In a segment everyone says, is dominated by the Honda City and Maruti Ciaz, the Hyundai Verna enjoys the unique advantage of timing. Every new generation comes across as a fresh choice for those looking for a midsize sedan when its biggest opponents are actually halfway through their product cycle and receiving facelifts. And if that wasn’t a huge drawer in itself, Hyundai offers so much more equipments, raising the expectations in the segment and making the competition look less value. The earlier fluidic Verna sold big numbers when it was launched six years ago, competing with the previous generation of the City. The new one, they hope will be even better.
Here we have the fifth generation of the Verna, which is built on a new platform which will spawn more cars in the future. It has grown substantially and is now 65mm longer, 29mm wider, although the height remains the same. Wheelbase has increased 30mm and it looks more like a shrunken Elantra now. It has become more aerodynamic too with Cd of 0.308. We expected India to get the better looking China-spec car, but this is more in line with the Hyundai line-up we have. The front end has the now familiar ‘cascading grille’ we first saw in the Xcent and Elantra. The large headlamps are well integrated into the shut lines for a cleaner look. The side profile is quite similar to the old car, but with tighter lines all around. The 16 inch wheels are of a nice design, but the overall size of the car makes them look smaller. The rear is rather coupe like, with very sharp-looking tail lamps that extend all the way to the rear fenders. The rear bumper has a black accent that doubles up as an edge giving definition to it.
The interiors are more European than the earlier car, and are a huge improvement in terms of design and layout. The flatter looking dash liberates more space, and the well laid out controls are easier to reach. It doesn’t however impart a sense of modern and sophisticated feel like most Hyundai cars when you first see it and some of the switchgear are average quality. The equipment levels however are second to none. You get ventilated front seats, six airbags, sunroof, manual blind for the rear windscreen, cruise control, automatic climate control, automatic headlamps, a cooled glovebox, cornering lamps, auto dimming rear view mirror etc. The 7-inch touchscreen system uses an IPS display like most cellphones, and has something called Auto Link in addition to Android Auto and Apple Car Play. It lets you connect your phone via bluetooth to check vehicle health, offer driving summary, show realtime engine parameters and access to road side assistance. The front seats are nice, with perforated leather-like material and the adjustable cooling feature is a boon in our climate.
The rear seats though adequately padded for underthigh support, however are set a level lower than ideal and the thick headlining eats into the headroom. There is a smart bootlid function that automatically opens the boot, when it detects your presence, which is convenient when you have your hands full of shopping bags. The boot itself has grown by 20 litres and now stands at 480 litres.
The Verna comes with two engines – petrol and diesel – both identical in capacity and each mated to a new six speed manual or six speed automatic. The 1.6 litre petrol engine is similar to the earlier car, except it gets variable valve timing both on the intake and exhaust sides for improved performance. It develops 120bhp and 151Nm torque which are class leading in its segment. It is a smooth performer and is very good around town. You have to get it revving to make quick progress out on the highway. The addition of sixth gear is very welcome and the smooth torque convertor automatic also has six ratios.
The 1.6 litre diesel has even better midrange and is similar to that in the Creta and old Verna. In the new one, the low down torque has been improved. Hyundai claims about 25kgm torque is available from 1250rpm which was about 18kgm earlier. Peak torque remains 26.5kgm and power is an impressive 125 bhp. It is one of the best diesel engines in its class. It is quite refined and you can cruise along all day at triple digit speeds without breaking a sweat. The motor also returns very good fuel efficiency and with the addition of a sixth gear. The previous generation automatic Verna had to make do with a four speed automatic, but this one gets the same 6-speed unit from the Creta. It is a torque convertor automatic and can sometimes get confused when you demand quick acceleration, but for everyday driving, it is adequate.
The Verna uses improved suspension geometry from its predecessor for better driving characteristics. It rides better than before, with less bobbing motion and the additional damping is always welcome. In the city you can easily tackle potholes and speedbreakers. It also feels slightly more planted and a bit more eager to turn in than before, but isn’t a car you would buy to have fun in the corners. The steering though more accurate, is lifeless and there is a bit too much body roll than we expect. The brakes are adequate for the job, although the previous generation originally came with disc brakes all round. There was so much road noise in the cabin, although this could be particular to our test car.
The new Verna is a marked improvement over its predecessor. It has raised the benchmark for equipment levels in the segment. You get everything you could possibly want – automatic boot opening, cooled front seats, sunroof, cruise control, choice of automatic transmissions. Hyundai has even priced it well, right between the Ciaz and the City. The compact crossovers are taking away sales from this segment and the Verna has nearly everything to put things right.