The other day I happened to park our long-term Verna next to a previous-generation model, and it was not hard to see why the old model just faded into oblivion while the new one is still right on top of the sales charts! The old car looked dull, almost faceless, in the company of our striking 2011 model. Over a year after its launch, the hugely popular Verna still commands a month-long waiting period, which should give you an idea of the scale of its appeal. To be honest, it looks so damn good, you’d have to be a monk not to be temped by it. Even friends who’d typically be unable to unable to tell a Hyundai from a BMW would suddenly erupt into animated discussions on the ‘Fluidic’ design language.
And it wasn’t just the exteriors that had my passengers talking – they just loved how premium the cabin looked. The beige plastics, perforated leather seats and smart chrome detailing do give it a rich look, but the Verna’s ultimate party trick was its reverse camera. The sequence of events was usually as follows: engage reverse, watch the screen on the rear-view mirror light up and await a “wow!” from the passengers. The screen’s position in the rear-view mirror is intuitive and the system works really well. Good news then that Hyundai is soon going to offer this feature as standard across the Verna range. Other bits that added to the feel-good factor were the keyless go, clear instruments and the damped feel to the air-con vents.
But nice as it was to look at, the dimpled dashboard proved to be a dust magnet and needed a routine wiping. Also, by the end of our stint with the car, the blue backlighting for the audio system and climate control didn’t look all that cool any more. Perhaps it’s time Hyundai raises the bar and gives the already feature-rich Verna a full colour LCD touchscreen. But more than anything else, Hyundai needs to improve seat comfort – thigh support especially. You can work around the issue to some extent on the driver’s seat- the height adjustment lever doesn’t as much raise the driver’s seat – the height adjustment lever doesn’t as much raise the seat as it changes the angel of the seat base.
But rear-seat occupants don’t have any such adjustment. You sit low, so ingress isn’t the best-something that prove to be a pain for my parents. They liked the space but once again were quite vocal about their dislike for the small windows at the back. To be fair, their daily drive is an SX4, which has TV-sized windows. I can only imagine how cranky the inability to see out would make my eight-year-old nephew. My sole outing in the back of the Verna wasn’t the best either. Rushing out for a movie from the office, I found myself boxed in on the middle seat – not a memorable 8m, those.
Driving the Verna was a mixed bag too Those who drove the car to and from swore by it as a perfect companion for the rush-hour grind. It’s not hard to see why. The light steering makes the Verna as effortless to place into gaps as a Honda Brio, which was my previous long-term car. Its engine runs quietly with little lag to bother about. Then there’s the light (for a diesel) clutch that means you don’t need much calf muscle to effect a gear change on the already smooth six-speed’ box. Low-speed ride is another Verna highlight, though there is some thumpiness owing to its low-profile tyres. The suspension also emits a loud thwack over larger potholes if taken at speed, but then you can’t really blame the car for that. The good ride even made the Verna an apt car for clicking tracking shots, where smoothness is critical to getting sharp pictures and, ahem, wrapping up the shoot quickly. Sadly, the Verna was never the car of choice for two-wheeler shoots in Pune. The reason? Its uncomfortable high speed manners. As willing as the 1.6-litre engine was to blitz the entire length of the Mumbai-Pune expressway, the soft suspension just wasn’t up for the job. It gets bouncy on the mildest of undulations and the lifeless steering means even long, sweeping bends are taken with trepidation and call for a firm hand on the wheel. If there’s a positive to the scary high-speed manners it’s that you tend to drive more relaxed. Sixth gear, 80kph and the engine running at a lazy 1500rpm on our drive back from Pune had the Verna return a pretty impressive 16.6kpl. The Verna’s mileage in the city has averaged about 11.9kpl which is not bad at all.
Another area where the Verna has really impressed is build quality. There have been no squeaks or rattles and, save for one puncture and a temper mental handbrake that fails to engage at times, the car hasn’t given any problems. Service at the 10,000km mark was quick, and cost a reasonable Rs 1,526.
It’s now time to hand the Verna back to Hyundai and I can’t see too many people lining up to go for a final goodbye drive. And that is unfortunate, for if the Verna would just go as well as it looked, it’d be an absolute killer package. Hyundai is surely getting closer to making a better rounded Verna. The troubleis, if you love driving as we do, or frequent the highway a lot, this may not be the car for you. For the majority of buyers, though, that may not be a concern because as a city car the Verna is right there with the best.
Source: Autocar July 2012