The new Verna: An expensive gamble?
THE HYUNDAI VERNA is almost unique in the Indian market as a car that started out as a flop, but was transformed into a roaring success. Using the Korean company's 'fluidic' design language brilliantly, the 2011 Fluidic Verna took the mid size sedan segment by storm, and for the first time ever, pushed the Honda City off the mantle.
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Last year, though, Honda came back with a vengeance, and along with the Ciaz - Maruti's most serious tilt at the premium segment - pushed Verna to the third slot.
With the next generation car still a year away, Hyundai has given the Verna a facelift. Will it repeat 2011?
Verna, the first iteration of Hyundai's fluidic laboratory, is curvy and bold. Hyundai has retained the overall stance of the vehicle, but there are quite a few changes, mostly good: new bumpers, a fresh face and new boomerang shaped fog lamps. The trapezoidal grille gives way to a wing shape, while the projector headlamps become slightly larger. The changes are less pronounced at the rear, though the tail lamps are larger. It remains one of the best styled sedans in its class.
Inside the cabin, the changes are less obvious. Significant additions include a sliding armrest up front passenger, and an ergo lever for the front seat that can be used to push the seat forward from the rear seat. It was first seen in the segment in the Volkswagen Vento. The music system also gets 1 GB internal memory. Misses: touch screen for infotainment system, and rear aircon vents - present on Hyundai's cheaper cars Grand i10 and Xcent.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Steering and suspension have always been a weak area for the Verna. That has been sorted out, with tighter suspension improving handling and steering. There are no changes with the powertrain options — 1.4 and 1.6 litre engines in both petrol and diesel. The smaller engines are offered in only one variant, to keep the entry price down, so the real deal is the 1.6-litre powertrains, which are the most powerful in the segment. While earlier the soft suspension was a handicap, it has become more fun now. There is a generous surge in power in all gears, and the petrol engine holds its own against the vaunted iVtec of Honda. The Ciaz fades away quickly. The only sore point is fuel efficiency -- especially in petrol, mileage tilts the scale ever so slightly towards Honda.
The biggest disappointment with the new Verna is its pricing. At an entry level ₹ 7.74 lakh and ₹ 8.94 lakh for the 1.4-litre petrol and diesel variants respectively, it is a good ₹ 20,000 more than the City. The Ciaz is a further ₹ 50,000 plus behind. For a car this expensive you don't even get dual airbags.
The more powerful variants cost a lakh more. All the changes and improvements in the car do not merit such price increase, especially as the Hyundai is a challenger in the segment. Maybe it got carried away with the runaway success of the new i20 Elite, despite its steep price. The i20 lacks serious competition, but Verna is challenging in a crowded league. As a result, it does not score very high on value for money, and that may prove the stumbling block in Hyundai's aspiration to become segment leader again.