THESE days it seems everybody wants a sub-4 metre compact sedan in their garage. The functionality they offer, coupled with the affordability due to lower excise duties, have meant that the segment saw the fastest growth last year, spawning successes like Honda Amaze and Swift Dzire, at the cost of traditional fulllength sedans such as the Etios, Chevrolet Sail, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Sunny and Mahindra Verito. At one point, the Accent was also on that list, but Hyundai lost little time in phasing it out for the Xcent.
The category has two products. Will three be a crowd?
With its fluidic design language, the last few new cars from Hyundai’s stables — Verna, Elantra, Sonata, Eon and Santa Fe —have scored high on styling. Not so with the Xcent, based on last year’s Grand i10. The visage is identical — unlike the Amaze compared to its hatchback Brio — making it difficult to differentiate the sedan from the small car at first sight. It may not offend anybody, but it won’t win any beauty pageant either. The boot looks chubby and is not as well integrated as the Amaze, which is further spoiled by the boxy tail lamp, which looks like a lastminute design decision. For all the progress Hyundai has made in design in the last few years, the Xcent has failed to live up to standards.
FEATURE RICH INTERIORS
It may have gone wrong on the outside, but the inside is Hyundai’s forte. With so many features on offer there is little to complain here. The dashboard and instrument console are simple and neat. There is no extravagance — there is no need for it. The car comes with a dual-tone beige and black combination that looks way more appealing than the Amaze, and at par with the Dzire. The quality of plastic and fit-and-finish are even better than the Suzuki. The list of features is exhaustive: Rear AC vents, internal memory on music system, bluetooth compatibility, chilled glove box, rear parking camera, central arm rest, keyless entry with push to start button—there is little missing. It scores in terms of space as well. The boot is the largest in its class, so big that the Dzire now looks puny. Legroom and head room at the rear are adequate. If one has to nitpick, the lack of ABS as a standard feature rankles — but it is available as an option in the upper trim.
PERFORMANCE, RIDE AND HANDLING
The Xcent shares its engines with the Grand i10—a 1.2-litre Kappa petrol and a 1.1-litre diesel. The petrol engine offers a well-rounded package with decent performance across the 5 gears. Steering is light and the gearbox is precise and when driven hard it sprints to 140 kph before tapering off. Hyundai has made giant strides in improving the handling characteristics of its cars.
Yet the petrol Xcent does not feel as sure-footed at high speeds as one would have liked. The diesel engine is the smallest in its class and the company surprised us by not putting in the bigger 1.4litre powertrain. It has tweaked the engine to increase the torque by 13% but remains off the pace with the Amaz e. Within city limits it holds its own, thanks to a rush of torque in the low and middle end of the rev meter. Though capable of doing 150 kmph plus, it feels strained on the highway. The redeeming feature with the diesel is the high level of refinement — where the Amaze falters. Noise and vibration are well contained and the diesel clatter, while audible, is not a distraction.
VERDICT: A PRACTICAL CITY SEDAN
Hyundai Xcent stays true to the Korean car maker’s strengths. By offering so many features and at an aggressive price, it attempts to dwarf its competition. At Rs. 4.65-6.50 lakh for the petrol and Rs. 5.56-7.42 lakh for the diesel, it is a good Rs. 20,000-50,000 cheaper than the Amaze and Dzire. Add the cost of the many features available only with the Xcent, and the dice is heavily loaded.
But the Xcent, like its competitors, is not a perfect car. It disappoints on styling and is no head turner and while the interiors are a notch above competition, the diesel engine is not in the same league as the Honda. While all cars in this segment are riddled with compromises, the Xcent will be appeal to those who are practical on performance yet like extra features.