In a world where SUVs are the flavour, what purpose does a burnished sedan serve? Especially when SUVs tick most boxes? For one, most SUVs miss out on the key aspect of driver gratification in the handling department. And that explains why manufacturers still take efforts to make three-box sedans for people like you and me, enthusiasts who value driving pleasure over practicality and prefer the seductive lines of a sedan to the tall stance of an SUV. On the same note, the current generation Hyundai Verna impressed with its sleek design and improved dynamics and for 2020, it gets a facelift in keeping with the manufacturer’s new design language. But there’s a lot more to it than just a new mug. Read on to know more.
Looks do matter
The Verna looks best when viewed from the rear-three quarter given how beautifully the sloping, coupé-like roofline merges with the LED tail lamps that are a design trait now. Changes to the rear are subtle – the bumper design has been revised and gets a faux diffuser-like element just under the chrome garnish. Revised elements inside the tail lamp cluster mean the lights look nicer now, though I wish the number plate illumination was white as it would have gone better with the overall theme. The sides remain rather unchanged – the Verna looks as alluring with its coupé-like roofline, while new 16-inch diamond-cut alloys accentuate the premium feel.
It’s the front end that’s been revised extensively though. There’s a much larger ‘cascading grille’ taking centre stage, finished in dark chrome. Contrary to what you might think, the grille looks proportionate to the car’s overall dimensions and is probably the least polarising Hyundai grille to look at. That said, parked side by side, the 1.0 Turbo’s gloss black grille does look more appealing. I also like the chrome lip at the bottom of the bumper as it broadens the face and goes well with the new LED headlamps and revised DRLs.
Familiar territory inside
Despite the updates, the interiors offer a familiar vibe. It’s all put together neatly and irregularities come across only when you dig deep, for instance, the inside of the glovebox which has a few exposed screws. Although a little plasticky, the dual-tone beige-black dashboard feels upmarket. Visibility from the driver’s seat is good and there are enough adjustments to find your sweet spot, also courtesy the steering wheel that offers rake and reach adjustments both. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather, further adding to the premium feel.
A big update is the new, 4.2-inch display for the instrument cluster which looks crisp and also lets you adjust the screen brightness. The arrangement of the meters is nice while a thoughtful addition is the air pressure monitor. Another highlight is the eight-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system that sits perched atop the dashboard now. It also integrates the latest in connected car technology and offers voice commands as well along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. In typical Hyundai fashion the Verna uses an Arkamys sound system consisting of a four speaker, two tweeter setup and audio quality is pretty good.
Other features include wireless charging, ventilated front seats, an electric sunroof and cruise control. Moving to the rear, let’s look at the good bits first. The bench is wide with good under thigh support and the floor is almost flat. Occupants are sure to appreciate the fact that rear AC vents are equipped with blower control and there’s USB charging ports and a manually operated rear sun-blind as well. What they would want is better headroom, limited by the sloping roofline and better leg and kneeroom. This will be a concern with taller occupants particularly.
Down on power, down on fun?
We drove the diesel version powered by Hyundai’s new 1.5-litre four pot motor mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The 1.5 offers 113bhp and 250Nm as compared to the 126bhp and 260Nm offered by the previous 1.6. And that brings us to the biggest question – is the 1.5 as punchy as the 1.6 that was appreciated for its performance? The drop in performance is noticeable, but performance is adequate. Effectively the Verna has lost some of its edge though that’s not to say the 1.5 diesel feel sluggish. There’s a bit of turbo lag at low revs but get past and the torque spread is pretty even up to 4,000rpm. More importantly, the engine feels refined and excellent cabin insulation ensures NVH levels are controlled well.
The six-speed manual gearbox is slick while the clutch is light so working the gear lever is not a chore. The Verna thus enjoys being given the stick and despite the lower outputs it is pretty engaging to drive. Credit also goes to the well-tuned suspension which absorbs potholes well while offering a confident feel at highway speeds. The current generation Verna’s dynamics are a huge leap over the previous one and the updated version offers the same confident feel. It’s only when you push very hard that the suspension feels a little soft. So there is a bit of body roll around corners, more so when you change direction quickly. That said, the low centre of gravity and grippy, 195-section tyres do their bit in offering a confident feel. Hyundai has been improving the Verna’s dynamics consistently over the years and the current car’s handling bears testimony to that well.
I kept asking myself – how does a mid-size sedan prove its worth in a price bracket that’s dominated by SUVs? In fact when I went to return the Verna to the dealership, I couldn’t help but stroll over to the new Creta and could see why many are opting for the SUV. It’s the road presence that matters to a lot of buyers at this price point. Let’s be honest though, there is a fine line that separates buyers. Not everyone wants an SUV. And there are buyers, like I mentioned at the start, who value their time behind the wheel more than a lot of other aspects. And the updated Verna makes a fine case for itself on that front.
Hyundai has made it more appealing, while packaging it even better. There’s a 1.0-litre turbo petrol on offer as well with a seven-speed DCT, which should be a lot more engaging to drive. That said, Hyundai is confident there’s a strong demand for diesels even today and we cannot disagree. Going by our initial impressions of the updated car, the Verna has what it takes to stay at the top of its game. Prices begin at Rs 9.31 lakh ex-showroom for the base, 1.5 naturally aspirated petrol, so it isn’t the least expensive option around but is certainly an excellent proposition in its segment. Hyundai is offering a range of powertrain options across trim levels as usual, which means you can choose exactly what you are looking for. How the updated Verna will take on its arch-rival, the Honda City (in its all-new avatar), as also the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and the refreshed Skoda Rapid with its 1.0 TSI engine should be an interesting battle, once again!
Click here to view more images of the 2020 Hyundai Verna.
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
ARAI claimed fuel figure: 25kmpl
Fuel tank: 45 litres
Boot space: 480 litres
Tyres: 195/55 R16
Prices: Rs 9.31 lakh onwards (ex-showroom)