The one product Hyundai Motor India did not have in its comprehensive product portfolio was a compact sedan. With the recently launched Xcent in a segment essentially created to take advantage of the lowest excise duty slab of 8 % that the government offers, Hyundai hopes to plug that gap. Competition, however, is strong in the form of the Honda Amaze and the Maruti Suzuki DZire but the Xcent seems to have made the first big impression with over 11,000 bookings within 30 days of its launch. But has the Xcent got enough in its arsenal to keep its competitors at bay? We drove the car around Hyderabad to find out.
It was in October 1999 that Hyundai had launched its first sedan in the Indian market – the Accent. A popular product from the Hyundai stable, the Accent made way for the Xcent after a successful 14 year journey. It is hence not too surprising that the Korean carmaker decided to badge the new car Xcent, perhaps to capitalise on the Accent connect.
A booted version of the Grand i10, the Xcent's platform was designed ground-up to spawn a hatchback and a compact sedan. Hyundai had conceived the Grand i10 with a planned compact sedan to follow – the Indian Grand i10 is longer than its international counterpart by 100 mm – and the Xcent clearly is one of the most well integrated products in the segment.
DESIGN – EXTERIORS
Developed jointly by engineers in India and its R&D centre in Namyang, South Korea, the Xcent comes across as a smart package right from the first view of the car. Unlike some of its fluidic designed vehicles, the Xcent bears a more understated yet impressive styling. The front end is similar to that of the Grand i10, but for the chrome elements on the large hexagonal grille and headlamps.
The rear overall looks neat and the roofline of the car flows smoothly down to merge with the boot lid. Since the Xcent was conceived to be a sedan, the exterior lines on the car mesh well, right from the front up till the boot. A similar chrome treatment has been given to the rear tail-lamp combination, which does a good job of making the rear appealing. The 15-inch diamond cut alloy wheels on the SX (O) variant we drove, add flair to the Xcent's side profile, but the wheels still look a bit small for the arches that house them. The wheels on the other trim levels get 14-inch alloys running on 165/ 65 R14 tyres.
Hyundai engineers have also made a thoughtful change by raising the ground clearance by about 5 mm to handle the increase in gross vehicle weight.
DESIGN – INTERIORS
The interiors of the Xcent go along well with its youthful exteriors and are further complemented by good quality of materials used and overall fit and finish. Dual tone beige and black interiors help prevent creation of monotony inside the cabin. The dashboard design is trendy and would be appreciated by the consumers. Control layout is similar to the Grand i10, meaning the ergonomics are good.
Space is good, both in the front and the rear, but not segment leading as the Honda Amaze offers more room in the back. That said, the front and rear seats are comfortable and offer good support, and the wide glass area further adds to the feeling of an airy cabin. There's generous headroom too. Plastic quality is good by segment standards and a best-in-class boot storage capacity adds further to the vehicle's positives.
On the features front, the Xcent offers features from a segment above, including push button start, rear AC vents, rear parking camera and sensors, 1 GB of internal memory for audio, auto-folding mirrors and electric trunk opening. Such features and many more will appeal to younger customers, who look for better connectivity and comfort in cars these days. Seats are comfortable and well placed for all-round visibility. The reversing camera display on the rear view mirror makes it convenient to park in tight spots. Some of these are segment first features.
The Xcent comes with two engines and two transmissions, a 1.2 l Kappa petrol unit paired to a five-speed manual transmission & four-speed automatic, and a second-generation 1.1 l, three-cylinder U2 CRDi unit paired to a five-speed manual only. During the drive, we were able to sample only the diesel engine that produces 71 hp @ 4,000 rpm and 180 Nm of torque @ 1,750 - 2,500 rpm.
This engine is the same as found in the Grand i10 but in a slightly different state of tune. Hyundai engineers have tweaked the unit to develop marginally higher power and torque to counter the additional weight of the sedan. This increase is primarily due to the tuning of the turbocharger. The torque curve is flat, which ensures a straight & linear power delivery.
A high injection pressure of up to 1,800 bar is claimed to improve low-end torque, thereby reducing the need to downshift frequently. It also leads to shorter injection duration and an enhanced performance. The number of injector holes has been increased from seven to eight and the flow area of each hole is reduced by about five per cent, which allows improved emission potential by enhanced atomisation of injected fuel and air mixing.
These changes provide more precise control of small injection amounts and shorter intervals between the injections. The best combination of single- and double-pilot injections with improved calibration of other control parameters enables an optimal compromise between emission, fuel economy and acoustic behaviour within the system reliability limit, claims Hyundai. Gear ratios too have undergone some change in the Xcent compared to the Grand i10.
The petrol engine is a dual VTVT unit (variable valve timing) and our experience of driving the petrol variant of the Grand i10 tells us it's a refined engine. We weren't able to check the fuel-efficiency but Hyundai claims an ARAI certified 24.4 km/l. Sound insulation is impressive and the engine operates in a smooth and quiet manner, when on the move.
RIDE & HANDLING
There isn't much difference in the way the Xcent handles, compared to its younger sibling. Although there is a bit of body roll around the corners, it's not one that would make drivers nervous. The Xcent suspension comes with an independent McPherson strut type unit at the front and a coupled torsion beam axle for the rear suspension, and they do a good job of accentuating ride comfort, even over small bumps on the road.
Braking is carried out by a front disc and rear drum set-up, resulting in adequate stopping power in emergency situations. The steering is precise and is engineered well for manoeuvrability within city limits.
With the Xcent, Hyundai has marked its entry into an important segment, fuelled by the aspirational nature of young Indians. The car has been equipped with best-in-class features to ensure the value for money quotient for most buyers is on the higher side. The fact that the Xcent has been designed as a sedan right from the beginning has helped. As a result, its design should find more acceptance with the targeted consumers as they're more particular of the vehicle they are seen in.
Priced between Rs 4.66 lakh and Rs 7.19 lakh for the petrol and Rs 5.56 lakh and Rs 7.38 lakh for the diesel, the Xcent offers great value for money. There is little doubt that Hyundai has another credible product in its line-up. The initial momentum the Xcent has received should help the company push for more sales in months to come. Even though it might lead to some cannibalisation within Hyundai's product range, the brilliant effort made by Hyundai's engineering team in packaging the Xcent with the right mix of features and performance parameters would ensure it makes a mark for itself in the fast growing compact sedan segment.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay