Hyundai has been quite a powerpack in the small car space, and with the success of the Santro and Santro Xing in the early part of Hyundai's entry into India, followed by the i10 and most recently the i20, Hyundai have done terrifically in this space.

The biggest challenge for Hyundai however has been its lack of presence in the A-segment. Currently ruled by Maruti Suzuki with its 800 and Alto and to an extent by General Motors with the Chevrolet Beat, there have been no significant cars in this segment for a long while, except for the Alto K10 that was launched in mid-2010.

The Eon, however could change things and don't be surprised if more players show interest in this segment, post-Eon.

Pricing has been key to the Eon, which explains the use of the Santro as a base to begin with. But the design is clearly new-age Hyundai, using the company's new fluidic design concept. The prominent nose, the bulbous headlamps, the raised waistline with the kink around the C-pillar are all Hyundai design traits. The rear has a typical raised bumper line, swoopy tail lights and prominent wheel arches both in the front and rear.

It wouldn't be wrong to call the Eon a rather fresh design in the face of ageing ones like the Alto and Spark. The prominent wheel arches, however can't hide the fact that the car runs on 12-inch or 13-inch wheels, depending on trim levels. At 3495 mm, it's just as long as the Chevrolet Spark, Maruti Alto K10 and Maruti Zen Estilo.

Despite its length, the packaging on the inside is brilliant. Hyundai have continued the exterior design theme on the inside too, with a swoopy dashboard and nice use of materials. The top-end version will come with silver accents on the centre console, a decently specced out audio system with USB/aux-in and CD player as well as an HVAC unit. The overall look, feel and finish of the materials would pretty much become the new segment benchmark. The instrument binnacle is basic and doesn't have a tachometer, but gains from a distance to zero indicator among others. The boot volume is rated at 215 litres, but it is deep and good for the odd out-of-town run.

Space on the Eon is not an issue. The front-seats are of the two-piece variety and not the single piece ones found on the Santro and i10. There is enough room for four, though a fifth person would always be a squeeze in a car of this size. Nevertheless, it betters the Alto and is on-par or slightly better than the Spark in this regard. The top-end version will also come with a driver's side airbag as standard.

Powering the Eon is a 814cc, three-cylinder engine derived from the Santro. Mated to a 5-speed manual, the engine produces 56 bhp@5500 rpm and 7.65 kgm of peak torque, arriving at 4000 rpm.

Designed to deliver as high as 21.1 kpl (under test conditions), Hyundai claims that the Eon is more efficient than its rivals. The gearbox, derived from the Santro, uses a different set of ratios, though expect it to be slightly rubbery under use.

The important thing to note about the Eon would be its price. Hyundai is aiming for the Alto, and we wouldn't be surprised if its starts a tantalising Rs 2.6 lakh, ex-showroom, going all the way up to Rs 3 to 3.2 lakh for the top-end versions, ex-showroom. If that happens, Hyundai may make a serious dent in the likes of the Alto and Spark and given the general state of this segment in the last few months, steal marketshare away rather than expand the size of the segment by much.

For more details and our first driving impressions of the Hyundai Eon, grab a copy of the October issue of BS Motoring, out on stands soon

Read what we had to say in 2010 about the coming 800cc/A-segment contenders that will hit our shores here:

Alto beaters coming soon