We wouldn’t quite say it’s a duckling-toswan transformation, but compared to the first-generation Verna that was launched in India way back in 2006, the new one that was launched earlier this year is, stylingwise, in a different league altogether. With its sharp, edgy design, LED headlamps and taillamps, large, dark front grille, twin-tip exhaust and 16-inch alloy wheels, the new Verna looks pretty good. Hyundai has never stopped improving this car, and in all the areas that matter — choice of engines, ride and handling, equipment levels — the new Verna is quite capable of taking the competition head on. Does it have what it takes to win, though? We find out.

With the new Verna, Hyundai has scrapped the 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6-litre/1.4-litre diesel engines that were available earlier. Out with the old, in with the new; the Verna now comes with three all-new engine options. First up is a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol that produces 114 horsepower and 144Nm of torque. This is available with a choice of a 6-speed manual, and a continuously variable automatic. Next up is a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel, which produces 114bhp and 250Nm of torque, and you can have this with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. And finally, there’s the most interesting unit of the bunch — a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, which produces 120 horsepower and 172Nm of torque, and is exclusively available with a 7-speed dualclutch automatic, with paddle shifters.

Notably, Volkswagen and Skoda also offer a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine on the Vento and Rapid respectively, but they no longer have the earlier 7-speed dual clutch automatic, choosing to go back to a 6-speed manual transmission instead. Good to see the Koreans taking the fight to the Germans, if that means better, more advanced technologies being made available to car buyers. While all three engines on the Verna are quite competent in terms of power delivery and fuel efficiency, buyers looking at something new should definitely give some careful consideration to the GDI turbopetrol, which is the most powerful of the lot, despite having one cylinder less than the other two. There is a bit of low-rpm turbo lag here, and the GDI can feel a bit tame when chugging along at low speeds. But as soon as the road opens up, floor that throttle pedal and feel the turbo spooling up, as it pushes the Verna from zero to 100kph in around 12 seconds. Not bad for a small engine; it makes the Verna fun to drive and, as a bonus, also delivers an ARAI-certified 19kpl (do note, however, that the diesel is more fuel-efficient, delivering up to 25kpl with the manual transmission, and 21kpl with the automatic).

Hyundai has always taken the lead in ensuring that its cars are the most highly spec’d in their respective segments. The Indian car buyer demands ‘value for money’, which the Korean company understands better than most others, and delivers generously. The beigeand-black interiors on the 1.5l petrol and diesel are well appointed, while the petrol-turbo’s all-black with red accents treatment looks suitably sporty. There’s leatherette upholstery, ventilated front seats, a centrally mounted 8-inch colour touchscreen for navigation and entertainment, a digital instrument panel, and a powerful Arkamys sound system with front and rear speakers. You also get full smartphone connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and, in addition to two USB chargers, there’s even a wireless phone charger in there, which works with compatible phones that support wireless charging. And finally, there’s the Hyundai BlueLink smartphone app that’s actually quite useful, providing remote engine start/stop, remote door lock/unlock and SOS/emergency assistance among other things.

Overall, the new Verna’s cabin is quite well built, and the seats are nicely sculpted and comfortable. However, the cabin simply isn’t as big and as spacious when compared to the Honda City or the Maruti Ciaz. Rear seat legroom and headroom is a bit restricted on the Verna, and that’s one area where the car falls short of the competition. We also have to say here that the Verna’s dashboard layout isn’t quite as slick and contemporary-looking as we have seen recently in some cars. The infotainment touchscreen, which juts out and doesn’t sit flush with the dashboard, looks a bit awkward. Also, the Verna’s instrumentation, layout of the controls and overall dashboard presentation simply isn’t as mature and sophisticated-looking as what the competition has on offer. Hope Hyundai can address this with the next iteration of the Verna. The Verna rides on 16-inch alloys, while suspension is comprised of McPherson struts with coil springs at the front, and torsion beam axle at the back. Ride quality is reasonably good, and the Verna manages to isolate its occupants from really bad roads. Steering feel has improved, and is better than what it used to be on older models of the Verna, with more feedback from the front wheels reaching the driver. Handling is not too bad, but, in the end, you have to remember this is a family sedan and not a sports car, and drive accordingly. As long as you don’t push it too hard or attempt improbably cornering heroics, all is well.

In terms of safety equipment, the Verna gets front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), electronic stability control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. There’s also parking sensors at the front and rear, rear-view camera with dynamic guideline display, ISOFIX child seat mounting points and, on the turbo-petrol, disc brakes all around. That’s pretty comprehensive in the usual Hyundai fashion. So, is the Verna a smart buy? That depends on what you’re looking for in your car. If you spend most of your time in the rear seat, you should probably consider other options in the segment. However, if you want a smart, good-looking car that you intend to drive yourself, the Verna might be a good choice. At Rs 13.99 lakh (ex-showroom), the turbo-petrol is expensive, but has a bit of chutzpah, a bit of verve that will keep you entertained. For those who demand maximum fuel economy, there’s the torquey common-rail turbodiesel. Either way, Hyundai has you covered, so choose wisely.