that clears the air of any odour. The Verna is also the first car in the class to offer cooled front seats and the buttons for these sit low down on the console.
The seats on the top end come wrapped in perforated leather. The seats are well cushioned and wide and will offer good comfort even for larger occupants. The rear bench is disappointing, as the legroom is a bit tight and six-footers will find the roof to be too low too. Sitting three abreast will also be a bit tight. Surprisingly the increase in overall dimensions hasn’t translated into a much richer experience in the back. Rear seat occupants get air-con vents and the console also houses a USB charging point.
In terms of features the Verna packs a lot! It has an electrically operated sunroof, hands-free boot opening functionality by waving your foot underneath it, a curtain for the rear windscreen, reversing camera and rear parking sensors. The Multi Information Display for the driver also features a Distance To Empty (DTE) readout now.The Verna continues to offer 6 airbags, and while we don’t have exact details of the variants, we expect ABS and dual airbags to be available on most of the range.
On the move
The Verna carries over only the larger engines from the previous generation. Which means there is the variable valve timing-equipped 1.6 litre petrol and the variable geometry turbo diesel to choose from. Both engines are said to make the same power as before: 123PS for the petrol and 128PS for the diesel. While exact torque figures are not known yet, Hyundai claims that the diesel makes 245Nm of torque at 1250 rpm, at which point the older Verna made only 176Nm. The petrol meanwhile is said to make 130Nm at 1500rpm, whereas the older Verna made 122Nm at that point. These engines are offered with six-speed manual gearboxes. In the interest of fuel efficiency and performance the auto gearbox has been upgraded to a 6-speed gearbox instead of the older four-speed unit.
Russia-spec Hyundai Solaris
On our brief test only the diesel engine was available, but both gearboxes were available to try out. The engine started off with a slight clatter, which was again apparent only occasionally. Overall, the engine felt smooth and quiet. The engine should be easy to drive at low speeds as there is enough torque there. You can crawl at speeds under 30kmph in 3rd gear comfortably. Step on the accelerator pedal and the Verna rolls forward at a steady and predictable pace. Except for a small surge in torque at 1700rpm, there is no sudden spike in power, which will make this diesel easy to manage in the city. The manual’s clutch was fairly light, but a bit springy. The gearshifts on the six-speed gearbox were enjoyable. It required just one short and swift movement of the left hand to change gears.
The auto gearbox felt reasonably quick to shift up and down gears. Although it has a manual mode it felt better to leave it to its own devices as tapping the lever front or back didn’t seem to make any immediate difference to what the gearbox was doing.
One big highlight on the new Verna is its newfound composure. As we chucked the Verna around the skidpad it did roll around, but it didn’t feel remotely nervous. Grip on offer was predictable and it carried on calmly through the direction changes. Impressively, the electric steering felt like no Hyundai before it -- light, but consistent -- and actually gave you a good sense of what was happening at the front wheels. This is truly commendable. While we couldn’t test ride quality, we expect the new Verna to continue to smother poor roads, while improving on its high speed stability. The exact extent of this can only be gauged once the car is available for test on public roads.
Petrol: E, EX, EX Auto, SX, SX (O), SX (O) Auto
Diesel: E, EX, EX Auto, SX, SX+ Auto, SX (O)
The diesel automatic that we drove came with perforated leather seats and the electric sunroof. However it missed out on the engine Start-Stop button and the cooled front seats. This we assume to be the SX+ variant.
The new Verna has been introduced at a competitive price and while it’s still more expensive than the Maruti Ciaz in its petrol grades, the diesels are now neck-and-neck. On the other hand, Hyundai has successfully undercut the Honda City’s prices, while arguably offering a more comprehensive tech package and more powerful engines than both its primary rivals.
"While it may not look all that different on the outside, the experience is new and exciting"
The recently refreshed Honda City is a more appealing product now, and the Ciaz has always been the sensible choice in this segment. However, the all-new Hyundai Verna is a very compelling package and while it may not look all that different on the outside, the experience is new and exciting. The K2 platform, which it shares with the Elantra, also appears to have given it improved composure, which, coupled with powerful engines make it a better driver’s car.
The only department that the new Verna lacks in is the cabin space, especially at the rear where it doesn’t quite match up to its direct rivals. However, given its aggressive pricing, the segment-above tech package, premium quality and improved driving experience, the new Verna will certainly be a tempting package for those looking for a youthful self-driven midsize sedan.
Words: Kartikeya Singhee