So it’s here, after a fair amount of hype, but surprisingly not the kind of pre-launch marketing and PR blitz one would have expected, for a car this important. After all, the Eon has its sights set squarely on the all-conquering Maruti Suzuki Alto, which is merely the largest-selling car in the world. Hyundai is coming in with the Eon where others have tried and failed, so they need to get it spot on. Have they? Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you – and keep in mind that we’re dealing with the top-end Sportz variant.
What does it look like?
Rather good, actually. The Eon stays very much within the ‘Fluidic’ design philosophy that Hyundai has adopted of late, with the characteristic hexagonal ‘mouth’ and the swept back headlamps. The ‘kick-up’ lines down its flanks give it a sporty look, as do the creases on its bonnet; the triangular fog lamps looks cool as well. Comma-shaped taillights and an integrated rear spoiler round off the fresh, funky look – this is a car that will appeal to a broad cross-section of people.
What’s the cabin like?
No room for complaint here. All the materials used are of good quality, with nothing looking cheap or flimsy. It’s no Audi, certainly, but it’s a notch above anything in its class. The fresh theme continues here too, with a nice looking stereo system (with USB and AUX-in), well-placed dials for the A/C (which cools very well) and a simple, readable instrument cluster which, however, lacks a tachometer. In the Sportz variant, you get a driver airbag.
Is it spacious?
Yes, in a word – but relative to this segment. Its semi tall-boy stance means that getting in and out is easy and there’s a good amount of head room for relatively tall people. At the back, two can sit in comfort, with a third managing to squeeze in. The seats are comfortable, but could have done with more thigh support at the front. Only if you fill the cabin with four really tall people will leg room become an issue.
Is it practical?
There’s no shortage of cubbyholes, that’s for sure. Above the glove box, which is quite big, there’s a large storage area on the dashboard, and there’s also a space for the ubiquitous Ganesha idol! There’s also storage space behind the gear lever and in the doors. The most important element is the hatch – it’s the largest in its class, and with the rear seats folded down, you can fit quite a lot of luggage in the back.
What’s the engine like?
The 814cc, 3-cylinder powerplant puts out just over 55 bhp and 7.65 kgm of torque. Like most 3-pot motors, it sounds a little rough around the edges, and you’ll notice some vibes coming through into the gear lever, but other than that, it’s a competent engine. It’s tuned for fuel efficiency (a claimed 21.2 kpl) and city use, clearly – overtaking manoeuvres on the highway will need to be planned carefully. There’s decent mid-range, and the top speed is around 125 kph. For most people in this segment, it’ll be perfectly adequate. The gearbox is a bit notchy and could have been more slick-shifting, but this isn’t a major problem.
How does it ride?
The suspension tends towards the softer side of things, but otherwise the car rides well. Back seat occupants will be quite well isolated from potholes and the like; if there are dips in the road, and you take them at speeds above 60 kph, then the car will pogo around a bit. The ground clearance is good, too, and the car’s capable of getting onto broken roads.
What’s the handling like?
Let’s face it – the Eon isn’t meant to go apex-hunting in. Having said that, high-speed stability is good, and the car doesn’t get too unsettled even in crosswinds. Hard cornering produces a fair amount of body roll, but with more relaxed driving, the car takes corners competently. The power steering is fully electric and doesn’t offer much feel, and the brakes are adequate without offering too much feedback either.
Is it better than the Alto?
Only a head-to-head comparison will tell, but the first impression is that it is. It looks fresher and nicer, the cabin is better built and kitted out, there’s more passenger and storage space and it makes you ‘feel’ nicer than if you’re in an Alto.
Should you go and buy one?
There’s no reason not to, really. The Sportz variant is Rs 3.7-odd lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, and for the money you get a contemporary small car that holds its own against the competition. Of course, the on-road price will bring it close to the Santro’s price, but whether you wish to opt for its bigger and more powerful sibling is a matter of personal choice. As it stands, this car is an impressive piece of work, and it’s almost a segment by itself. For the full road test, pick up a copy of the November 2011 issue of BSM!