Hyundai Exter first drive review: The definitive punch in the entry-SUV segment

₹6.13 - 10.28 Lakhs*
*Ex-showroom price
4.5 out of 5
Pros
  • Attractive pricing
  • Feature-packed and spacious cabin
  • CNG option
Cons
  • Exterior styling a bit too overdone
  • Light steering
Hyundai Exter SUV is aiming to be an all-rounder that will take the fight to not just its rivals but some of its siblings too. Does it aim a bit too h
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The Hyundai Exter has an introductory price structure between ₹5.99 lakh and ₹9.32 lakh (ex-showroom)
The Hyundai Exter has an introductory price structure between ₹5.99 lakh and ₹9.32 lakh (ex-showroom)

Hyundai Exter comes in as a fresh product from a company that has otherwise kept itself busy with time-tested models being given updates and facelifts. Think about it, when was the last time Hyundai brought out an all-new, mass-market product for India - Venue was a facelift, Grand i10 Nios, Tucson and Verna were as well. Barring the Ioniq 5 then, there has not been much to inject fresh fervour to the lineup in quite some time and the EV itself is a very premium proposition. But the Exter does not just come with the promise of revitalising the product portfolio but has the potential to shake up the entry-SUV segment.

The segments and sub-segments are getting muddy and complicated in the Indian car market. But for the sake of some clarity, the Hyundai Exter comes out as a rival to the likes of Maruti Suzuki Ignis and Tata Punch rather than the even more affordable Renault Kiger and Nissan Magnite. But while how it fares against its rivals - direct and indirect - will play a role in the fortunes of the smallest Hyundai SUV, Exter will also have to prove its mettle all on its own. Has Hyundai once again aced the SUV game or is it an exercise born out of compulsion considering the volumes entry SUVs get and are predicted to garner?

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Here is the first- drive review of Hyundai Exter SUV:

Hyundai Exter SUV: Exterior styling highlights

The Exter is an entirely new exercise in automotive design, something Hyundai tends to do well out of habit. And because it is positioned as a vehicle for the young, its exterior styling and design absolutely must click the intended boxes.

For most parts, it actually does. The Exter has a very modern face that is highlighted by H-shaped DRLs that have not yet been seen on any India model from the Koreans. There are bi-function projector headlights, a bi-function projector headlights and a very prominent skid plate at the bottom.

Exter
Hyundai Exter is the tallest and has the longest wheelbase in its segment. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)
Exter
Hyundai Exter is the tallest and has the longest wheelbase in its segment. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

The side profile shows of large windows, stretched roof rails, prominent wheel arches and sporty design on the 15-inch diamond-cut alloys on the wheels.

Exter
The Exter gets a pronounced rear spoiler with brake lights on top. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)
Exter
The Exter gets a pronounced rear spoiler with brake lights on top. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

But the rear, to my personal preferences, is a bit overdone. Looks can be subjective and while many may appreciate it, I didn't quite like the form and flow of the rear structure and barring the H-shaped tail lights, feel just too much is happening here.

Of special note here is that the SUV comes in as many as nine body colour options of which three are dual tones. Although I am not too taken by the new Cosmic Blue shade, the Ranger Khaki (a shade of Green) is extremely attractive and goes well to underscore the rugged character of Exter that Hyundai seeks to put the spotlight on.

Hyundai Exter SUV: Cabin styling and features

Exter
The Exter has an airy cabin thanks to large window areas and a sunroof on top that can be operated through voice. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)
Exter
The Exter has an airy cabin thanks to large window areas and a sunroof on top that can be operated through voice. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

The cabin is where Hyundai Exter truly hits it out of the park, considering the price points it is offered in of course. While it does borrow generously from its siblings in terms of dashboard layout, fit, feel and features, the Exter may just have its biggest bragging rights against rivals courtesy the in-cabin experience.

For a car of its dimensions, the Exter is generously spacious for four but three adults on the rear seats would be a very tight squeeze. There is also no rear-seat armrest. Thankfully, a panoramic sunroof on top, rear AC vents and large windows seek to help matters. All four doors open wide which makes ingress and egress easy, and a segment-best wheelbase ensures adequate kneeroom, legroom and feet space for people at the back.

