The Ford Fiesta is one of the all time great superminis. It offers an almost unassailable blend of handling and refinement while being pleasingly compact, usefully efficient and reasonably priced. The latest Hyundai i20 competes with the Fiesta and, considering how improved it is over the previous model, it might have what it takes to top the Ford…
We’re focusing on the picks of each respective engine range – the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrols. The two units each offer the best blend of performance and efficiency, so which tiny petrol is the one to go for?
If you’ve picked the one you prefer, put either the Ford Fiesta or the Hyundai i20 in our car configurator to see the deals carwow could help you get. For more options, check out our list of the best cars costing less than £10,000.
Ford Fiesta vs Hyundai i20 – styling
The basic shape of the current Fiesta has been with us since 2009, so it’s a reassuringly familiar face on UK roads. A 2012 facelift pushed it upmarket thanks to an Aston Martin-esque front grille design. Despite its age, the Fiesta still has a sharp and squat presence, whether viewed in a three-door or five-door style.
Hyundai has taken a slightly different approach with the i20 – offering two body shapes, each with its own distinct look. The three-door hatch (referred to, confusingly, as a coupe) has a much more rakish side window line for a sportier profile. The front and back receive unique bumper design and subtly reshaped head and tail lights making it look a little sharper than the five-door. Nevertheless, both feature more cohesive styling than Hyundais of old.
Ford Fiesta vs Hyundai i20 – interior
To some, the Fiesta’s cabin design might be something of an acquired taste. The slightly quirky layout has become more familiar over the years, but other areas including the needlessly fiddly audio controls, small and outdated infotainment system and cheap-feeling plastics let the side down compared to the i20.
Though the Hyundai’s dashboard design is a little plain, it’s much more user friendly than the Fiesta. It’s more spacious, too. There’s loads of space inside, with four adults able to get comfy with ease. At 326 litres, the boot is more generously sized than the Fiesta’s 290-litre load bay. The i20’s mix of passenger and luggage accommodation doesn’t just beat the Fiesta hands-down, it’s one of the best in the class.
Ford Fiesta vs Hyundai i20 – driving
If there’s one area where the Fiesta excels, it’s the way it combines fantastic handling with impressive comfort. Almost no cars in this price bracket get anywhere near its balance of ride and handling. Thanks to an agile chassis, well-controlled body movement and intuitive controls, even basic Fiestas are a hoot to drive. What astonishes in equal measure, however, is the fact the Fiesta can feel like a hot hatch when the mood takes you but becomes a comfy, secure cruiser when you just need to get home.
The Hyundai i20 is the ideal choice for those who prioritise comfort above all else. The Fiesta may ride smoothly on the whole but the i20 is softer still – very large potholes that might crash through the Fiesta’s cabin are much better suppressed in the i20. The steering isn’t as responsive as the Ford’s and it doesn’t offer the sense of agility on the move rather a sense of unruffled stability.
Ford Fiesta vs Hyundai i20 – engines
Ford was one of the first to introduce a downsized three-cylinder engine to its mainstream supermini range. The tiny EcoBoost motor is found in several of Ford’s models, but it’s best suited to the lightweight Fiesta. Available with 99, 123 or 138hp, all models deliver low CO2 emissions and high mpg figures. The lesser two units claim 65.7mpg, and the third 62.8mpg. While this might be difficult to replicate in the real world – especially if driven with enthusiasm – they’re firmly among the most fuel-sipping petrols on sale.
Performance ranges from adequate in the 99hp model up to ‘warm hatch’ territory in the 138hp Zetec S, and all have a pleasing thrum under acceleration which is typical of a three-cylinder unit.
Hyundai’s alternative to the Ford EcoBoost unit achieves similar on-paper scores. Two versions are offered – one with 99hp, the other with 118hp – while, depending on spec, it achieves between 58.9 and 65.7mpg. It’s certainly the engine to go for in the i20 range – the diesel models may be slightly more economical but the petrol is £700 cheaper than the slower and less refined 1.4 diesel.
On the road, the i20’s 1.0-litre arguably feels better than the Fiesta’s. It delivers its power in a more linear manner rather than in one go like the Fiesta making it feel lighter on its feet. Refinement is excellent when cruising, but it makes a little more noise when accelerating – this is either a negative or a positive depending on your tastes but it sounds pleasingly ‘thrummy’ when you floor it.
Ford Fiesta vs Hyundai i20 – value for money
While Hyundai was once considered a budget brand, vast improvements in quality and style have pushed it upmarket. This is reflected in the price, however – the i20s now costs just as much the equivalent Fiesta. They’re similarly equipped, too – entry-level Fiesta Studio models offer electric windows and remote central locking, though the basic i20 S adds heated door mirrors to that list, too.
Further up the range, each offers their own unique niceties. The Hyundai is the first car in its class to offer a panoramic sunroof, while Ford’s electrically heated windscreen allows a much easier start to frosty mornings.
The Fiesta achieved a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating compared to the i20’s four but the Hyundai was tested in more recent (and therefore significantly more stringent) tests. The Hyundai fared better in pedestrian safety tests, while the Ford’s higher child occupant score makes it the better choice if you have a young family.
Ford Fiesta vs Hyundai i20 – verdict
In isolation, the i20 is an extremely worthy supermini – it’s both roomier and more comfortable than the Ford and well-equipped across the range. The excellent 1.0-litre petrol unit only helps to make it more desirable, promising low running costs, peppy acceleration and good value for money.
The Fiesta manages to edge the i20 in a few key areas, which might be enough to sway buyers towards the Ford. It isn’t noticeably less comfortable than the i20 but is much more fun to drive, the petrol 1.0-litre engine is slightly more powerful and economical if not quite as linear, and its more compact dimensions make it slightly easier to park.
With prices and equipment levels so closely matched, it depends where your priorities lie. If you regularly carry several taller passengers and would rather be cosseted than entertained behind the wheel, the i20 might be the better bet. If that isn’t so much of an issue, we’d say the Fiesta narrowly wins this contest.
Save money on your next supermini
Head over to the Ford Fiesta deals page to check out the savings on our worthy winner. Prefer the comfier Hyundai? Take a look at the Hyundai i20 deals page to spec the Korean alternative. If you’d like to check out more of the supermini competition, our car chooser is here to help.