When Hyundai launched the Grand i10, most people quailed at the thought of paying over P600,000 for a mere i10. The reality, though, is that the Grand i10 shares nothing but its nameplate with the old car. Hyundai could have called this car i20 or Getz, and nobody would have known the difference. Unlike the Getz, the Grand i10 represents a level of quality far removed from small cars of yore. The question is: Is that quality enough to convince buyers to cough up the cash?
The Grand i10 breaks from the goblin-nose treatment of other small Hyundais for handsome lines reminiscent of the best of Germany. Makes sense, as it was designed there. Winged headlights flank a subtle upper grille, offset by an aggressive but well-proportioned lower grille. The body isn't as carved and creased as the Eon, but it has a delicacy of line that's quite attractive. The golden orange glow of the variant-exclusive paint helps, too. Flared wheel arches accentuate the car's extra width and give it a muscular stance, but the standard 14-inch alloys struggle to fill them properly.
The Germanic vibe continues in the interior, which is dominated by wide-radius corners and strong lines. Color-coded orange accents on the dashboard and the doors give a touch of whimsy to the otherwise dark cabin. Clever cubbyholes abound, and a subtle light strip over the glovebox is a cool yet functional touch. On the debit side, sun visors and climate control knobs feel cheap, and there's no center dome lamp. Black seats, accented with orange inserts and stitching, are nicely shaped and are supportive. The rear bench has a nice seatback recline and lots of legroom, and the boot is big and deep.
The 1.25-liter Kappa motor is one of my favorite Korean engines. Even when mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, it feels light and frisky. The gearing is wonderfully short, with the first two topping out under 40kph and 80kph. On the downside, the engine turns a buzzy 3,200rpm at 100kph. With just 70km on the odometer, mixed fuel economy was around 10-12km/L. But by the end of the test, it had climbed to 12-14km/L. The final verdict on economy, however, will probably have to await this car's eventual break-in and first oil change.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The i10 makes no bones about being a commuter. Steering is typically electric, heavy and numb. Skinny 165/65 R14 Nexen tires tend to wander a bit on the highway. The rather soft suspension settles deep with a full five-passenger load.
Happily, the i10 retains the playful dynamics of its rather stiff predecessor. Aggressive front caster gives the steering surprisingly strong self-centering, and the car rotates eagerly. Gas-charged shocks absorb road imperfections without going into the pogoing motion you expect of such a soft setup. Strong brakes round out a solid package merely in want of stiffer springs and better tires.
The base E variant comes with four speakers, a driver's airbag and not much else. This top-of-the-line L variant features front-and-rear fog lights, keyless entry, push-button start and a touchscreen with a backing-up camera and GPS. The lack of steering controls makes changing stations fiddly when you're using the navigation system, but the sound quality, though not quite as bombastic as in the Fiesta we borrowed just recently, is decent compared to anything else. The Grand i10 also lacks rear cabin lighting and a third-passenger shoulder belt, but those are relatively minor quibbles at this price point.
Still, the introductory P688,000 price tag is big enough to get you into a subcompact sedan with more legroom and trunk space. Word on the street is that the regular price down the line will be around P728,000. At that price point, you could get a brand-new Hyundai Accent CRDi. You'd be hard pressed to argue that even the grandest of i10s is worth more than even a taxi-spec Accent, right? The base model, on the other hand, is priced at a competitive P538,000, and should give the competition a few headaches.
I've managed to get through this entire review without once mentioning the Mirage. So now I will. The Grand i10 is more refined, more spacious and more powerful than Mitsubishi's Mirage. While it probably won't match the economy of the CVT Mirage--not with an extra 100-odd kilograms and a mere four-speed automatic--it feels more like a real car than anything else in this class.
It's a strange commentary on the state of the industry when a lowly Korean is the luxury choice against established Japanese brands, but that's the way it goes. With the Grand i10, Hyundai is showing some grand ambition, indeed.
SPECS: HYUNDAI GRAND i10 1.2 AT
Engine: 1.25-liter Kappa gasoline I4
Transmission: four-speed automatic
Power: 86hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 119Nm @ 4,000rpm
Price: P688,000 (introductory)
Photos by Niky Tamayo