Hyundai Xcent Facelift: First Drive Review
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With a new look, more power and more features, does the updated Xcent regain its appeal for private car buyers?
One of the segment’s best all-rounders with an added dose of practicality – that’s essentially what Hyundai wanted to offer when it launched the Xcent in 2014. However, with its price overlapping with that of the more premium Elite i20, its appeal shifted from the original audience, i.e. private car buyers, to fleet users. Don’t take our word for it, just ask your app-cab driver what cars his comrades and him consider to be a “hot option”.
Now, though, the Xcent’s been given a facelift and an extensive one at that. So, does it have enough premium value to appeal to buyers like you and I?
Initial spy shots left a lot of people saying, “Oh god, why?”, but much like the Mahindra TUV300, this is a car that looks better in person than in pictures. Additionally, it’s now more distinctive, not only from its predecessor, but the Grand i10 as well.
The two-part grille is no more and is replaced by a plus-sized hexagonal unit, generously lined with chrome. It’s got a new front bumper too with a sleeker set of fog lamps, and, not to mention, daytime running LEDs. The side profile remains the same, save for the engine badge on the front fender that reads ‘1.2D’ instead of ‘CRDi’, highlighting the uprated engine size. Up top, the radio antenna is a shark-fin unit instead of the old antenna on the higher variants.
The rear end looks as if it were inspired by the Kia Rio. Some may even draw parallels with the Toyota Camry. Gone are the tiny old tail lamps and instead, you get a wider set of lights that occupy more real estate at the rear. The lights even get some internal detailing to make them look more distinctive. The boot-lid itself has been redesigned and sports a chunky chrome bar that connects the rear lamps. The bumper gets some aggressive contouring too, and while it will take a while for the new look to grow on many, the new Xcent does look more mature. Importantly, it still looks well-proportioned for a sub-4 metre sedan.
Contrasting the relatively flashy exterior is a cabin that’s sophisticated and like the Grand i10, offers segment-leading quality. Once in, you’re welcomed by ergonomic perfection. All the controls fall to hand easily and things will feel familiar quickly even if you’ve never owned a Hyundai before.
The instrument cluster does look dated now, but it’s easy on the eyes. However, Hyundai could have at least added a distance-to-empty and average fuel efficiency display to the MID with the facelift. An opportunity missed! Existing owners will immediately notice that the car gets new pure beige upholstery, which does make the cabin feel classier. What would should have been added is adjustable headrests up front and height-adjustable seatbelts - things which wouldn’t add much to the cost, but would add a lot of convenience. Apart from that, though, the seats are quite comfortable for city driving and can support large frames well, albeit snugly.
Right from the Getz, we’ve seen Hyundai’s small cars make the best use of the cabin space available. Two six footers can sit one behind the other and the rear seat uses the car’s width well enough to free up just about enough shoulder room for three abreast. A middle occupant can be seated fairly comfortably, but only over short journeys. The fixed central head restraint is too small for adults and the rear AC console does intrude into the leg space.
All four doors get adequate space for 1-litre bottles, with more room for knick-knacks too. Boot space remains the same at 407-litres and three medium sized bags can fit in with ease. However, larger suitcases can be a bit tricky, because the wheel arches do eat into the trunk space.
Features like automatic climate control and rear AC vents are carried on like before and as you’d expect, the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system offered with the updated Grand i10 finds a place here too. The display is very easy to use and gets the added benefit of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even the touch response is good and we found no issues with lag, while the addition of voice commands adds some more convenience. The automatic variant, which isn’t available with this screen gets a mobile phone dock atop the dashboard, which is a thoughtful touch.
You do have to take your eyes off the road to use the touchscreen, but it’s been well-integrated and doesn’t look like an aftermarket add-on. The Xcent is still expectedly feature loaded, but Hyundai has sliced off goodies like the auto-dimming interior rearview mirror and the cluster ionizer (keeps the air inside the car clean and odour free). These features certainly added to the Xcent’s value proposition, but their absence won’t be a deal breaker for most.
With 75PS of power and 190Nm of torque at its disposal, the Xcent is now more potent than before. It’s the same 1.2-litre diesel engine offered in the updated Grand i10 and feels very similar to use. Hit the push button starter and the motor announces its awakening with a noticeable amount of vibrations that only smoothen out once you’re on the move.
