Last year, while the rest of the Indian auto industry was in a downturn, the compact sedan segment witnessed a growth of 27 percent. Brought about thanks to finance minister P. Chidambaram, the compact sedan segment in a way perfectly sums up what the Indian car buyer wants: A car which looks big, which is actually small, preferably from a trusted brand which can deliver fuel efficient engines and peace-of-mind ownership.
Asking whether the Hyundai Xcent lives up to those parameters is a rhetorical question, because you know it does without having to read this, or any review for that matter. The larger question is whether the Xcent is The compact sedan to buy among rivals such as the Honda Amaze and Maruti Swift Dzire.
Based on the Grand i10, the Xcent thankfully gets rid of roof rails, though until the start of the C-Pillar, it very much looks like the hatchback. Which is not a bad thing. While the Dzire looks 'chopped-off', the Xcent and Amaze do not have this design problem and look well proportioned all throughout.
The taillights of the Xcent are not to everyone's liking and perhaps feel a bit small compared to the rest of the car. There is no denying that the rear fascia of the Xcent looks a bit out-of-sync compared to the rest of the car. On the top-end SX(O) trim, Hyundai offers 15-inch diamond cut alloy wheels which look quite upmarket.
The interiors are nearly identical to the Grand i10, save for the air-conditioning system as the top-end trims of the Xcent get a fully automatic climate control system. Build quality easily supercedes the competition, and in fact feels a class above. The layout and design of the interiors are very well executed and they look, and feel, much better than the Dzire and Amaze. The Xcent gets 10/10 for its interiors.
The top-end Xcent seen in these images comes equipped with ABS, dual front airbags, front and rear power windows, electrically adjustable and folding wing mirrors, 15-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, smart entry with push button start/stop, a music system which plays almost all formats and features Bluetooth, steering integrated controls, automatic AC, rear view camera, reverse parking sensors, automatic day/night interior mirror and rear AC vents.
Needless to say then, the Xcent is the most feature-rich car in its segment, and even puts a few mid-size sedans to shame.
The rear seat of the Xcent features adjustable headrests, a central armrest and most importantly, AC vents. The seat back is well reclined and its easy to enter and exit the seats. While the Xcent’s 2,425 mm wheelbase is longer than the Amaze, the Honda is still the benchmark when it comes to legroom. The Xcent is not uncomfortable, but the rear seat legroom can only be termed ‘satisfactory’. It’s still better than the Dzire though.
The Xcent diesel is powered by the same 1.1-liter three-cylinder motor found in the Grand i10. Thanks to some clever use of the turbocharging though, engineers have extracted a further 1 PS and 2.1 kgm of torque. The Xcent diesel makes 72 PS at 4,000 rpm and 18.4 kgm of torque between 1,750-2,500 rpm (though it needs to be mentioned that the Grand i10 makes 16.3 kgm of torque between 1,500-2,750 rpm).
The highlight of this engine is the NVH. For a three-cyllinder motor, the Xcent is less noisy compared to the four-cylinder Amaze. Vibrations are non-existent for most part of the rev-range as well.
The good bits first. The clutch is extremely light and is sure to be a boon in congested cities. Complimenting this is the gearbox, which feels butter smooth to shift. Unlike the Amaze which has a limited top-speed, the 1.1-liter engine will easily propel the Xcent to an indicated 170 km/h.
Now for the negatives. The only issue with the engine is that it does not have a sweetspot anywhere in its rev-range. The Dzire, for example, has a brilliant mid-range, while the Amaze builds power as the revs increase. The Hyundai though, is best used in a relaxed and unhurried manner. Its very clear to understand that Hyundai engineers have tuned this engine for city use primarily.
One advantage to this unhurried nature is that you won’t find yourself downshifting to be in the ‘turbo-range’ of the car. And even if you do, as mentioned earlier, the light clutch and gearbox ensure you don’t have a sore foot at the end of the day.
Overall, the Xcent's engine performance will not set your pulse racing. However, in a few areas that matter such as drivability and NVH, Hyundai have done a very good job indeed.
Ride and Handling:
On the super-smooth Hyderabad highway, the ride of the Xcent was well composed and did not seem bouncy. We didn’t get a chance to take the Xcent over a lot of bad roads, though initial impressions suggest that passengers are in for a comfortable ride.
On the handling front, straight-line stability is superb even at speeds exceeding 150 km/h. Out on the bends, the Xcent has acceptable body roll for a car of this size. The steering, though an improvement over cars like the i20, could do with a bit more feel. However, for most of its owners, the ride, handling and steering characteristics of the Xcent should more than suffice.
Hyundai claims the Xcent will do 24.4 km/l. While we couldn’t verify this claim, we can say for certain that the Xcent will deliver good efficiency going by the figures and customer reports of the Grand i10.
The Xcent diesel starts from INR 5.56 lakhs and goes up to INR 7.41 lakhs for the top-end trim. In comparison, the Dzire starts at INR 5.78 lakhs (INR 7.32 lakhs for the top-end), while the Amaze begins at INR 5.97 lakhs (INR 7.49 lakhs for the top-end). While the base Xcent undercuts its rivals, the top-end gets you your money’s worth with added, segment-first features.
Note: Prices mentioned are ex-Showroom, New Delhi.
If you’re looking for engine performance, you better consider either the Maruti or Honda. For every other reason, the Xcent is a step above its competitors: the car boasts upmarket, feature-rich interiors, comes with a fuel efficient engine, has class-leading boot space and most of all, offers the best value for money. The icing on the cake is that much like Maruti, Hyundai’s after-sales is one of the best in the country, and the spare parts are known to be well priced.
Answering the question we started with, yes, the Xcent diesel is our pick in the compact sedan segment!