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Will 'fluidic' work again?
A flowing design was responsible for the success of the revamped Verna. Can Hyundai repeat the magic with the new Elantra? The fluidic Verna can safely be said to have marked the birth of an "all-new Hyundai" in India. The Korean car major, seen as one of the most ambitious companies globally, had somehow remained a force only in small cars when it came to India, not getting its act right in the market beyond hatchbacks. But the new-generation Verna sporting fluidic swoops and flowing lines - launched in May 2011 - changed its fortunes overnight. The Verna's new-age design saw the model emerge as a strong force, successfully challenging an established rival like the Honda City and also its contemporary Volkswagen Vento.
Uninterrupted curves and a coupe-like sporty profile has been the highlight of the fluidic design and now Hyundai is all set to go a notch higher than the Verna as it gears up for the re-entry of the Elantra, a car that faded away from the company's stable about five years back but is now set for a comeback in the fluidic avataar.
The new Elantra - that hit markets in the West in 2011 - has already been a success for the company and has been a hot-seller in the United States. Hyundai decided to get the car to India now as it worked on a diesel version that is not available overseas but is a must in India, considering that the petrol market is shrinking rapidly due to the high price of the fuel.
So will the fluidic magic work for the Elantra as it did for the Verna? The Elantra has tough rivals to match up to in the Toyota Corolla Altis and Chevrolet Cruze. Other competitors in the segment include the Skoda Laura and Volkswagen Jetta.
This is, and perhaps will be, one of the most appealing features on the new Elantra. The Altis - currently the leader in the segment - has never scored much on this count. The Cruze has a macho and sporty design, but this too has existed since 2009 and has not seen much of an upgrade.
The fluidic design of the Elantra makes the car more sporty and upscale. But the same design philosophy also makes the car more or less a bigger - and roomier - version of the Verna. The odds against the Elantra stack up even more when one considers that the top-end version of the Verna diesel is available at the price of the low-end variant of the Elantra.
Hyundai has done well to add the 'plush feel' to the Elantra which not only helps it compete with other cars in the segment but also adds the 'extras' when it comes to comparison with the Verna. The Elantra is a spacious car. The company has also thoughtfully attached audio controls to the central armrest of the rear seat with further comfort provided by the rear AC vents.
However, there are some key deficiencies when one views the Elantra purely from the point of view of a chauffer-driven vehicle. The first problem seems to be the outcome of the coupe-like design of the car. The roof, which tails down towards the rear, means that headspace can be an issue for taller passengers. Also, while the front seats are ventilated, there is no such comfort in the rear which can be quite discomforting in a chauffer-led drive.
The quality of the interiors in the Elantra is of high grade, and Hyundai has done well to add a premium feel here. Music system and steering-mounted controls are expected to be standard across variants. The seats on the car are comfortable and support well. The usual frills of a Rs 10 lakh-plus sedan are all there - dual zone climate control;cooled glove box;heated wing mirrors;automatic headlamps, cruise control, etc.
The Elantra throws in plenty of safety features. While the dual airbags are standard across variants, the top-end version comes with six air bags. Hyundai has also equipped higher versions with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) in case of mishap.
SMOOTH AND POWERFUL
Hyundai will offer petrol and diesel versions (both 6-speed transmissions). I decided to drive the diesel variant. It comes with a 1, 600cc engine (the same as the Verna) and this churns out a maximum power of 128bhp at 4, 000 rpm. On the highway, the performance was smooth and responsive. The company has done well to insulate the inner cabin from the noise of the diesel engine. The petrol engine is 1, 800cc and delivers a maximum power of 150bhp at 6500rpm.
Hyundai is yet to declare the final fuel efficiency figures, but its executives claim that it should be "class leading". We will have to wait for the model's launch next month for the exact numbers.
Hyundai is expected to begin the Elantra's new journey with a very competitive pricing. Expect a pricing between Rs 13 lakh and Rs 16 lakh on the car. This should make it a compelling choice against rivals.
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