If someone had asked us about Korean small cars 20 years ago, we would have instantly said go for a Japanese one instead. That's just how it was; Korean cars back then were really just cheaper alternatives to their neighbors to the east, and mind you, they felt cheaper too.
Today, that perception cannot be farther from the truth. The new crop of automobiles from Korean powerhouse Hyundai have made believers out of many detractors, impressing the general public with their design, quality, versatility, and many more.
If there is one model in their lineup that stands out, it's this one: the 2014 Hyundai Grand i10.
The first time we got behind the wheel of the i10 was during it's launch back in 2008. During that drive, we realized Hyundai is redefining how an economy car should feel, and this second generation model successfully builds on that formula.
Looking at the 2014 Grand i10 in that shade of orange, it's easy to see that the design is the natural evolution of the previous one. The shape is near identical given the 2-box hatchback format of the i10, though the upscale design details shine through. Things like the sporty looking front end, the detailed headlamps, taillamps and other design elements give an impression that this car has a very European flair about it. Personally the design scheme and the orange with black contrasts look very interesting and stylish; by our eye, it seems that the rear appears to resemble the more premium Mercedes A Class.
One noticeable aspect is that the dimensions of the car have definitely grown. The new Grand i10 is significantly larger than the standard i10 as the wheelbase is 100mm longer while the body is 80mm longer and 65mm wider. It's not large enough to compete against models like the Honda Jazz, but it does give it an edge over cars in its price range.
Inside, again you're greeted by a mix of black and orange from the seats, the dashboard and the inner door panels, thereby making the cabin quite interesting to look at and a somewhat refreshing place to be in. The driver's seat is comfortable, thought the seating position is understandably more upright compared to a typical compact to maximize space. In the back, the seats are likewise a bit upright, but that's common in city cars and generates more space for the boot. The rear seats fold down but not fully flat with the boot.
The dashboard is quite busy but easy to get familiar with. Hyundai was definitely more playful with the interior details than before with their econoboxes, and that 2-DIN DVD and navigation capable unit is definitely a good touch, especially since the Grand i10 is poised to take on models like the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Honda Brio.
Powering the little orange car is a 1.2 liter engine that makes 86 metric horsepower and 119 Newton meters of twist, all of which are course to the front wheels via a 4 speed slushbox automatic. Unlike the Mirage which has a three banger, the i10's engine is a four cylinder; the latter being noticeably smoother and quieter.
In the city, the Grand i10 is surprisingly refined; I say "surprisingly" because small economy hatchbacks are never usually great in terms of NVH (noise vibration and harshness) dampening. Hyundai's contender is smooth, quiet and very comfortable for its size. Also the electric steering is nicely weighted but a little numb and has the heavy self centering that has become the signature of Hyundai's small cars.
Maneuverability and visibility are good points of the Grand i10; it corners well, but don't expect exemplary handling from a car designed to thrive in the city. Fuel economy in the city is decent: 9.8 km/l at a 19 km/h average speed with moderate-heavy traffic.
On the highway the Grand i10 is likewise smooth; like its predecessor, the new version feels planted and stable at speed on the expressway. One thing that was clear is the gearing of the 4 speed auto is quite short, meaning the RPM at 100 km/h is over 3000 rpm, so its not as economical as we would have wanted at 12.2 km/l with that speed. An 80 km/h average fares better at 14.6 km/l.
As a follow up to the original i10, Hyundai definitely built on their strengths to compose this one for the most vital segment in the market. At PhP 688,000 for this top spec 1.2, Hyundai has a model that presents very good value and an attractive overall package, though the "Grand" monicker may be a bit of a stretch in this class of car.