When it was launched in India back in mid-2011, the ‘fluidic’ Verna (RB Series) was quite a dramatic departure from its rather nondescript predecessor. With its extroverted design flourishes, the fluidic Verna polarised opinion, with some people loving its over-the-top styling and some going with the belief that it was just too over the top. The car initially did well but later fell prey to the onslaught mounted by the new Honda City and Maruti Ciaz. Now, though, Hyundai has launched the new, 5th generation Verna that’s fully equipped to take on all comers in its segment. We had an opportunity to drive the car extensively and here’s our take on the vehicle.
DESIGN & STYLING
While the 2011 Verna (and the subsequent facelift it got in 2015) was unique in its appearance and had its own bunch of fans who loved the way the car looked, we believe the design was a bit over-wrought and did not age very well. Hyundai has addressed that issue with the new Verna, which features cleaner, more straightforward lines, without excessive adornment. While the styling still isn’t as restrained or subtle as you’d get with some European brands that compete in the same segment, Hyundai’s design language is definitely more mature now than it was six years ago.
The bigger, more prominent new front grille is one of the more noticeable design updates on the new Verna, which features many other styling updates as well – new sheet metal for the bonnet, reshaped projector headlamps (with integrated LED DRLs), revised front air dam, all-new LED taillamps and 16-inch 5-spoke ‘diamond cut’ alloy wheels. The car is handsomely proportioned, the black B-pillars look good and though there is a fair bit of chrome all around, most of it looks reasonably restrained and classy. Overall, the new Verna does look suitably premium, which is clearly what Hyundai was aiming for with the new design.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
With the new Verna, Hyundai has now discontinued the earlier 1.4 l petrol and diesel engine options, and the car is now only available with a choice of 1.6 l petrol and diesel engines. The 1.6 l, 4-cylinder, 16-valve ‘Gamma’ petrol engine features double overhead camshafts (DOHC), dual VTVT variable valve timing and produces 123 hp and 151 Nm of torque. The 1.6 l common-rail diesel engine, which features a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT), produces 128 hp and 260 Nm of torque. Both engines are available with a choice of 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions, which further establishes the growing acceptance for automatics across all car segments in the Indian market.
For this review, we only got a chance to drive the diesel-powered variant (with 6-speed manual transmission) of the new Verna, and though we would have loved to sample the petrol version as well, we have to admit that we were quite impressed with the new Verna’s diesel engine. It’s so good in fact, that it just blows the diesel-engined Maruti Ciaz (1.3 l, 88 hp, 200 Nm) and Honda City i-DTEC (1.5 l, 100 hp, 200 Nm) into the weeds – there’s just no contest.
The Verna’s diesel engine is smooth and tractable across its rev-range, delivering rich, meaty torque from 1,500 rpm upwards. The 6-speed manual gearbox is slick and efficient, with ratios that are well matched to the engine’s power output. In fact, you don’t even have to overwork the transmission – just keep the engine above 1,500 revs, mash the throttle to the floor, and the oil-burning Verna responds beautifully, scything through traffic swiftly and, out on the highway, overtaking other cars in effortless bursts of speed. Please don’t misunderstand – this is a family sedan, not a boy-racer rice-rocket – but if you’re so inclined, the diesel Verna will go as fast as you dare, without complaining. And with a claimed 24.75 kpl in terms of fuel efficiency, the economy bit is pretty impressive too.
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
Here’s the best bit about the new Verna – it’s based on Hyundai’s all-new K2 platform, which the Korean company claims is very similar to the one used on the Elantra. The use of high-tensile steel has gone up by more than 35 %, which makes for a much stiffer chassis and a cabin that should be much safer in the event of a crash. Also, hot stamping on the new Verna’s door pillars provides additional occupant protection in the case of side collisions.
The new Verna gets updated McPherson strut suspension at the front, which makes for better damped, better controlled horizontal/vertical wheel movement, and torsion beam axle at the back, with more vertically positioned shock absorbers and a hydraulic rebound stopper, which seems to have made a big difference in ride quality. Yes, the Verna offers very good ride quality, with the suspension remaining compliant over bigger bumps and potholes etc., with occupants remaining nicely isolated from even the worst that monsoon-ravaged roads can throw at the car.
While the Verna’s chassis/suspension setup seems to have been optimised primarily for ride comfort (which is only correct, since this is a family sedan after all, right?), the car doesn’t fare too badly in terms of outright handling prowess either. The steering (with electric, rather than hydraulic power assist) provides feedback that’s definitely way better than Hyundais of yore, with adequate ‘weight’ and ‘feel,’ which allows you to push the car around corners at higher speeds. Again, clearly, high-speed cornering is not what the Verna has been designed to do at the outset, but if you insist, it’ll play along. But, yes, the one thing that we will note here is that the brakes – discs at the front, drums at the back – could have done with a bit more ‘bite,’ a bit more outright power. They’re not too bad, mind, but perhaps require more effort than you may expect, to get the vehicle stopped from high speeds. Of course, the Verna is fitted with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) tech as standard, which hopefully ups the safety quotient a bit.
INTERIORS, SAFETY & INFOTAINMENT
Hyundai cars are known for being well equipped in terms of features, and the new Verna doesn’t disappoint in that context. The seats are comfortable and fairly spacious, the imitation leather upholstery looks and feels good, and the beige-and-grey plastics used in the cabin seem to be at least reasonably solid and look like they’ve been built to last. That said, we do believe that the Ciaz and City interiors look a bit more premium/high-end than the Verna’s cabin, which may be down to the use of the colour and quality of plastics that Hyundai has chosen for the new Verna.
In terms of infotainment, there’s a centrally-mounted 7-inch colour touchscreen, which displays navigation- and entertainment-related information. This system, which can be controlled via easily accessible knobs and buttons mounted on the centre console (and/or via steering wheel-mounted controls), gets full compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless smartphone connectivity. There’s also Mirror Link for app-based navigation, which works pretty well, while the Arkamys 6-speaker surround-sound music system produces impressive output. Other notable bits include ventilated front seats (that can circulate cold or hot air through vents in the seat, keeping occupants comfortable in all weather conditions), cooled glove box, push-button start, rear-view camera for easier reversing and parking manoeuvres and new ‘eco coating technology,’ which stops unwanted micro-organisms from developing in the AC’s evaporator core, ensuring fresher, non-smelly cold air output.
In terms of safety, too, the Verna’s cabin is well equipped, with up to six airbags (two at the front, plus side and curtain airbags) and ISOFIX child restraint system as standard fitment. The only thing that some people may have a problem with is the rear seats, where headroom and legroom may be a bit limited for taller occupants. Compared with, say, the Ciaz, the Verna doesn’t feel as spacious at the back and those who use a chauffeur to drive them around may not be too happy with that.
Priced at Rs 7.99-12.23 lakh (ex-showroom) for the petrol models, and Rs 9.19-12.61 lakh (ex-showroom) for the diesel variants, the new Verna is clearly a good value for money proposition. The car looks good, features a host of safety equipment (the new K2 platform also helps with the safety factor, we’re sure), has all the infotainment and connectivity features that one expects in that segment these days, and offers plush, comfortable ride quality that might even be best in class.
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to drive the petrol variant or the variants equipped with Hyundai’s new 6-speed automatic transmission, so we will reserve comment on those specific models for now, but based on what we’ve seen on the diesel-engined new Verna, with its 6-speed manual transmission, we have nothing but good things to say about the car. If you’re looking to buy a new sedan in this segment, you owe it to yourself to first drive the Verna before you finalise a purchase.
TEXT: Sameer Kumar
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay