The compact car segment makes up roughly 48 per cent of the Indian automotive market, and it’s one that is highly sub-segmented, with low, mid, high and premium categories, each with a bunch of cars in them, including ones from Hyundai. The Grand i10, for example, used to sit in the ‘high’ category, but will now find itself unceremoniously bumped downwards (but still sold), because the Nios is the new occupant here. Hyundai has pitched the Nios against the Maruti Suzuki Swift, which happens to be India’s second-largest selling car, so it certainly can’t be accused of shying away from a fight – but can it win?
There’s no mistaking Nios’s design language. It is most definitely a Hyundai. It comes with a new-ish front end, with a large grille, boomerang shaped LED DRLs, swept-back projector headlights and circular fog lamps. The profile throws into focus the roof rails, some nifty creases, alloy wheels in either 14 or 15-inch sizes — depending on the variant — and a blacked-out C-pillar, which gives the car a ‘floating’ roof look. From the rear, the prominent elements are a shark-fin antenna and a chrome strip on the bottom of the hatch. The Nios is also larger than the ‘regular’ Grand i10 — it’s 40mm longer, 20mm wider and has a 25mm longer wheelbase.
The cabin is, like almost all Hyundai cars, loaded to the gills. Unusually, they’ve used grey plastic bits as well as upholstery, which is almost unheard of in this segment. You get an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with all the bells and whistles, and a part-digital instrument panel, which has an analogue rev counter and a digital speedometer. You also get things like a wireless phone charger, rear AC vents and a rear-view camera that can be constantly kept on. The seats are comfortable enough, although they were over-padded in one of the cars I drove, and the incline on the rear seat backrest is a bit too much for my comfort. The boot gives you 260 litres of storage room, which is pretty decent.
Twin 1.2-litre petrol and diesel engines power the Nios, and although they’re not the most spirited units, they get the job done without fuss. The diesel, with 75 bhp and 190 Nm, is a little clattery, but has a torquey character, as is to be expected; the BSVI-ready petrol engine is very refined, for its part. You can opt for an automatic gearbox with either engine, and you probably should, even though they’re a little slow to shift; the convenience in city traffic will be worth it. Out on a highway, a 100+ kmph cruising speed is easy to hold, although quick acceleration will require either a downshift or a stab at the accelerator. The ride quality on offer is good enough for most conditions, although the variant with 15-inch wheels tends to feel a bit harsh over potholes.
So, is the Nios a car that can land a right hook on the Swift? Yes, but only because it’s cheaper, offers a diesel option (Maruti will not put diesel engines in its upcoming models) and has the ease of use that Hyundais are well known for. In every other way, Swift is still very much the car to beat, because it’s just… better.
AT A GLANCE
1.2-litre, 3-cylinder diesel/1.2-litre,
4-cylinder, BSVI-ready petrol
194 Nm/116 Nm
74 BHP /81.8 BHP
Rs 4.99 lakh – Rs 7.99 lakh
8-inch infotainment system, rear AC vents,
wireless phone charger, a rearview camera