2023 Hyundai Verna: First Drive Review
2023 Hyundai Verna: First Drive Review

Newest iteration of Hyundai’s popular sedan comes across as a complete package

Around 2020, it seemed like the mid-size sedan was dead in India. Buyers made a beeline for SUVs, and brands largely avoided launching new sedans as well. But sometime after the Covid winter of 2020, new launches captured the imagination of consumers. This shift in consumer preferences made it easier for other brands to try and revitalize the sedan market with updates and even newer generation models. Hyundai is the latest with the new Verna and like some of its rivals, it has clearly stepped up in terms of sheer size, features on offer, performance and even active safety tech.




The new-gen Verna looks entirely different from the outgoing model. Hyundai’s ‘Parametric Dynamics’ design language has been implemented with a new design that is as divisive as some other Hyundai cars in the recent past, if not more. In international markets, the Sonata and Elantra have received updates that tie them closely to the Verna design-wise. All sedans in the Hyundai portfolio will have a unified design with elements like the LED bars at the front and back present in each. In the Verna, the fussiness of the front bumper and its myriad cuts and creases is complimented by the clean line of the LED light bar. As is the norm, the LED bar forces the headlights and indicators to be housed lower on the bumper.


The sharp creases continue on the sides and there is an exaggerated kink in the sheet metal around the rear wheels with an angular design element added to the C-pillar as well. I am not entirely convinced with the piece of plastic on the C-pillar. It already looked like it was accumulating a lot more dust. The door handles are finished in chrome, but they aren’t the blingy in-your-face kind – more like a satin, matte-like chrome. However, the size and shape of the door handles makes them stick out and seemed like an eyesore to me (they even looked odd in the rearview mirrors while I was driving). The wheels are 16-inch alloys, but look a little smaller on the large Verna – 95mm longer, 36mm wider and with a 70mm longer wheelbase over the last-gen model.



At the rear, the lighting elements form a wide ‘H’ and come together well. The fastback like roof meets the tail section elegantly. While the muscular rear haunches add visual bulk, I am not really a fan and would have liked a cleaner side-profile like on the new Sonata. That said, on the whole the Verna has good proportions and has a clean silhouette with a distinctive front and rear.




The increase in size and some clever packaging mean that the Hyundai Verna is a very spacious car for its segment. Space at the back (a perennial complaint of the last-gen model) is now on par with the competition with a class-leading 528-litre boot. While being spacious, the rear bench is a lot more comfortable now with good quality materials used in the cabin and decent cushioning for the seats. You aren’t seated as low as before and view out the front is much better as well.


Step into the driver’s seat and you will notice that the interiors have received a massive upgrade. The minimalist and horizontally oriented dash incorporates full-width AC vents with LED ambient lighting that extends onto the doors in a claw-mark-like pattern.


The twin 10.25-inch displays feel premium but the instrument console offers very little that you wouldn’t find on cars like the i20. That said, the infotainment display (angled towards the driver) is high-res, responsive and has an intuitively laid-out set of functions. The two-spoke steering wheel is chunky, wrapped in leatherette and looks out of a spaceship, but is an odd design choice. It somehow feels upside down and it is hard to know if the steering is pointing in the right direction if you are not intently looking at it. Still, it isn’t something you won’t get used to after spending a few days with it. It does feel very well put together and rather premium though. Below the infotainment display, there is a switchable panel that controls the AC as well as the infotainment itself. A button on the top-right allows you to select which functions you want to control. It might look a little gimmicky and might not be as good as dedicated buttons, but it works well in practice and is a good solution to ensure fewer buttons and still offer some tactility to the controls.



Quality of materials and fit/finish are very good indeed with soft-touch materials in a number of places and no hard, scratchy plastics to be seen. There are two interior upholstery options – a beige and black finish that’s available with the 1.5-litre NA engine and a black on black with red accents on the turbo petrol engine variant. And there’s a 64-colour ambient lighting to add a sense of occasion to your night drives.




As with all new Hyundais, the Verna gets a long list of features. There’s heated and ventilated front seats, with power adjust for the driver (height adjust is manual). There’s a well-tuned 8-speaker Bose system, drive modes, wireless phone charging, wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (surprisingly), connected car tech, auto headlamps and more.



The Hyundai Verna uses radar modules (only on the Turbo variant) at the front and rear with the camera array for improved usability in low-visibility. Additionally, it gets a larger suite of ADAS tech than its rivals with things like front vehicle departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Apart from the ADAS tech on offer, it gets six airbags as standard, ABS, EBD, ESC, TPMS, hill-start assist and front and rear parking sensors.


Engine and transmission


With no diesel, the 1.5-litre MPi engine will be the mainstay of the range. Available with a 6-speed manual or an 8-step CVT, the engine is good for 115PS of power and 144Nm of torque. The Turbo variant gets a far more powerful engine (160PS) with the same capacity and allows the Verna to do the 0-100kmph sprint in 8.1 seconds – the best in the segment. It is available with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT.



We got to drive the non-Turbo variant on the outskirts of Gurgaon and were pleasantly surprised by the refinement of the engine and the cabin isolation of the Verna. Power is more than enough in the city and feels adequate on the highway. On the butter-smooth, arrow-straight Delhi Mumbai expressway, we were able to cruise effortlessly at triple digit speeds. The CVT gearbox seemed very well suited to the engine and the rubberband effect was only pronounced when we pushed the car on the highway. For daily driving, the engine-gearbox combo felt stress-free to use. With an ARAI efficiency figure nudging 20kmpl, it should prove to be efficient in the real world too. We will test that aspect of the Verna when we have it for a longer duration. Interestingly, the much more powerful Verna Turbo variants happen to be much more fuel efficient, on the ARAI test cycle at least.


Ride and handling


When it comes to ride and handling, the Verna has improved by leaps and bounds. The Verna is composed at high speeds, has great ride quality, especially over bad roads and handles predictably. The suspensions doesn’t crash over sharp bumps like the last-gen model while still ensuring that the ride stays comfortable. The steering appears to be a bit too light and isn’t exactly very communicative unlike a couple of its rivals. That said, we will reserve judgement on that front till we get a chance to show it some corners.



We had limited experience of the ADAS features – the adaptive cruise control is absent on the non-Turbo variants. However, we did get to witness Lane Keep Assist, and it worked predictably well with the newly-painted lane markings on the Delhi Mumbai Expressway. We will use other features of the ADAS suite once we get the car for a longer test.




With so much on offer, Hyundai could have gotten away with pricing the Verna a little above the threshold the competition has set. But Hyundai have decided to take on the competition and plan to double the sales volume of the Verna. With that goal in sight, the Verna starts at a very aggressive Rs. 10.90 lakh (ex-showroom) with the top-spec turbo variant coming in at Rs. 17.38 lakh (ex-showroom). While it might not excel when it comes to outright handling chops or fuel economy for that matter, it does everything very well. In this segment, that counts for a whole lot more than just acing one aspect. The Verna then is an easy car to recommend for most buyers.

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