Exter
While there is a lot of luggage space at the back of the Exter, split-folding rear seats could have opened more options for occupants.
Exter
While there is a lot of luggage space at the back of the Exter, split-folding rear seats could have opened more options for occupants.

A boot space of 391 litres also goes on to underline the outdoor credentials Hyundai is repeatedly underlining on the Exter. With more space for luggage than on models like Venue, Sonet and Brezza, the Exter can not just accommodate a number of bags but loading and unloading angles are easy as well.

Being a Hyundai, Exter wasn't expected to shortchange buyers on features and the vehicle comes absolutely loaded. An eight-inch HD infotainment screen with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is the obvious highlight and is typically easy to use with sharp response to touch. There is a reverse camera with guidelines and standard-def resolution. The MID (driver display) has been seen in other Hyundai models too and is carried forward and so is the steering wheel design with its mounted controls.

Exter
A closer look at the infotainment screen, steering wheel and MID inside the Exter. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)
Exter
A closer look at the infotainment screen, steering wheel and MID inside the Exter. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

What is unique though is a two-way dashcam that can record front footage on the move and also click selfies of the cabin. Access to the dashcam can be through the incorporated buttons and through the company's official app as well. Interestingly, it is placed quite far from the driver's reach which, we assume, is a safety precaution so that he or she is unable to operate it while steering the vehicle.

Exter
Exter is only the second Hyundai India model to get a dashcam in the cabin. The other is the Venue N-Line. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)
Exter
Exter is only the second Hyundai India model to get a dashcam in the cabin. The other is the Venue N-Line. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

The other feature highlights include cooled glovebox, automatic climate control, footwell lighting, wireless phone charging and plenty of USB and 12V points, and support for Bluelink app that enables over 60 connected-car functions. There are also three cabin themes which depend on the exterior colour of the vehicle.

Hyundai Exter SUV: Specs and drive highlights

Exter
The Exter comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine and one can also choose a company-fitted CNG kit.
Exter
The Exter comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine and one can also choose a company-fitted CNG kit.

If the exterior of the vehicle is an absolutely new take on styling and the cabin comes feature packed, the drive itself is on very predictable lines. And that is not necessarily a negative.

The 1.2-litre petrol motor under the hood puts out 83 hp and offers 114 Nm of torque. This is shared with siblings like Grand i10 Nios, i20 and the Venue. As such, the Exter drives in quite the familiar fashion regardless of transmission choices. I drove the five-speed manual version for a short while and the shifts were typically short and crisp, making for quick and controlled moves when required.

But the bulk of the test driving was done on the variant with five-speed AMT and it hardly disappointed. For anyone on a budget and looking for the convenience of an automatic, this is definitely the gearbox to admire. This coming from me who often drives a Brezza with AT. In comparative terms, the AMT on the Exter has significantly less jerk and offers a far smoother shift regardless of intensity of throttle inputs. It may not be excitable but it will keep itself fairly busy whether within city limits or beyond, with out without the use of paddle shifters behind the steering.

Exter
Exter is not the most aggressive on the move but push the pedal and it is clear that this SUV is no slugger either.
Exter
Exter is not the most aggressive on the move but push the pedal and it is clear that this SUV is no slugger either.

The steering set up also helps considering it is typically light which makes Exter bisect traffic with ease. It is only when triple digit speeds come up on the horizon that the feedback becomes conspicuous from its absence.

Overall, the drive and ride quality of Hyundai Exter is fairly well-balanced and will meet the requirements of most daily commuters who also do highway drives frequently. With a claimed mileage of over 19 kmpl on petrol-only version - and yes, there is a CNG option as well, the Exter covers its bases well.

Hyundai Exter SUV: Verdict

Hyundai has had the luxury of carefully planning a strategy for its debut in the entry-level SUV segment. The experience from offering strong models like Venue and Creta may have also helped enormously.

While its pricing structure is introductory at the moment, having a fully-loaded vehicle under 10 lakh (ex-showroom) positions the Exter extremely well in the Indian car market. Expect this car to do some seriously impressive numbers going forward.

First Published Date: 17 Jul 2023, 10:58 AM IST
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