Xcent: Hyundai’s exciting new small saloon

After the sleek ‘fluidic’ styling of the new Verna and Elantra, the styling of the small Hyundai saloon, the Xcent, was a bit disappointing. It looked as if the designers were really having to struggle to squeeze their car inside the four-metre length necessary to get India’s excise benefit. It not only looked rather squashed at the front and back, but its small taillights were not at all pretty. It was otherwise a good car with good inner space, performance and other features that enabled it to do quite well in the market.

It was the Maruti/Suzuki Swift DZire that first launched the compact saloon and it immediately appealed to many buyers who wanted to move up from a low-cost hatchback to an affordable family saloon. Its stunning success soon attracted stiff competition from all its main competitors like the Tata Indigo, Honda Amaze, Toyota Etios and Volkswagen Ameo. The intense competition also made the producers introduce several stylish variants like the Tata Zest and Tigor as well as the Maruti Baleno. These models were also popular in the rapidly growing luxury taxi market and began to account for nearly a fifth of car sales. In the competitive hustle and bustle, many brands also introduced new models to refresh and boost their sales.

Now Hyundai has launched much more than a cosmetic job with a greatly improved Xcent model that is actually surprisingly good to look at. It flaunts a large and distinctive new front grille with ‘cascade’ horizontal chrome slats, dual tone front and rear bumpers, slinky headlights and wrap-around two-piece taillights. The diamond cut 15-inch wheel rims also add to the classy overall impression. All these somehow fit together well to make the whole car look a bit longer and sleeker.

The LED day light running lights also give it a luxury feel. The styling also reaches into the insides with a two-tone dashboard and door trims. It also sports all the new gadgets for comfort and convenience like smart keys, rear camera image for parking on a central touch screen, cellphone interface devices, GPS navigation, voice recognition and connectivity with both Apple and Android systems. The new ‘shark fin’ roof antenna also adds a small stylish touch. Separate vents to cool the rear seats as found in some bigger cars will also be a big benefit for rear seat passengers.

The onroad performance has also been retweeked with a slightly more peppy 75 HP diesel engine in addition to the 83 HP petrol plant. Needless to say excellent fuel consumption is claimed for both engines. Both the engines are mated to 5-speed manual gearboxes though there is also an automatic gearbox with the top petrol model. A new torsion beam rear suspension will also make the ride better on bad roads. The new Xcent naturally has all the standard features for safety as well with ABS brakes and airbags on all models plus a rear defogger and an engine immobiliser.

Hyundai’s 5-point product mission had been aimed to provide customers with sporty styling, superior performance, hi-tech imagery, safety and convenience and product confidence. Hyundai has managed to tick all the boxes and the end product seems to have achieved these goals with a classy looking car that is not too expensive. We now have to wait to see what competitive car makers will do to claim market share.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist