Hyundai i20 (2014-2017) review
Combining good value, lots of equipment and a good warranty, the i20 could well tempt you away from the more familiar alternatives. It’s just a shame it’s not a little better to drive
What's not so good
Hyundai i20 (2014-2017): what would you like to read next?
The Hyundai i20 is a small hatchback that rivals the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa. Hyundai has also added a slightly taller version, which we’ve reviewed separately – it’s called the i20 Active.
You can now specify an integrated TomTom sat-nav system and a full-length panoramic sunroof. 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.
The i20 is decent on it's own, but it's surrounded by some very capable rivals
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.
Hyundai is preparing to launch a hot-hatch version of the 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.
In the meantime, if you would like to read some more detailed and in-depth analysis of the i20, read the the Interior, Practicality, Driving and Specifications sections of our review over the following pages.
There’s an impressive amount of space in side for such a small car but carrying three passengers in the back at once will still be a bit of a tight squeeze
Tall passengers might have to twist themselves into positions a yoga instructor would be proud of just to get into the back of a three-door model
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 has given plenty of thought when it comes to storage and there are pockets, 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.
There are a couple of cupholders in the centre console, while all the door pockets will take a bottle: 1.5-litre ones in the front and 1.0-litre in the back. Plus, there’s a well-sized cubby behind the handbrake, with a lid that doubles up as an elbow rest, and a pocket on the back of the front passenger seat. Finally, on all but the most basic S models, the glovebox can be chilled.
There’s no reason to complain about the size of the boot in the i20 – you get at least 300 litres of space in every model and it’s a nice, square shape. 60/40 split/fold rear seats are standard across the range, as are luggage hooks and, on most models, a luggage net. The only things that might annoy you are that there’s quite a high lip to lift things over, while the seats don’t sit totally flat to the floor when you fold them down.
There’s very little to dislike about the way the Hyundai i20 drives.
The new 1.0-litre petrol is all you need
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.
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. 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 by 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.
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.
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.
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.
The improvements Hyundai has made to interior quality in the past few years can really be seen in the i20.