The EON is the smallest car that Hyundai has ever made in India. Although in sheer dimensions, it might not be that much smaller than a Santro, it feels small inside. It is priced below the Santro to take on the sales-daddy of the Indian automotive market, the Maruti Alto.
Honestly, having owned an Alto for seven years, the first car I ever owned, before I recently switched to a Hyundai i20, I have a soft spot for the Maruti vehicle.
In pics: Hyundai Eon launched at Rs 2.69 lakh
But, if you remove comparisons to any other vehicle save the Alto and the Chevrolet Spark, which also competes in a similar price band, the EON compares extremely favourably. The first point of comparison is looks and here the EON wins hands down. Hyundai's latest car features the same 'fluidic' design as the much bigger Verna.
A new Eon on Indian roads
Casey Hyun from Hyundai's Korean design centre told me during the launch that they wanted the sharp flowing shoulder line and an arced bottom line for the rear three-quarter of the car, with the carmaker having developed technologies that make these sharp design features easy to stamp out and match to the neighbouring panels. It might look easy, but having visited over twenty auto manufacturing plants over the past decade, let me assure you it is not.
Inside, well, the car is small. But it looks quite nice upfront, where a very smart centre console dominates. I was driving the 'Sportz' top-level specification of the EON that comes with an inbuilt entertainment system with iPod connectivity. In small cars, these systems often look and feel cheap, but they do not in the EON. The same goes with the overall quality of the plastics. As an owner of an i20, I must admit the EON's plastics are as good and as solid.
When it comes to drivability, the EON cannot and should not be compared to anything other than its competition. Yes, the car's tiny 814cc engine does have quite a bit of top-end power of 55 hp, but the car really needs to be pushed to get there, not that much different from the Alto. Again, much like the Alto, the steering feels incredibly light, and one has to be in full small-car mode when driving this car. Once there, the drive is not half-bad. Not great, but keep in mind this is a very small car.
But being what it is, the EON is also incredibly easy to negotiate out of tight spaces, and having driven a Santro and i10 as well, I can state that I believe the EON will get out of tight spaces easier than its larger siblings. But high-speed handling is something, well, you don't really want to test hard on an EON. While not a Santro-style tallboy in design, the car is high, with a high centre of gravity coupled with small, thin wheels. But it is not a car that begs to be thrown into a turn. The suspension is set up to be soft, so it can handle Indian roads, but this isn't a car you want to really take on a rally circuit. In fact, nothing has ever come close to the Maruti 800 in terms of small car handling albeit the current iteration of that car doesn't feel half as good as earlier ones.
If you are looking to buy a car exactly at the Rs 3 lakh price barrier, you really can't do much worse than the EON. At its pricing, the EON is possibly the best buy on Indian roads today. That said, the Sportz model, I tested costs Rs 3.75 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. That is a lot and also in Hyundai i10 territory. Sure, the EON will return much better economy than the i10, but the i10 is far better to drive. The Era specification at Rs 3.15 lakh or the Magna specification at Rs 3.4 lakh is better bang for the buck. They may not have all the toys but mechanically they are the same.