Once you get going, though, in mere seconds you understand that this powertrain is ideal for the city. The clutch is light and bites early, and you can crawl ahead without actually needing to use the accelerator pedal. Dab the A-pedal and progress is quick. The Xcent is, of course, heavier than the Grand i10 and the gearing does seem to have been tweaked a bit too. So while the Grand had no perceptible turbo-lag, it is noticeable in the Xcent.
Understandably, it isn’t as quick as the Grand i10 with a tested 0-100kmph time of 16.20 seconds (nearly 3 seconds slower than the G10). Even the in-gear acceleration isn’t as rapid with the rise from 30-80kmph taking 9.82 seconds (1.89 seconds more than the Grand i10), but then again the Xcent is the bigger car, so the performance difference is reasonable.
However, by no means is it underserved as there’s enough grunt below 2,000rpm to make smooth headway. City speeds of 40-60kmph can be hit without much throttle input, since the peak torque is delivered from as low as 1,750rpm. Thanks to the healthy low-rev performance, it’s also easy to get a good fuel efficiency figure, with our tests getting us 19.04kmpl in the city and 23.87kmpl on the highway.
The best way to pick up the pace is to shift up around 2,800-3,000rpm. Revving the motor further makes it feel strained and get louder, but power tapers off quickly. There’s no use of teasing the redline with this engine and while rivals like the Aspire and Ameo offer exhilarating performance, the Xcent gives you exactly how much you need – nothing more, nothing less.
There’s a healthy mid-range as well, so sharp inclines can be taken in 2nd or 3rd gear and you can let the revs drop a fair bit before the need to shift down a cog comes up. Out on the highway, the Xcent will gladly do speeds of 100-120kmph without breaking a sweat. It can go well beyond that too, but it prefers cruising at a constant speed over brief high speed runs. The snappy gearbox is great to use and the gear gates are well defined, making the Xcent pleasant to drive, if not exciting. We did, however, face some resistance while trying to slot it into reverse.
Ride and Handling
The Xcent’s suspension setup remains unchanged and is still comfort-set as before. At low speeds, it’s very comfortable and offers great bad road ability as well. Additionally, it rides quite flat and is very stable over undulations/bridge joints even beyond 120kmph. However, there is a noticeable amount of vertical movement and through fast corners, body roll is perceptible. There’s a good amount of stopping power on offer too with the car dropping from 100-0kmph in 45.89 metres, while feeling a little more surefooted than the Grand i10 during the test.
The steering doesn’t offer much feedback, but is light enough for city usage, weighs up well with speed and is responsive too. In everyday conditions, there’s no guesswork involved. It won’t please any driving enthusiasts, but that’s hardly what the Xcent has been designed for. Overall, the handling mannerisms are predictable and novice-friendly.
Hyundai now offers dual front airbags as standard across the Xcent’s variant range. The top three variants also get rear parking sensors, while the top two get a reversing camera with the feed relayed to the touchscreen infotainment system. However, while ABS was a standard offering, it’s now limited to the range-topping SX and SX (O) grade. At the least, ABS should have been optional for the lower variants.
The Xcent is currently available in 5 variants (earlier 4) – E, E+, S, SX and SX (O). If you’re on a strict budget, we recommend opting for the E+ at the least. For Rs 55,000 over the base E spec, you get body coloured door handles and wing mirrors, a day/night interior mirror, full wheel covers and a rear armrest with cupholders. It also adds 2-DIN radio with AUX/Bluetooth/USB connectivity, steering mounted audio and telephony controls, and 4 speakers. Handy features like rear AC vents and electrically adjustable wing mirrors are thrown into the kitty as well. Overall, even fleet buyers should consider opting for this variant.
The best value is offered by the SX variant. It gets a rear camera, anti-lock brakes and 14-inch alloy wheels. It also gets the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, voice recognition and a driver seat height-adjuster. Overall, this variant strikes a healthy balance between need and want features.
For nearly Rs 80,000 over the SX, you can get the SX (O) which gets smart key, chrome door handles, 15-inch Diamond Cut alloy wheels and a leather steering wrap. It also gets a push button starter and automatic climate control. The premium it commands is justified, but the features added improve the feel-good and convenience factors only. They are features we like, but not goodies you necessarily need.
Hyundai has played it safe with the Xcent facelift. The car looks brand new, but the essential package remains the same. The new diesel engine improves the car’s driveability, while features like the touchscreen infotainment system bring some much needed modernity to the table. What’s more, is that the prices haven’t seen a significant hike, making the new car a better value proposition. Overall, it certainly is a better machine than before and yes, the new Xcent is a good option for family car buyers.