£10,180 - £13,680 Price range
47 - 76 MPG
The popularity of Hyundai’s i20 took off with the government scrappage scheme a few years back. For not much more than the price of the cheapest new car on sale today, the Dacia Sandero, you could get hold of a talented supermini with Hyundai’s rapidly improving quality levels.
For most buyers, that was a no-brainer and while the scrappage scheme is no longer active, the i20 has improved further.
Should you hunt one down for a test drive?
The inside of the i20 looks much the same as its pre-facelift predecessor, but Hyundai has improved the quality of some of the plastics. Some trim parts feel flimsy though and the trip computer integrated into the top of the dashboard looks dated.
In the i20’s favour, stowage space within the cabin is good, with cup holders, cubbyholes and an air-conditioned glovebox. The driving position also has a good range of adjustment in both wheel and seat, and there’s a lot of space for rear passengers. One review even notes that it’s possible to seat one six-footer behind another – rare in this class.
You won’t find any Ford Fiesta-style balance or fun here. Instead, the i20 is geared towards ease of use. The steering, clutch, gearshift, throttle and brakes are all light and easy to use. The compliant ride in town and tight turning circle fit the brief.
While those pootling around town will find this ideal, drivers who venture further afield may not. There’s plenty of body roll and not a great deal of grip, while the oddly weighted steering doesn’t really let you know when it’s about to run out. It’s fine on motorways though, with a reasonable ride and low levels of road and wind noise.
There are three engines available in the i20: 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrols (the latter with an optional auto gearbox) and a 1.4 diesels in low-emission ‘Blue Drive’ spec.
The smaller petrol is smooth and refined in isolation, while more powerful and parsimonious than before. It doesn’t impress as much if tested back-to-back with rivals, but it’s quick enough for the i20 and returns 57.6mpg. The 1.4 is more powerful but doesn’t feel much quicker – though it’s the only option for folk who want or need an automatic option.
The diesel is a better engine and at 96g/km it ducks into VED (road tax) band A for an annual tax bill of zero. It’s not significantly slower than the petrol and the torque makes it a better motorway prospect.
It certainly isn’t a fast car, at 15.7 seconds to 62 mph, but nor does it feel under-endowed out on the road. One reviewer, comparing to his old 1.2 petrol i20, says it makes “a better fist of motorway miles, being both quieter, thanks to its sixth gear, and having more oomph”. Another says it’s “remarkably refined” with little vibration at idle.
It’s not as good to drive as the diesels, though. Testers say it takes time for the 1.2 to get up to speed, and you have to work it hard to get there. It’s not a pleasant process either, since “throttle response is slow, and once the revs do start to climb, it sounds rough and intrusive”. At a cruise it’s “quiet and subdued”, but having to slow down means having to change down through the (slightly notchy) gearbox and start the process again.
The diesels don’t have to work as hard so unless you’re sticking around town, they may be the better options.
The i20 performed well when tested by Euro NCAP in 2009. It rated well over 80% in the adult & child occupant safety categories and for the safety assist category too.
Six airbags, stability control and active head rests to prevent whiplash all contribute to a very creditable score.
The i20 is both affordable and well-equipped, so represents strong value. Hyundai’s ‘Triple Care’ package is also standard, which means five years of unlimited-mileage warranty, RAC roadside assistance and annual health checks. That’s something few other rivals offer.
Economy is also good on the diesels (though they’re more expensive than petrol models). Unfortunately, it’ll never be quite as good value as its scrappage scheme-assisted predecessor.
There’s plenty to like about the i20 and the generally positive reviews reflect this. In isolation it’s a perfectly good car, very easy to drive and well-equipped.
However, it’s ultimately not as talented as some rivals, has so-so looks, and still feels a little cheap in places. Take look at rivals such as the Kia Picanto and Skoda Fabia to see how other cars in this class handle the same job as the i20.
Sound like your kind of car?
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