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
  • Not fun to drive
  • Sedate performance
  • Rivals are more exciting
 

£10,995 - £17,700 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

44 - 88 MPG

Review

This version of the Hyundai i20 has only been on sale since 2014 but, such is the fast pace of the South Korean company’s development strategy, it’s already been facelifted. Hyundai has also added a slightly taller version, which we’ve reviewed separately – it’s called the i20 Active.

The revised car brings some minor cosmetic updates and specification changes, but it’s the all-new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that is the biggest talking point.

It offers the performance of the old 1.4-litre model while improving fuel economy and lowering CO2 emissions. For the first time the i20 now has the powertrain to compete with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa.

Elsewhere the changes are less notable. You can now specify an intergrated TomTom sat-nav system and a full-length panoramic sunroof (a class first, says Hyundai). But aside from these additions the interior remains as before, with space for four adults, a decent boot and an unobtrusive dashboard design that’s low on flair.

That’s also true of the driving experience, which is competent and comfortable but not as engaging as a Fiesta – thanks mostly to steering that lacks weight and feel – taking something away from the fun of cornering.

The amount of standard equipment on the basic i20 come as quite a surprise and includes electric front windows, remote central locking, plus electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors. Most buyers are expected to go for SE, which adds essential air conditioning.

Hyundai is preparing to launch a hot hatch i20 that will sport an i20 N badge. See how we think it could look in our dedicated i20 N price, specs and release date article

The improvements Hyundai has made to interior quality in the past few years can really be seen in the i20. It has more soft-touch plastics than a Skoda Fabia and to our eyes the design is less spartan. It’s also very easy to operate with knobs for the stereo and ventilation system that are easy to use. Thankfully there’s no need to scroll through infotainment sub menus simply to turn up the heat as you do in the Peugeot 208.

Basic models come with a 3.2-inch LCD display that is perfectly functional, but a little cheap looking. Hyundai provides a useful mobile phone charging dock on the top of the dashboard which means you can use your phone’s sat-nav as you drive. Top-end models come with a seven-inch infotainment screen and TomTom sat-nav as standard. Programming the system is simple and its guidance easy to follow, plus the clear graphics lift the rest of the interior.

Hyundai has given plenty of thought when it comes to storage and there’re dockets, door bins, cupholders and the like everywhere you look, which should make it easy to keep the interior tidy even when exposed to kids and the paraphernalia that comes with them.

Hyundai i20 passenger space

Thanks to a wheelbase that’s 45mm longer than the old model’s, the i20 has a decent amount of interior space and the range of adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat mean it’s easy to get comfortable. Even with two tall adults in the front, there’s room for two more in the back if the rear-seat passengers don’t mind splaying their legs, but getting a fifth passenger in might not be so easy. Its added convenience means the five-door model is the one to go for if you’ll regularly transport more than two people.

Hyundai i20 boot space

A 326-litre boot cements the Hyundai i20’s reputation as one of the more practical superminis on the market. It’s bigger than the load bay in the Ford Fiesta (290 litres), Vauxhall Corsa (280 litres) and just four litres short of the capacity offered by the Skoda Fabia. The three-door model’s is a little smaller (with 311 litres of space), but you would struggle to notice the difference. The i20’s boot lid lifts up to reveal a large opening and a small load lip that makes it easy to store luggage.

There’s very little to dislike about the way the Hyundai i20 drives. Its suspension displays the excellent balance that used to be the preserve of Ford’s models – managing to be comfortable even on bumpy B-roads, yet preventing the body roll that might put you off swinging into corners at pace.

If we were to complain about something it would be the steering. Offering very little in the way of feel, it doesn’t weigh up in corners as much as we would like and, although accurate, could do with being a little quicker turning from lock to lock. That might not be a problem in the low-powered five-door models – comfort is what they are about – but in the sportier 118hp 1.0-litre petrol Coupe, a steering change could unlock an altogether more entertaining prospect. The upcoming performance-orientated i20 N model might be the answer but, until its 2018 launch, the Ford Fiesta remains your best bet if you enjoy driving.

Out on the motorway, however, the balance of power falls back into the i20’s favour. Engine hum in either of the 1.0-litre petrol models is nearly nonexistent and both wind and road noise are well contained. The car feels very stable and all but the most-basic models come with cruise control.

Hyundai offers i20 buyers a choice of five engines to choose from – three petrols and two diesels. New to the range is the 1.0-litre petrol, which is available in two states of tune and is our favourite in the range.

