2023 Hyundai Exter review, first drive - your first SUV?
If you are in the market for your first car, or you can't quite stop eyeing those SUVs that seem to be everywhere now, the Hyundai Exter is aimed at you. It's the smallest SUV that Hyundai makes now and is priced in a way that'll be easy for you to upgrade to from a hatch without stretching yourself too thin. So is it any good?
2023 Hyundai Exter styling, dimensions
The Hyundai Exter is 3,815mm long, 1,710mm wide and 1,631mm tall. This makes it the tallest car in its segment although rivals are longer and wider. That said, there's quite a bit of that aggressive SUV character that you are looking for when you see the Exter head-on.
The H-pattern LED DRLs with the connecting dark strip are neatly executed, especially with the chunky bonnet merging into this. The large Exter lettering is eye-catching too. But the largely blanked-out and ridged grille section, with the crisp square headlamp housing, has an appealingly tough look. A sense furthered by the air dam below with the slightly forced imitation screws in the silver skid plates. As is now the norm with Hyundais, there are no foglamps which we don't think is the right way to go.
Hyundai has tried to carry this rough-and-tumble image over to the profile of the Exter, although the results are a bit of a mixed bag. The boxy wheel arches with the heavy cladding and the sharply cut haunches over these, especially at the rear, are well done. But we do think the glass house could have been treated more proportionately, a feeling enhanced by the high roof and the quick thick C-pillars. The alloy wheels are quite smartly designed which do compensate to an extent for them being maybe a size too small.
The rear of the Exter is fairly neatly executed, starting with the contoured spoiler's sporty touch. Carrying over from the front, the H-pattern LED detailing of the taillamps, which are connected by more of the gloss black texture make for a contemporary look, which may be could have been enhanced further by a touch more contouring. Some of that SUV toughness also comes from the oversized silver cladding in the bumper.
2023 Hyundai Exter interiors, features, space
The cabin of the Hyundai Exter is more familiar ground. The dash has been lifted straight from the related Nios and Aura which is no bad thing. It immediately gives the Exter quite a well-finished look, despite the all-black look of these dual-tone versions and without much of the outside SUV theme carried over here. The subtle splash of colour around the events and climate knobs maybe could have been extended further, but as is the case with most Hyundais, you find yourself in a cabin that is impressively finished for the price.
There are no soft surfaces to speak of but the smooth finish of the glossy sections on the passenger side and around the centre console feel quite soothing. The plastics are par for the course for this segment but are consistently fitted and the switchgear functions with tactility. The footwell lighting and the metal finish to the pedals in the AMT version add to this sense of quality.
Another strong attribute of the Exter is its screens, both now familiar Hyundai fare. The touchscreen is the 8-inch unit but gets the fluid new interface and is about as intuitive as you would need it to be. with a host of connected tech and the ambient sounds of nature, although wireless Android Auto/Apple Carplay has been given a miss here. The colour MID flanked by the LCD readouts isn't our favourite but lends the cabin a premium appearance at this price point.
The Exter could quite well be your first family car. In that regard, the small SUV gives you well-upholstered seats which look quite premium. The contouring on the front seats is also comfortable enough for shorter city commutes although the flat cushioning might make longer journeys a touch tiring. With a 2,450mm wheelbase and the high roof, further scooped out, there's quite some leg and headroom for the second row of passengers. The sunroof and windows enhance this spaciousness.
The bench is wide enough to hold two adults comfortably, with a child squeezed in occasionally although we wish it held you in place better. The flat base and mild seatback contouring aren't the most comfortable. Thigh support too could have been better. We also wish the plushness of the front row had been fully realized here too. There's not much to break up the monotony of the grey plastic here and the exposed seatbelt mechanism for the front seats also feels a touch basic. You are well taken care of though with the rear vents and two type C charge ports.
Also favouring the Exter is its tempting features list. You get climate control, cruise control, wireless charging and auto headlamps.
2023 Hyundai Exter driving impressions
The Hyundai Exter is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol as in the Nios and Aura. This makes 83PS and 114 Nm, but its best quality is the way it makes driving easy. It's a four-cylinder unit and general refinement levels are impressive. You don't notice it all that much as long as you keep things calm, staying fairly quiet and free of apparent vibrations.
There's also a good deal of low-end torque, which makes manoeuvring the Exter in stop-start conditions quite smooth. It's quite easy to keep pace with traffic although you do which for a bit more mid-range performance. This shows itself when you need to make quicker overtakes out on the highway, although a bit of anticipation sorts you out.
New drivers will also appreciate that the Exter's clutch is light and progressive while the five-speed manual falls to hand easily with its positioning. It also slots into gears precisely and without much effort. But the highlight of the Exter's drivetrain is the AMT. In sedate driving, you barely notice it change gears. It'll even run up or down the gearbox quite intuitively, balancing efficiency and performance. The gamechanger though are the paddle shifters. Using this dials out the hesitation from the AMT during hard acceleration. The Exter shifts much quicker with this and makes for a more confident driving experience in these situations as compared to other AMT-equipped cars.
The Exter also impresses with its ride quality. It maybe doesn't feel as substantial as some rivals on the move, but it'll still do a commendable job of soaking up most kinds of imperfections. You find yourself travelling over broken roads confidently with only deeper potholes jarring you somewhat. The steering is quite light and there could have been a touch more linearity as you turn in but in traffic or at speed there's enough assurance coming through to not leave you second-guessing.
Clearly, the Exter isn't meant for the enthusiast so it handles in an inoffensive way. There's a touch more lean than you would like around corners given the soft suspension but as long as you keep speeds within limits there are no surprises coming your way. The skinny 175-section tyres' deficiencies only show up in high-speed stability, to a small extent. It stays true more often than not, but can sometimes feel snatchy over small undulations. That said, the brakes are well-judged in their functioning.
2023 Hyundai Exter safety
The Exter makes a good case for it itself on the safety front, on paper at least. It's got six airbags as standard while stability control and hill-hold are available optionally. Top spec variants get a crisp camera, TPMS and the slightly gimmicky dashcam. That being said, the Exter is still based on the same architecture as the Nios and Aura which haven't scored all that well in NCAP tests and there's not much to suggest that structurally there has been much done to address this.
2023 Hyundai Exter price, verdict
The price is just right, starting at Rs 5.99 lakh and topping out at Rs 10.10 lakh. The Exter could have done with a more proportionate design and the ambience at the rear could have been a touch more polished. But it's got quite a few positives too. The driving experience, especially the smooth engine and AMT, along with the comfortable ride will be a big draw. The space inside is another great attribute as is the long list of safety features. The Hyundai Exter has quite a lot going for it to be your first SUV, especially since there's a lack of too many credible alternatives in this segment.
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