Counting the smiles per hour

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Oct 29 2011, 08:32am hrs
Since the time it entered India in 1998, Hyundai Motor India Ltd has been hot on the heels of Maruti Suzuki. Yet Maruti remained confident enough in the small car segmenteven Tata Nano couldnt shake its positionwhere Marutis Alto has been ruling the roost. Indeed, the Alto has remained, for long, the largest selling car in India. But theres competition ahead for the Alto in the shape of the Eon, the smallest car Hyundai has ever made.

We had an opportunity to drive the Eon not only at the Namyang R&D centre in South Korea, where it was developed, but also on Indian roads, where it is developed to perform. A first look at the car and you invariably smile! Hyundai has stayed very much within the fluid design philosophy that it has adopted of late, and the way the car greets you is appealing. Remember the new Verna and its I wanna buy it for the way it looks character At least the Eons top version, Sportz, which we drove, has that in loads.

Coming to the cabin, the first thing that strikes you is the quality of plastic. All the material used is of good quality, and a notch above anything in its class. The fluid design theme continues in the interiors too, with the curvy central console dominating the design. And it isnt just about the looks, theres practicality involved too. There are a lot of cubbyholesbig, small, wherever possible. The front seats are supportive for its class, though a bit more of thigh support would have been welcome. But I guess we Indians, in the long run, adjust to our cars! The cars semi tall-boy stance means getting in and out is easy, even for six-footers. The rear space is decent and, overall, the car can easily sit four. But where it impresses is its boot; for its size, the boot space is mammoth. However, remember it comes from the knee-room of rear passengers, and thats why a third adult in the rear just about has to squeeze in.

Whats under the bonnet A gem for a three-pot motor. Eon is powered by the 814-cc three-cylinder engine, which generates 56 PS of power at 5,500 rpm and 7.6 kgm of torque at 4,000 rpm. So, power and torque figures are just rightright enough to give decent fuel efficiency. (The company claims a fuel efficiency of 21.1 kmpl.) But how does the three-pot motor drive It is slightly rough, and some vibes do come through the gear lever, but that happens when you drive at high rpm or at speeds over 100 kmph. But then this car was never designed as a miles-per-hour vehicle. For a city ride, performance is adequate, and you start to feel that the car packs in enough smiles per hour.

But what about rides outside the city To the hills, uneven roads, potholes, what not Hyundai seems to have done its homework well and the suspension is just about adequate to give the Eon a decent ride on Indian roads. Added to the fact that the car comes with a good ground clearance and so it manages well on almost any kind of road. We couldnt check the absolute acceleration figures, top speed, roll-on acceleration or braking, but in the straight whack, until the road came to an end, the car reached a speed of 110 kmph in what looked like slightly over 20 seconds, so a top speed of close to 135-140 kmph seems achievable. And the high-speed stability seemed just right for its small size and light weight.

Coming to the price, Hyundai has come up with six variants for the Eon, ranging from R2,69,869 to R3,71,869, ex-showroom Delhi. The pricing is a bit deceptive though, so dont go by the lower figure. R2.7 lakh sounds nice, but who would want a car that comes without an AC, without power steering and even without body coloured bumpers at that price. Remember, design and looks are one thing, comfort another. So in my opinion, what will sell are the top three variants of the Eon, namely Era, Magna and Sportz, even though they cost between R3.11 lakh and R3.71 lakh, and even though they go into the i10 and Santro category. Here, I must add that although pricing still remains the best thing about the compact car segment, of late the market is maturing and buyers are considering better style, space, power, comfort and utility. Take the case of the Nano; price is just not working to its favour.

Therefore, the next few months should be exciting. The South Korean automaker is already a force to reckon with in the compact car segment, and with the Eon, it plans to hit its competitors where it hurts.