Hyundai i20 petrol engines

If you’re looking to save on the list price of your i20 then buy the 1.2-litre petrol, which comes with either 74 or 84hp. SE trim and below get the former, which returns fuel economy of 55.4mpg. The more powerful version is reserved for high-end models and gets up to 58.9mpg. Both cost £30 to tax and neither is quick.

That’s where the 1.0-litre model comes in. Its three-cylinder engine sounds (with a bit of imagination) like a baby Porsche 911 under acceleration, and the 118hp model can get from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds. We would stick with the cheaper 99hp model though, because it has exactly the same 126Ib ft torque figure and most of the time feels just quick. It’s also slightly cheaper to run – being exempt from paying road tax (the 118hp model costs £30 per year) and returning fuel economy of 65.7mpg rather than 58.9mpg.

The 1.4-litre model comes with a four-speed automatic gearbox as standard but, unless your driving licence is for autos only, its relatively high running costs and sluggish performance put it out of contention.

Hyundai i20 diesel engines

With the arrival of the frugal new 1.0-litre petrol engine, the diesel range has a problem – you’ll have to cover a lot of miles to recoup the £1,000 extra they cost next to a comparable petrol. They’re also slower and noisier.

That all being said, the diesels still have the lowest runnings costs in the range. Cheapest of all is the 74hp 1.1-litre Blue model – its standard stop-start system helps it emit low CO2 emissions of just 84g/km and fuel economy of nearly 90mpg. That all sounds very impressive, but the performance figures take the shine away – it crawls from 0-62mph in 16 seconds and has a top speed of just 99mph. All of which means you’ll have to be on your A game if you want to keep pace with fast moving traffic. It’s free to tax, mind you.

The 1.4-litre 89hp model isn’t as mind-numbingly slow. It gets from 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds and has a top speed of 109mph, but lacks the eye-catching frugality of the basic model – returning fuel economy of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 106g/km for annual road tax of £20.

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.

The i20 S may be the basic model in the range, but its equipment list doesn’t read like it. Electric windows, a two-speaker stereo, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, plus remote central locking are all standard. An extra £750 (on rrp) buys the i20 S Air, which adds air-conditioning – a bonus if you prefer your car not to emulate a sauna in the summer months.

Hyundai i20 SE

Hyundai expects SE to be the most popular trim level and it is easy to see why. Its 15-inch alloy wheels cut a dash stood next to more basic models and the extra equipment it brings is also pretty comprehensive. It gets electric windows at the back, a DAB digital radio, with a Bluetooth phone connection and four additional speakers; a lane departure warning system and rear parking sensors. The boot is more usable thanks to its adjustable floor.

Hyundai i20 Premium

Go for the Premium model and you get kit that would have been optional on executive saloons not too long ago. The lights and wipers operate automatically, you get climate control, and the rearview mirror self-dims, too, so you won’t be blinded following motorists’ headlights. It’s also the first model to come with the smartphone docking station as standard. LED daytime running lights (and rear lights) help lift the car’s exterior appearance.

There’s the opportunity to spec it up still further by spending an extra £675 on the Premium SE that adds a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof, the latter being a class first according to Hyundai. Another £675 adds sat-nav and a rear-view camera.

Hyundai i20 Premium Nav

The Premium Nav model simply adds satellite navigation to the regular Premium specification. Many people will choose to save money by buying an aftermarket system, but Hyundai’s TomTom system has nice graphics and is neater than sticking an external sat-nav to your windscreen. Another bonus is the rear-view camera.

Hyundai i20 Turbo Edition

The new Hyundai i20 Turbo Edition marks the introduction of a new, you guessed it, turbocharged engine to the model’s range. This 1.0-litre petrol unit promises to deliver 99hp and return 63mpg. The Turbo Edition is based on the SE trim but comes with a rear-view camera, automatic headlights and sat nav as standard. Surprisingly, perhaps, this model costs from £12,975 – £1050 less than the SE version.

Conclusion

The all-new 1.0-litre petrol engine is exactly what the i20 needed to help it keep pace with the opposition – it was already spacious, well-equipped and decent to drive. The Volkswagen Polo might offer better perceived quality, and the Ford Fiesta is still the most fun to drive small hatchback currently on sale, but neither can offer the i20’s killer blow of a five-year/100,000-mile warranty as standard. To most families that’ll be an advantage that is almost impossible to ignore.

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