First launched in 2014, the Hyundai Xcent became the flag-bearer of the Indian subsidiary of the South Korean auto giant in the well-received sub-4-metre sedan market. Fast forward to 2020, and the company has just replaced the Xcent with an all-new model dubbed the 'Aura'. Of course, no prizes for guessing here that the Aura is to the Grand i10 Nios what the Xcent is to the Grand i10. No wonder, then, that you won't be hard-pressed to draw several parallels between the Xcent-replacement and the third generation i10. That said, though, there's more to it than meets the eye and our Hyundai Aura review here should sum up the latest Maruti Dzire-adversary for you.
Hatchback-derived sub-4-metre sedans have never been recipients of beauty pageant titles and the Hyundai Aura doesn't break any new grounds with its aesthetics. Its front-end is highly reminiscent of that of the Grand i10 Nios but there's enough to tell them apart. The Aura features a revised grille that looks a tad sportier, while the new bumper is bolder and even carries a subtle diffuser. Moreover, the headlights have been tweaked and the honeycomb grille features boomerang-style DRLs that add some more jazz to the nose.
Deriving a three-box from a hatchback has never been a cakewalk, especially with a package constraint of an overall length of less than 4 metres. As is the case with other entry-level sedans in the market, the side profile lacks the design harmony seen on the Grand i10 Nios. However, worth a mention here is that the designers of the new offering have done a fairly neat job with adding some flair through bits like snazzy diamond-cut alloy wheels and a blacked-out C-pillar that leads to a floating-roof effect. What the designers couldn’t manage though, was to impress us with the overall proportions. Make no mistake, the Aura doesn't look ungainly but its design will definitely take a while to grow on you.
Highlights of the rear-end include stylish wrap-around clear-lens taillamps that carry LED fixtures. Also, akin to the front-end, the posterior features a sporty bumper that carries a discreet diffuser. Other visual highlights include a well-sculpted boot lid that holds a neatly integrated spoiler.
The interior of the Hyundai Aura is almost a true reflection of that of its donor hatchback. The two cars share most of the panels between them, which is something that works in favour of the new sedan. The dashboard is a straight lift from the hatchback and gets a similar uni-piece layout for the touchscreen infotainment unit and the part-digital instrument cluster. As has been the case, Hyundai has ensured top-notch material quality and fit-and-finish.
A major differentiation between the cabins of the Nios and the Aura is the Bronze-coloured trim it features on the dashboard and the gearlever console. This is in contrast with the silver-ish trim available on the hatchback sibling. Other than this slight discrepancy, there's little two separate the two cabins from each other. The new compact sedan features the same three-spoke steering wheel as the i10 and even offers a similar whitish-grey colour scheme that makes the cabin look sufficiently premium. Even the seat upholstery bears the same light colour, which means maintenance could be a major issue for the cleanliness fanatics. There are several cubby holes strewn around the cabin, including many bottle holders and even a small recess above the glove compartment. It is worth mentioning here that the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol variant, which is available exclusively in the S trim, gets a matt-black trim instead of the Bronze inserts. Also, the chrome highlights have made way for red accents.
While the front seats could have done with adjustable headrests, the rear bench does get this feature. Also, the flat floor and a sufficiently wide seat can help you have three occupants in the rear on at least the shorter journeys. Moreover, the boot space, at 402-litre, is sufficiently large to gobble up the luggage of a small family for a weekend trip. Even the features list of the Aura mimics that of the Nios, with the only addition coming in the form of a Cruise Control system on the top-spec trim. The equipment on offer includes some segment-best bits like a wireless smartphone charging pod, 8-inch infotainment unit that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear aircon vents and semi-digital instrument console.
In an era where the competition has decided to ditch its low-capacity diesel engine, the Hyundai Aura comes with as many as three motors to choose from. Basically, there are two petrol and a diesel engine to choose from. The entry-level petrol mill is a 1.2-litre Kappa motor that develops a maximum of 83PS and 113Nm, while the diesel mill on offer is a 1.2-litre U2 CRDi unit that outputs 75PS and 194Nm. Our pick of the lot though, is the 1.0-litre T-GDI turbo-petrol, direct-injection powerplant that churns out 100PS and 175Nm. The 1.2-litre motors are available with two transmission options - 5-speed manual and 5-speed AMT, but the high-strung 1.0-litre engine gets only a 5-speed manual transmission option.
The 1.2-litre petrol option impresses with its well-spread torque, sufficiently high level of refinement, well-controlled NVH and rev-happy nature. There's enough grunt at the low-end and mid-range engine speeds and the gear ratios are well defined, too. We couldn't help but notice how well the car picked speed in the second cog after almost coming to a standstill while negotiating mindless-constructed speed humps that dot the streets of most of our cities. Even the in-gear acceleration is adequate and overtaking fast-moving traffic on the expressway doesn't warrant much planning.
Even the 1.2-litre U2 CRDi diesel engine, which has been given a slew of updates to meet the BSVI emission norms, is an impressive unit. It feels remarkably livelier than the base petrol motor, much of which is due to the well-controlled turbo lag and the noticeable surge of torque right from around 1,500 rpm. The 5-speed manual transmission offers slick shifts in both the 1.2-litre engine variants and those looking for additional convenience can even choose the AMT option with the petrol mill. However, the Automated Manual Transmission doesn't bond too well with the oil-burner. The slight turbo-lag of the diesel motor, combined with the inherently slow shifts from the AMT, lead to a pretty jerky performance, which is something that would probably leave a sour taste in the mouth.
Not surprisingly, our pick of the lot is the utterly delicious 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that charges forward with a ferocious velocity as seen as you step on the gas. The Venue-sourced small-displacement turbocharged unit offers a strong surge of torque almost throughout the rev-band. In fact, this car is so quick that 100 kmph from standstill comes under 10 seconds, which is something that should impress the boy-racers with budget constraints. Of course, the Aura 1.0 Turbo is no Tigor JTP, but that is something which has more to do with the uninspiring steering than the lack of grunt.
As is increasingly become the norm, the Aura comes with an EPS that is almost devoid of any sort of feedback. The steering wheel feels totally lifeless, which is something that tends to make going too fast into corners a tad unnerving. While the light-as-feather unit comes across as a boon on the congested streets, the fact that the steering fails to weigh up as speeds rise is something that limits you from driving this vehicle really fast on a winding road. This is somewhat a pity, especially if you consider that the high-speed stability leaves little to be desired. Fortunately, the unexciting steering is the only chink in the armour as the ride quality is quite impressive. The Aura can easily sail through small potholes and undulations without causing discomfort to the occupants. Even the bigger craters don't unsettle the vehicle easily.
Overall, the Hyundai Aura not only comes across as a substantial upgrade over the Xcent but even as one of the most well-rounded products in its segment. True, it isn't the prettiest of sights but look beyond the slightly oddball side profile and you get all the traits of the i10 Nios along with a larger boot, a handful of additional features and a stonker of a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine. Furthermore, add a decent ride quality, frugal motors and an attractive price tag to the mix and you are looking at a package that is really hard to ignore.