For the most part, the Hyundai Aura is just a mild rehash of the Xcent – the compact sedan it effectively replaces in the brand’s line-up. It has the same basic shape and more or less the same dimensions. It has, of course, been updated with all the modern trappings our ever-hungry (at times unreasonably so) market demands, but there’s one thing we didn’t expect to find in a compact sedan, and it’s something I suspect no potential customers would’ve asked for either. Stay with me.

First, though, after a year of running a midsize sedan – the simple but incredibly competent Maruti Suzuki Ciaz – it was time to switch back to a compact sedan. The size of the car wouldn’t be an issue since my usage is mostly alone, and in the stifling bustle of Mumbai’s rush-hour, the smaller the better. I was more concerned that moving a segment lower might see me give up some creature comforts. But this is Hyundai so, apart from perhaps auto headlamps, the Aura matched up and then some. It even has a wireless phone charger. Particularly impressive is the single-piece binnacle for the large 8.0-inch touchscreen and the instrument cluster, which is a very premium touch.

WELL KITTED: Equipment matches a class above; typical Hyundai.

I don’t care much for the way the car looks on the outside. Though the proportions are pretty good (by the low standard of compact sedans) and there are some dramatic details, it all looks a bit discordant. But I also don’t care, because I spend my time in the driver’s seat, and that experience is top-notch. They’ve really upped the material quality this time, and there’s a richness to this interior that belies its price and segment. Knurled switchgear, rotary air-con vents that twirl shut, rich fabric upholstery; it’s got the lot. Plus, this version has red accents in all the right places, which signals its sporty intent.

WHAT YOU SEE: Styling is a mishmash of too many radical elements.

And that brings us on to that one unique item. It’s a 1.0-litre, direct injection turbo-petrol engine that makes 100hp and 172Nm of torque! Other carmakers had (admittedly expensive) engines like this but reserved them for a single halo performance model, not wanting to risk negative perception of a displacement that was too low or cylinders (three) that were too few. And now those engines are gone. Hyundai, instead, is making sure it offers this unit in as many cars as possible, thus helping broaden its acceptance.

ROCKET POWER: 100hp turbo engine is a firecracker.

It’s a risk I’m happy they took because this incredible little motor turns this shrew of a sedan into an absolute rocket. The best part is that it’s really smooth and docile crawling off the line; so you don’t get a sense of the power until you really floor it. And this being my first time driving the Aura Turbo, you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I did. The rest of the car struggles to keep up, actually – the front tyres scrabble for grip and there’s loads of torque steer, which is something Hyundai should look into in the long run. It’s exciting at best, but a little unsettling at worst.

Due to the lockdown, my time driving the car has been brief, but suffice it to say, I plan to put many memorable miles on this unexpectedly interesting little Hyundai.

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