Hyundai i20

Stylish supermini is a genuine VW Polo rival

7.3
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 4 reviews
  • Spacious cabin
  • Generous equipment levels
  • Sharp styling
  • Sub-par dynamics
  • Sedate performance
  • Some rivals are more fun
 

£10,995 - £17,700 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

44 - 88 MPG

Review

The Hyundai i20 was a car that first gained popularity when the government scrappage scheme allowed buyers to pick them up at a bargain price. Then it was so cheap that it was easy to overlook its flaws, but now the deals are no longer available the i20 needs to offer more to compete with the best in the class.

Hyundai hopes the new-for-2015 model sees to that. Great effort has been made to make the supermini more contemporary looking quieter inside and more spacious. According to testers the changes have been a great success, but are they enough for it to be considered a serious alternative to the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta?

We tested an i20 for a week in 2015 to look at the areas most reviewers don’t cover. Other than fact you can’t get DAB (digital) radio, and the slightly unexciting driving experience, we thought that there’s a lot to like about the small Hyundai. You can see our thoughts by reading our 10 Hyundai i20 facts you should know article.

Hyundai introduced a handful of equipment and engine updates at the start of 2016 including a new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine – even modest SE models now get DAB radio, rear parking sensors and alloy wheels. Remember to check out our handy Hyundai i20 dimensions guide too.

Cheapest to buy: 1.2-litre S petrol

Cheapest to run: 1.1-litre Blue S diesel

Fastest model: 1.0-litre 120 Premium

Most popular: 1.2-litre SE petrol

The previous interior received criticism from all angles (ourselves included) for looking rather bland and dated. The same can’t be said for the i20 now. A huge leap forward has seen the old fascia ditched in favour of a clean, modern style constructed from soft touch plastics. An optional two-tone finish to the dash looks attractive, and there’s even a glass panoramic roof available on the top-spec premium SE models.

At 326 litres, the boot is one of the biggest in its class. The passengers fare well too, with plenty of room in the cabin. Three adults should fit comfortably on the rear bench.

Hyundai has worked hard to improve the refinement of the i20, and on the whole it has payed off. Additional sound deadening has been squeezed in and around the noisy bits, and the work done becomes immediately apparent when you realise how quiet it is for a small car.

Overall the ride is soft, but it can become fidgety over broken road surfaces. One tester notes that there isn’t enough travel in the suspension, which means that once loaded up with passengers the i20 “thuds into larger imperfections” on the road. 

The handling balance is described as “safe” and the steering “nicely weighted”. Despite the improvements, the i20 still can’t compete with the Fiesta dynamically – but it’s the most fun-to-drive car in class.

The 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrols, and 1.1 and 1.4-litre diesel are carried over from the previous model but the headline addition is the new 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol. This unit comes in 99 and 118hp versions with the former capable of under 100g/km of CO2 emissions in SE trim.

The pick of the range is now the aforementioned 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol. It’s the best to drive everyday with smooth power delivery and plenty of torque, and offers the best compromise between performance and economy.

The six-speed gearbox is more precise than in the old i20, but one or two critics suggest that it still lacks the precision of Volkswagen’s manual ‘box.

The headline figure here is 88.3 - that’s how many miles you’ll apparently go on a gallon of diesel, in the 1.1 CRDi ‘Blue’. Whether you’ll get close to that in the real world is up for debate, and even the 74.3 mpg of the regular 1.1 CRDi could be optimistic, but the CRDi has plenty of virtues besides economy.

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.

Although the 74 horsepower 3-cylinder unit is rather sluggish – 0-62mph takes a very leisurely 15.5 seconds – the fuel economy more than compensates. Thanks to the fitment of stop/start technology it'll return a claimed 88mpg, and emissions are low enough for road tax to be free. Insurance costs are low, too. Just make sure you plan to set off nice and early…
The 1.2 is available in two states of tune. Road testers recommend the more powerful of the two as the strongest option in the petrol range, as performance isn't far shy of the larger 1.4, but it returns superior fuel economy and emissions are low enough to drop car tax into the £30 bracket (rather than the 1.4's £110).
The cheapest way into a Hyundai i20 is with the 1.2 petrol, which starts at under £10,000 in Classic 3-door form. In emissions band C it’ll cost you very little to tax too, if not completely free like its diesel counterparts. Official combined economy is a useful 57.6 mpg - enough to make you think twice about one of the diesels, given their extra purchase price and the extra cost of the fuel itself.

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 1.4 diesel is described as "smooth and punchy" by testers, and it arguably offers the best real-world performance due to its healthy 177lb-ft of torque. At 68mpg it isn't the most economical diesel in the class, but refinement is better than the equivalent Fiesta.
These are general, non-engine specific reviews of the new Hyundai i20.

The previous version of the i20 achieved a very credible result when tested by Euro NCAP, so thanks to the stiffer bodyshell and increased safety equipment, Hyundai predict that the i20 will fare even better.

That safety tech includes a glut of airbags, electronic stability control, ABS and two Isofix points in the rear for child seats all as standard. Meanwhile SE models upwards gain lane departure warning, rear parking sensors and cruise control.

While the jump up in style and quality means that Hyundais aren’t offered at the same low prices that they used to be, the i20 still costs about £1,000 less than an equivalent Volkswagen Polo.

The fuel economy is decent for the diesels, and the five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty offers plenty of piece of mind in the unlikely event that anything does go wrong. 

Conclusion

There’s plenty to like about the i20 and the generally positive reviews reflect this. It is a huge jump forward from the previous model and in terms of style and quality it can compete with the best that European rivals have to offer.

However, it’s ultimately not as fun to drive as some rivals, and the more basic engines let the side down. Despite these flaws, this is the first time that the Korean manufacturer have built something that stands up so well beside the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta.

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