£15,525 Price range
With the UK public’s appetite for small crossovers continuing unabated, the die was cast some time ago for the Hyundai i20 Active to join the fray rivalling models such as the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.
While those three take the form of standalone models, the Active is recognisable as an i20 hatchback served with a few ‘lifestyle’ touches such as roof bars, new bumpers and body cladding, a boot-lid spoiler and an aftermarket-style fuel-filler cap. The only technical change is suspension that is raised by 20mm.
The Active can be had with just one engine, but the all-new 100hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol is a peach – offering urge beyond what its capacity promises and extremely low running costs.
Equipment levels are decent – with 17-inch alloy wheels, a DAB digital radio, LED daytime running lights and rear parking sensors present and correct, the Active is suitably armed for the urban theatre.
Jump from a standard i20 into the Active model and the most obvious difference is the car’s taller suspension. The 20mm height increase doesn’t mean you tower over other road users, but it does play into the hands of our primal instincts, and you feel safer as a result.
That translates into a more relaxing driving experience – making the Active feel bigger than it actually is, while giving the driver a better view of the road than they’ll get in a conventional hatchback.
For the rest of the interior it’s business as usual, which turns out to be no bad thing. Quality is comparable to that of a Skoda Fabia (a cut-price VW Polo, don’t forget), with the entire top half of the dashboard constructed from soft-touch plastics and everything else feeling durable.
Blue backlighting for the infotainment screen clashes a little with the white-lit main dials, but there’s little else to complain about in aesthetic terms and you quickly feel at home thanks to ventilation and stereo controls that are exactly where you expect them to be, and intuitive to operate. Something a Ford Fiesta’s layout doesn’t manage quite as convincingly.
Interior space is exactly the same as in the regular i20 – there’s room for four 6’2” adults at a push – and the wide range of adjustment for the steering wheel means it’s easy to get comfortable behind it.
The boot is well-shaped, with a decent 326-litre capacity, a low lip and a height-adjustable floor. There are also loads of storage areas scattered throughout the cabin including a large cubbyhole in front of the gearstick and two cup-holding mouldings in the centre console.
Aside from the better view out and added clearance over speed humps, there aren’t many positives to be drawn from the Active’s hiked suspension.
Perhaps because of the car’s 17-inch alloy wheels, the Active’s ride feels choppier than the standard i20’s on a well-worn British B road, while also suffering from a little more roll in corners and some added dive under braking.
The steering is unchanged from the standard car, but somehow feels less direct – as if the body takes a nano second longer to respond to direction changes – and offers little in the way of feel to help you judge the grip the front tyres have.
Things settle down at a faster cruise where the Active’s big-car feel makes it a relaxing place to rack up the miles. That’s helped by the extremely refined new 1.0-litre engine, the sound of which you can barely make out from the small swell of wind and road roar that does make its way into the cabin.
Back in the city the car’s light steering, slick-shifting five-speed gearbox and smooth clutch make it easy to drive at low speeds. Reversing is an incident-free affair thanks to the standard-fit rear parking sensors.
Hyundai’s rightfully proud of its new 1.0-litre petrol engine, which in the standard i20 replaces the old 1.4-litre model.
It’s the only option available in the Active, but we don’t see that as a problem. Thanks to a turbocharger it feels spritely – getting from 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds. The extra torque provided by the turbocharger successfully masks the car’s tall gearing and provides enthusiastic acceleration in second and third gear, and the engine sounds pleasantly thrummy as it does it, before fading into the background on the motorway.
Downsizing from a 1.4 to a 1.0-litre engine capacity means there are savings to be made. Fuel economy now sits at 58.9mpg (rather than 51.4mpg) and CO2 emissions drop from 127 to 110g/km for road tax of £20 – a £90 drop from the old model. Fit the same engine to the basic hatchback and road tax is free.
A long look around the i20 Active’s interior confirms there’s very little left wanting when it comes to equipment. All four windows are electrically powered, there’s a DAB digital radio, cruise control, air-conditioning, a 12v power socket and a cooled glovebox. Hyundai also provides a useful docking station on the top of the dashboard to use your smartphone’s sat-nav as it charges.
What’s likely to be a huge selling point to potential owners is the car’s five-year/100,000-mile warranty that makes a mockery of the three-year cover that’s offered with most of the i20’s rivals.
The i20 is one of Hyundai’s most popular models with nearly 94,000 units sold in the UK alone. The Active should help broaden its appeal still further and while there are few technical advantages to choosing it instead of the basic hatchback, its chunky looks and raised ride height are bound to help it appeal to buyers looking to have a crossover for hatchback money and running costs.