Oct 19, 2011

Eon, the latest game

Hyundai stunned India’s motoring world in October 1998 when they launched the Santro at such an aggressive price that it immediately took a big chunk out of India’s small car market that Maruti had long dominated. Many competitors followed, but Maruti had responded with a slew of new models to retain their market command.

Hatchbacks today command 76 per cent of India’s passenger car market and are in three broad size groups. About 25 per cent are big at just under four meters long, 45 per cent are medium sized at about 3.75 m long and about 30 per cent are small at about 3.5 m in length. Maruti’s hold on all these sub segments got a jolt two months ago when Toyota launched their LIV into the larger segment.

Last month, Honda launched their Brio in the middle segment. Now, Hyundai’s new Eon will challenge cars in the smaller segment that had been long dominated by the hugely successful Alto.

The ten year old Maruti Alto had been India’s largest selling car with sales of over 20,000 units a month and Hyundai has launched a car that has been benchmarked to try and beat it on every main feature. Though it is the same length, it is a little taller and wider to give a little more internal space and it has surprisingly generous boot space without compromising legroom inside the passenger compartment. The interior and dashboard design was also very attractive and well thought out.

Needless to say, it has provision for all the music and other gizmos that young buyers need today with lots of pockets for papers, bottles and gadgets. Keyless central locking is also convenient. Its 814 cc engine delivers 56 HP to outperform the 47 HP of the 796 cc base Alto model. According to ARAI certification it also offers ‘best in class’ fuel efficiency of 21.1 kmpl as compared to 19.7.

The very attractive base price of Rs 2.70 lakh is however misleading as very few buyers will go for a car without AC and power steering. But, the four higher models costing between Rs 3.11 and Rs 3.72 lakh are great value even if they are about Rs 25,000 more costly than the comparable Alto. But most buyers will go for the extra investment when the buyer gets such an outstandingly good looking car. The superb ‘fluidic’ styling earlier seen on the Verna with the hexagonal grille, lots of chrome and the aggressive ‘hawk’s eye’ headlights will make any buyer feel proud.

On our test drive from Udaipur towards Mount Abu we found the pickup excellent from start up to about 110 Kmph. We could take it up to 135 but the engine was straining. The gas pressure shock absorbers made the ride over potholes smooth and quiet while the twist beam rear suspension set up gave firm control while navigating the twisty hill roads. Overall, it gave the feeling of being a bigger and more sophisticated small car.

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