Hyundai aims for a new aura in compact sedan market

by Sumantra B Barooah 09 Mar 2020

The utility vehicle segment may be the king of the passenger vehicle (PV) market, but a fair number of Indian consumers still prefer a sedan. And that's likely to continue. In the sedan market, the compact sedan sub-segment contributes about 330,000 units annually, or roughly 10 percent of the overall PV market. This is where Hyundai wants to up its game. The new Aura compact sedan, launched on January 21 at Rs 580,000 for the base petrol-manual variant and going up to Rs 924,000 for the top-spec diesel-AMT variant, is what it's betting on to do the job.

Like its compact SUV Venue, Hyundai is offering Aura multiple powertrain options – a 100hp 1.0L turbo charged petrol, 1.2L petrol (83hp) and CNG, and a 1.2L diesel (75hp).  A key factor that could be an opportunity on a platter for the Hyundai Aura is the constituency of diesel buyers in this segment. This potentially significant opportunity comes from market leader Maruti Suzuki exiting the diesel market, at least for now.

Hyundai says it didn't have any idea about Maruti Suzuki's diesel strategy, but sees a good chance to enhance its performance in the compact car segment now that the segment leader Dzire's diesel variant isn't there. With a less-than-expected incremental price in the BS VI diesel, the OEM is hoping for a good drive. The price gap between the BS IV diesel in the Xcent and the BS VI diesel in the Aura is Rs 18,000.

"That was possible because we as a global OEM, our R&D (in Namyang, South Korea) has already developed the Euro 6 version in many countries, so R&D cost can be shared among the countries. In addition, Hyundai Motor India's component sourcing team here also contributed to the Aura diesel's pricing,” said SS Kim, managing director, Hyundai Motor India.

Diesel delights
During a drive event in Indore, we got to drive the 1.2-litre petrol and the diesel variants. The petrol Aura does its job well, but it's the diesel that we found more interesting to drive. The inherent diesel torque characteristic aside, the engine is also quite responsive. We didn't feel the turbo lag during the city drive. The automated manual transmission (AMT) adds to the driving comfort, but one feels the 'shift shock'. We didn't get the time with the Aura 1.0L turbo that promises a 'fun-to-drive' character. If the response to that engine in the Venue is any indication, this variant could have the lion's share in the Aura petrol's sales. Till recently, about 80 percent of the Venue petrol's sales came from its turbocharged petrol variant.

The Hyundai Aura is the sedan version of the premium compact hatchback Grand i10 Nios, but with a longer wheelbase. The boot integration is done well. The LED tail-lamps do add to the car's style quotient. The cabin styling is quite similar to the Grand i10 Nios, but with a different satin bronze finish in the dashboard. The eight-inch touchscreen is easy to use and responsive. There's a 5.3-inch digital speedometer and multi-information display in the instrument cluster. Hyundai claims superior shoulder room, legroom and thigh support in the Aura's flat bench rear seat. Depending on the variant, features like wireless phone charging, cruise control and driver rearview monitor are also on offer in the Aura. At a time when the safety trend and regulations are on the rise, the Aura's body structure gets 42 percent high strength steel and 23 percent advanced high strength steel. With higher reinforcement in the side and frontal areas of the body structure and dual path underbody load distribution, Hyundai expects the Aura to have good level of crash energy absorption.        

Hyundai's bet on diesel in the BS VI era is based on its belief that there will be a sizeable population of diesel car buyers after April 2020. Therefore, in its 1.2-litre diesel, it has improved performance with a 2000 bar fuel injection system. A 10 percent improvement in the lower end torque will also aid enhancing the city driving experience.  This variant will aim for a good share in the sub-segment of 100,000 units annually. With the Xcent continuing service in the fleet segment, and the Aura wooing buyers for personal use, Hyundai now hopes to enjoy a new aura in the compact sedan segment.