£8,995 - £13,540 Price range
4 - 5 Seats
45 - 70 MPG
Launched back in 2007, the Hyundai i10 was the first of a generation of new Hyundais that were built to take rivals head on – rather than offering a substandard car with lots of equipment and a rock-bottom price.
Since then, there’s been an all-model, and this is the facelifted version of that car freshened up to compete with the VW Up that ‘coincidentally’ has also just been treated to a light nip and tuck. The i10 is the first model to get the firm’s new ‘cascading’ grille, but the rest of the visual changes are limited to new front and rear bumpers, plus updated LED daytime running lights on high-end models.
Go for top-of-the-range SE Premium trim and inside you’ll find a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav display complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. lower-end models do without that lot, but still offer space for four, a boot big enough for the weekly shop and the practicality of front and rear passenger doors.
Safety has also been boosted to include the £275 driver assistance pack, which warns if the car is swerving out of lane or about to be involved in a head-on collision – in case you didn’t notice all by yourself.
What hasn’t changed is the engine range – a problem when many of the i10’s rivals are now armed with zippy small-capacity turbo units. Instead, the Hyundai gets a choice of 1.0 or 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrols. A five-speed manual comes as standard, but the larger engine can also be paired with a yawn-inducing four-speed automatic.
Putting the smile back on your face is the nippy handling, with steering that feels more positive than before and suspension that is more compliant.
Basic models cost less than £10,000 so we can forgive the lack of air-conditioning – they come with electric front windows and remote central locking – nevertheless, SE models get air-con and cruise control that means they offer the best value in the range.
The i10’s interior has taken a big step. Where once uniform grey plastic dominated, the new car has a splash of colour and a more interesting design. The dashboard’s large expanses of plastics give the feel of a bigger car and there isn’t the exposed metal that you may expect to find in a budget hatchback.
The new seven-inch display is located in the dashboard – rather than sprouting from it – so it looks properly incorporated into the rest of the interior, unlike the one you get in the Up, which requires your mobile phone to be mounted to the top of the dash. As well as being compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it also gives live traffic updates.
So the i10 is a nice place to sit, but you miss out on the playful feel that makes VW Up so appealing – it’s more customisable and features larger swathes of bright colours. Well built as the i10 is, it still can’t match the baby VW when it comes offering the kind of build quality you might expect to find in a pricy Audi.
Hyundai i10 passenger space
What can’t be denied is that the i10 is impressively practical for a car of its size. Its five-door-only layout makes it easy access the front and rear seats, and four adults can fit in without feeling too squeezed. Unlike is some rivals, there is space and a seat belt for a fifth passenger, but getting them in will require a certain amount of wedging.
Space for smaller items is also pretty decent – the i10’s glovebox is big and all the doorbins can swallow a bottle of water. The windy rear windows, which let in a good deal more air than the pop-out versions you get in cars such as the Citroen C1, are another bonus.
Hyundai i10 boot space
With 252 litres of space with the seats up, rising to 1,046 litres when you fold them away, the i10 has the biggest boot in its class. The only downside is that the seats do not fall flat on the floor and the high load lip makes loading long and heavy items trickier.
The i10’s small size makes it perfectly suited to taking on everything an inner city can throw at it. It can squeeze through tight spaces and is easy to park, and the facelifted model’s quicker steering rack means it can scurry into gaps with minimum fuss.
While doing all this, it also exhibits a more comfortable ride than many of its rivals. Bumps and ripples in the road are shrugged off without upsetting passengers, it’s another factor that makes the i10 feel bigger than it actually is.
Outside the city’s limits, its large-car feel really pays off. There’s impressively little wind, road and engine noise to contend with at a cruise so even long journeys won’t prove overbearing.
Peel off the motorway and onto a B road and the i10 continues to impress with its well-reined-in body roll and enthusiastic steering. However, the twisting roads of countryside do highlight one of the i10’s weaknesses – engines that have little of the overtaking power offered by turbo-charged rivals.
There are just two engines available in the new i10, both designed to sip petrol.
The first is a 1.0-litre unit with three cylinders and a modest 66hp output. That doesn’t sound a lot on paper and, as it takes 14.9 seconds to get from 0-62mph, it doesn’t feel like a lot in the real world either. Saving graces are that it is both characterful and refined.
With a top speed of 96mph, it’s not as suited to motorway travel as the brawnier 1.2 though – the four-cylinder unit makes 87hp and knocks almost three seconds from the 0-62mph sprint – getting there in 12.1 seconds, it’s still some way off the 9.9 seconds a turbocharged 1.0-litre Up can manage. It’s more refined than the basic engine, but not quite as economical – returning 57.6mpg compared to the 1.0’s 60-65mpg. Whichever i10 you choose, road tax will cost no more than £20 a year.
So long as you stick with the slick and easy-to-use manual gearbox that is. Going for the four-speed automatic sees economy drop as low as 45mpg and increases road tax costs significantly so that you’ll pay £130 a year for the 1.0-litre and £145 for the 1.2-litre model.
Refinement is pretty good - more than once it's described as being quieter than the VW Up, the current class-leader, and while the larger 1.2 is more refined the 1.0 is still very good in this respect. Throw in economy up to 65.7 mpg in the Blue Drive and you've got a frugal, fun, affordable engine.
The i10 does plenty to dispel the myth that small city cars only get basic levels of equipment. Even entry-level S models come complete with kit such as remote central locking and electric front windows and while the wheels only get cheap plastic trims, the sporty rear spoiler adds a little flair to the exterior.
Hyundai i10 SE
Really, though, you’d be daft not to go for the SE model. For around £1,250 more it adds body coloured wing mirrors – which are heated and electrically adjustable – and body coloured door handles. Inside, there’s useful kit such as air-con, a DAB digital radio with Bluetooth, and cruise control that’ll take the strain out of long hikes down the motorway. SE buyers also have the option to ditch the boring black interior trim in favour of red or blue highlights that brighten things up no end.
Hyundai i10 SE Blue
What range would be complete without a fuel-saving ‘blue’ model? Well, not the i10’s at least – Blue models get a weight-saving four-seat layout, stop-start engine tech, and smaller 13-inch wheels – all of which helps them return range-leading fuel economy of 70.6mpg with the 1.0-litre engine.
Hyundai i10 Premium
Premium models look, well, a good deal more premium thanks to their rear window privacy glass, 14-inch alloy wheels and LED daytime runnings lights. Inside, you also get climate control and a steering wheel and gear knob that’s trimmed in leather.
Hyundai i10 Premium SE
The main lure of the SE Premium model is its seven-inch touchscreen system that – aside from giving you the benefits of smartphone compatibility, sat-nav and live traffic updates – also serves to make the interior looks considerably more modern thanks to its clear and colourful graphics.
With a choice of nine paint finishes – including vibrant shades such as Mandarin Orange and Passion Red – and three interior colour schemes, the facelifted i10 makes a blatant play for the younger end of the market. Sadly, though, the funky VW Up still has that side of things all sewn up.
Where the i10 makes sense is as a car that you buy with your head. It can’t offer the VW’s badge kudos, but take the plunge and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent five-year warranty, lots of standard equipment, a surprisingly refined driving experience and oodles of practicality for one so small. It’s the sensible choice that can be fun when the mood presents itself and is our pick of the class for that reason.