£10,695 - £16,725 Price range
42 - 88 MPG
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 superminimore 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?
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 have 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.
There are five engines to choose from in the i20: two diesel and three petrol units. Petrol models produce 74, 83 and 99hp, while the 1.1 and 1.4-litre diesels produce 74hp and 89hp respectively. The engines in the i20 have been carried over from the previous model, and based on the opinions of road testers, rather let the side down.
The pick of the range is the 1.4-litre diesel. It’s the best to drive everyday and offers the best compromise between performance and economy, even if it is somewhat unremarkable.
The six-speed gearbox is more precise than in the old i20, but one or two critics suggest that it still lacks precision.
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 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.
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 sluggish 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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