The hatchback wars have begun. 2014 sees the launch of a dizzying array of cars in India’s most popular segment. Although Hyundai has kept the lead for many years now, the launch of impressive newbies and face-lifts in the heavily populated segment just might displace the South Korean manufacturer from its top spot. Some of the main contenders vying for the i20’s crown are the new Polo, the upcoming Honda Jazz and the Fiat Punto Evo, the underdog of the lot. To stay ahead of the game, Hyundai has unveiled another iteration of the successful i20 hatch. Dubbed the Hyundai Elite i20, the new car builds on the previous model’s impressive features and adds a touch of refinement to its design.
Italian manufacturer Fiat is yet to break into the Indian market. Despite being in the market on and off for over a decade, the car maker has failed to stand its own against the likes of VolksWagen, Hyundai, Honda and Ford. Adamant on turning its fortunes around, the Italian car maker has launched a Punto Face-lift specifically tailored for the wants and needs of the Indian car buyer. We take a look at the recently launched Fiat and its Hyundai rival, the Elite i20 and see if the underdogs can pull off a Rocky Balboa.
Fiat Punto Evo:
Unlike the previous generation and models sold overseas, the new Punto Evo is a lot flashier and stands out in a crowd. While Fiat’s design philosophy has always been more about subtlety and harmony of curves, Indian car buyers look for a bit more. As a result, though the Punto Evo looks striking, it doesn’t feel like something the Italian automaker would create.
Nevertheless, the new “reindeer” headlights and power lines running along the bonnet of the car give the hatchback the much sought after aggressive outline. Fiat has also added a new chrome lined grille and fog lamp enclosures that build on its premium look. Out back we see more chrome lining the lower end of the bumper and all new clear lens headlights. The Italian company has also provided chrome on the sides in the form of chrome plated door handles.
All in all, the Punto Evo may be the in its most appealing iteration ever. Yet, it is quite saddening to see a bit of the Italian charm taken away from the Evo to keep fickle buyers’ minds happy.
Hyundai Elite i20:
The Elite i20 debuts with a refined touch of the South Korean car maker’s critically acclaimed Fluidic Design methodology. Much of the car has been thoroughly reworked to introduce a more restrained exterior for the hatch. Sadly, the new Hyundai i20 fails to impress as much as the previous generation. The boxy dimensions and disproportionately long bonnet give the new i20 a rather awkward stance.
However, the rear end of the car is one of the most beautiful and refreshingly new designs seen in a car from this segment in recent years. The stylish tail lamps and stunning light cluster within, give the Elite i20 a far more impressive back end. So while the 2014 i20 is not an ugly car, it isn’t much of a looker either.
Round 1 Winner: Draw !
Fiat Punto Evo:
The Punto Evo’s cabin is quite lackluster. Although the new hatch features a brand new piano black center console and an updated color scheme, the quality of plastics is not upto par with the likes of the Hyundai and Fiat could have gone for a little more polish for its new face-lift. However, the amber ambient lighting, though ceremonial, is definitely a nice touch.
Hyundai Elite i20:
As always, the South Korean car maker has done a phenomenally good job with the interiors of the new i20. Although not being a fan of beige myself, the car maker has made use of beige and black in all the right places create the right mix of sporty and airy. Buttons for the air con and music system are now located slightly higher than the outgoing model and the infotainment system’s display re-located, Hyundai has provided a far more ergonomically sound cabin.
Round 2 Winner: Hyundai Elite i20 !
Under The Hood:
Powering the new Punto Evo is a range of in-house developed petrol and diesel engines carried over from the previous generation. Petrol enthusiasts have an option of a 1.2 L 4 cylinder engine that produces 68 HP and 96 Nm of torque or the more powerful 1.4 L unit that churns out 90 HP and 115 Nm of torque.
The more fuel conscious of us have an option of choosing between a 1.3 L oil burner that puts out 76 HP and 197 Nm of torque or 93 HP and 209 Nm of peak torque depending on the buyer’s choice of tune.
Hyundai Elite i20:
Hyundai too has gone for the old generation’s engine options for the new i20. The South Korean car maker offers the 1.2 L petrol engine that produces 82 HP 114 Nm of torque and the diesel mill that puts out 89 HP and 215 Nm of torque. While the new is heavier, Hyundai has opted for averagely powered engines which may not appeal to many.
Round 3 Winner: Fiat Punto Evo !
The Punto Evo is a radical departure from what the Italian marque generally create. That being said, the chrome and aggressive front headlights is sure to attract many a buyer. Although the interiors could use a more reworked design, its engine options trumps most other cars in this segment.
The Hyundai Elite i20 on the other hand focuses solely on comfort and features. The superb interiors and feature loaded infotainment system ensures that every trip to be a pleasantly comfortable. However, the driver may not be so happy with what could be called, an underpowered engine.
While there is no clear winner here, the Hyundai seems like the better bet for those who prefer comfort over and out power. While one may enjoy the experience of driving, the roads of India thoroughly disallow such unacceptable behavior. The only solace from the frustration of unruly motorists, panicky pedestrians and pot hole ridden roads maybe some good music and good suspension and for that, the Elite i20 maybe the only choice.