I was at the airport, when a friend called and asked what I was doing that evening. I told him I was on a flight to Chennai to drive a new car. Inquisitive as he is, he asked me the model name. I told him it’s the new Hyundai i10. His reaction, verbatim was this: ‘Er, wait a minute, didn’t they launch it just last December? And why a new i10 now – I mean don’t they have to wait for three years, get their return on investment and then launch a ‘new’ i10?’ I struggled to give a logical explanation because no matter, we Indians stereotypically have assumed that waiting a couple of years for a facelift, or an engine upgrade is the norm. Anything ‘before time’ is viewed with suspicion, followed by questions like ‘Are sales slowing down?’ ‘Is the company shutting down?’
But then the i10 is not your stereotypical car and its sales success is not another cliché. So to keep a good thing going, Hyundai developed another engine, the 1.2-litre Kappa for their export commitments and some part of the production for the local market. The Kappa is a new generation engine that will begin life in the i10 and progress into the engine bay of the i20 hatch when it’s launched early next year.
Right now though, it’s the i10’s turn to proudly display its Kappa badging on the flanks. On a drive from Chennai to Pondicherry on the East Coast Road, this ‘larger by 111cc’ engine displayed why a new engine was necessary. The 1.1-iRDe that powers the current i10 has good bottom-end and decent mid-range but poor top-end that mars an otherwise capable small car. The 1.2 changes all that. Utilising double overhead camshafts, longer spark plugs and an aluminium block construction, the 1.2 didn’t feel wanting during overtaking manoeuvres or generally building momentum. This, thanks to the 78.8 bhp that’s now available at 5200 rpm and 11.4 kgm of torque that forges ahead at 4000 rpm. This means you have just gained 13.5 bhp and 1.3 kgm of extra torque over the 1.1. Bravo!
It also shows in the roll-ons and while the power doesn’t come in until post 2200 rpm, the boost builds up and doesn’t let go until 6500 rpm, the redline. Hyundai have also worked around the gear ratios to take good advantage of the meaty mid-range and it works well. It also sounds more refined while at it, thanks to the use of hydraulic lash adjusters and a roller swing arm that reduces overall noise. The general tendency of the i10 to get a little floaty in the three-digit realm hasn’t disappeared. Hyundai in fact have made no changes to either steering, suspension or brakes and that means you have to start fighting with the steering and make minor corrections post 120 kph. The ride also continues to stay bouncy, while grip has suffered a bit, at the cost of performance. The car features tyres with the same 155 mm width as the 1.1 and Hyundai will offer wider 165 mm and 175 mm tyres as a cost option to buyers... seriously worth considering.
The other big news is the automatic transmission option. The four-speed auto is a second generation, worked-upon ‘box from the Santro. Mating the Kappa unit to the 4-speeder, the i10 now finds itself even better suited to the urban environment, as it gleefully begins its ‘hunting cog’ journey. In fact, in town it does it without getting annoying or throaty about it. It’s only out on the open highway stretches that the car feels like an out-of-place school boy. There’s fairly perceptible stomping of the throttle involved, given the fact that it’s a small engine and the auto does sap a fair bit of power. Faster overtaking and acceleration moments can be had via the O/D off or overdrive off button on the stick that now gives you access to three gears and even longer shift times – good for overtaking and building steam.
Apart from this new engine and auto option, the only other differences are in the trim names. The Magna is no longer the top-end variant, with the Sportz and Asta (w & w/o sunroof) doing the ‘top honours’, while the base D-Lite and Era continue with the 1.1 iRDe engine. The Sportz offers patches of red on the dashboard, door panels and seats, and all three come with an auto option. Hyundai have priced the Magna Kappa manual at Rs 3.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, going all the way up to Rs 5.42 lakh for the Asta automatic – the Asta dangerously close to the 1.3-litre Getz variants. That might make matters a little confusing for the consumer at showrooms, but with an all-new engine that can even leave the 1.3 Getz panting, in a package that is good for both short and long-distance drives, the i10 Kappa makes for a very compelling purchase decision.