Hyundai Motors India Limited, the Korean automaker, is on one transformation spree and has been rapidly transforming its models. Last year, it was the Sonata Transform and this year, after the i20, it is the turn of the Verna, now called, Verna Transform. What then is the Verna Transform really? To put it simply, it is nothing but a facelifted version of the original Verna launched in India, back in 2006 (which was launched as the new Accent in other international markets, but India continued selling the old Accent alongside the then newly-launched Verna).
Now, the Verna Transform has undergone a few cosmetic changes where the front end gets a new front grille, bumper and headlamps and the rear gets an updated bumper, tail lamps and a chrome tip exhaust. Else, everything else remins the same on the Verna.
The facelifted car also comes with a few changes on the inside. The car now boasts a blue backlighting, which now, most upgraded Hyundai cars come with, as part of standard Hyundai family styling (including the new i20). The other change in the Verna Transform is the new twin-dial instrument cluster with chrome surrounds. Apart from these changes, the Verna Transform remains the same on the inside when compared to the outgoing Verna. The fabric on the Verna Transform has been changed and the Verna Transform offers good legroom for the front row seats. Climb into the rear seats and neither you nor the ones who like to be chauffer-driven will go away disappointed. However, to our dismay, the Verna Transform lacks steering mounted audio controls, which are being offered on well - almost all of its competitors. However, what disappointed us the most was that the car came without airbags! The lack of airbags on a Rs 8 lakh car (petrol, diesel is more expensive) was rather unnerving, especially when the competition offers them.
The Hyundai Verna Transform hasn’t undergone any mechanical changes and it still comes with the same 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engine. The diesel, however, also comes with a four-speed automatic transmission and is the only diesel car with an automatic transmission within the Rs 11 lakh price bracket. Our Press Demonstrator was the gasoline powered, top-of-the-line, SX trim, given to us by Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) for our review purposes. This variant boasted a new audio system that came with a remote control, climate control air-conditioning, alloys, sun visor with vanity mirror and a new driver’s side arm-rest.
The Verna Transform’s petrol engine comes with a variable valve timing valvetrain and displaces 1599cc and puts 103bhp of power and a maximum of 146Nm of torque through a five-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. The sweet spot of this engine is somewhere in the mid-rev range between 3000-6000rpm when most of the power is delivered to the wheels. In our performance run, the car did the dash to 100kph in 13.0seconds and completed the quarter mile in 18.7 seconds. This doesn’t look bad on paper, but the engine lacks some amount of that extra grunt that one would expect from a 100bhp+ powerplant.
The engine doesn’t feel like 100bhp+ perhaps due its tall gearing, but that’s probably for better economy. The gear lever on the Verna did not engage smoothly, though only while shifting quickly. The best part about the car was its fuel efficiency. Under normal driving conditions, it returned an overall figure of 11.8kpl, which isn’t bad considering the size of the engine, when compared to its competition. The Hyundai Verna returned a worst figure of 8.4kpl during our performance test, which was all full throttle driving.
The Hyundai Verna Transform’s underpinnings remain unchanged like that on the old Verna. The front end sports McPherson struts bolted on a sub-frame coupled with the torsion beam at its rear. Softly-sprung suspension affects the handling of a car at high speed and stiff suspension affects the ride quality. The Verna has been designed for city and highway driving as well, so the suspension on the car is a compromise between ride and handling. The ride is smooth and unruffled at most of the speeds. While the car does take kindly to potholes, you do hear the ‘thud’ sound each time your car goes through one. The Verna Transform is a decent handler, it can take most of the bends and curves at good speeds, but somehow it fails to steer sharply at higher speeds (probably the tyres are the culprit!) While driving, the steering wheel (hydraulic-assisted) feels light and responsive around the centre, however, while cornering, it feels slack. The material used on the steering somehow feels slippery and we wish it felt better to the touch. The brake pedal has a good feel and the brakes bite progressively. At speeds of less than 100kph, the brakes are great, however, in case of hard braking at speeds in excess of 120kph, the steering tends to lose authority on the tyres. In our brake test, the Hyundai Verna Transform came to a complete halt from a speed of 80kph in 30 metres. Our Press Demonstrator ran on Bridgestone B250 185/65/R14 tyres. The tyres had good grip on the straight but not much grip on sharp turns, and the tread pattern was a bit noisy on tar roads.
The Hyundai Verna Transform SX costs Rs 7.87 lakhs (ex-showroom, Mumbai) which is priced at par with the rest of the competition in the segment. However, we feel that it could have had a slightly more value for money sticker price since the competition is newer (Better looking and with better specs.) The car doesn’t come with steering-mounted audio controls. The interior styling remains almost unchanged since its launch. Most of the competitors now offer more features at a similar price tag and are fresh-looking. Plus, cars such as the new Volkswagen Vento which has just entered the Indian market are only going to raise the bar further. We were disappointed to see the Verna getting just a facelift rather than a complete transformation with a more modern design. While it is widely rumoured that Hyundai Motor India Ltd. (HMIL) will launch three new models in 2011, the all-new Accent (Verna?) is expected to debut around late 2011 or early 2012. Little surprise therefore that the new Verna has merely been transformed to keep it looking fresher from its predecessor.