Hyundai i20 (2018-2020) review
Combining competitive prices, lots of equipment and a good warranty, the Hyundai i20 could well tempt you away from the more familiar alternatives, but it’s not very stylish inside
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The Hyundai i20 is a small hatchback car that focuses on being sensible rather than overtly stylish. While a Peugeot looks great and a Ford Fiesta feels fun to drive, the i20 isn’t a car for your senses – it’s a car for your head if not your heart.
So it won’t appear on any adolescent bedroom posters or phone screensavers – it’s more likely to appear on a cost-conscious adult’s budgeting spreadsheet.
Still, the i20 range is simple, with a five-door model the only body style, although there is a slightly taller mode called the Hyundai i20 Active, that’s reviewed separately.
The Hyundai i20 has been around in various forms for more than a decade, but the most recent update was in 2018 – this made it safer and more technologically advanced than before. An all-new model is scheduled to go on sale later in 2020.
The 2018 update improved the looks on the outside, with new alloy wheel and paint options, while a seven-speed automatic gearbox joined the range for the first time.
Inside the sensible but slightly dull theme continues. The materials are not wildly exciting or luxurious but you get a good amount of equipment.
For example, every i20 comes with a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and DAB radio all thrown in, meaning you don’t need to go for sat-nav if you have a phone that will do the job for you. If you go for one of the more expensive models then you get a built-in sat-nav and live information services through the same system.
Forget the entry-level S Connect model - go straight for SE trim as it gets all of Hyundai’s additional safety kit and some handy features for a sensible price
There are five trims to pick from, but SE is probably the best one to go for as it gets the latest safety kit, leather steering wheel and gear lever, space saver spare wheel and rear parking sensors.
On the safety side, the Hyundai i20 gets a good selection of kit including something called SmartSense active safety, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, driver attention warning and high beam assist.
You can have a 75hp 1.2-litre engine with S Connect trim only, but it’s worth spending slightly more on the 84hp 1.2 or turbocharged 100hp 1.0-litre, which comes from SE trim and up, as you’ll welcome the extra power. If you want to take advantage of Hyundai’s seven-speed auto, you’ll have to go for the 100hp 1.0-litre in any case.
Modest price and sensible kit about sums the i20 up. It’s not going to set your heart racing, unless you get your kicks from balancing the books and maximising your value for money. Head over to look at the latest Hyundai i20 deals if that sounds like your next new car.
Unlike in most small cars, there’s room for four six-foot-tall adults to get pretty comfy in the Hyundai i20. Sadly, this roomy cabin comes at the expense of boot space…
The Hyundai i20 is something of a Tardis – it looks pretty dinky on the outside but there’s more room inside for adults than you get in almost any other small hatchback
The interior space is another area where you get a good return on your investment from the i20 as it is surprisingly roomy inside for such a small car. There’s ample head and legroom in the front for tall drivers to get comfortable and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and height to make sure you get a good view of the dials.
Every Hyundai i20 comes with a height-adjustable driver’s seat so shorter drivers will have no problem getting a good view out, and the seats themselves are comfortable and supportive. You can’t get adjustable lumbar support to help reduce the risk of backache on long drives, but you do get heated front seats in high-spec Premium SE Nav models.
Unlike the old Hyundai i20, which was a three-door as standard, this new model comes with five doors as a starting point. As a result it’s a doddle to fit even a bulky child seat using the standard Isofix anchor points. Unlike in some small hatchbacks, there aren’t any annoying plastic covers or folding flaps to get in the way, either.
Six-foot tall passengers should be able to fit behind an equally tall driver, albeit only just. There is enough space under the seat for them to slot their feet underneath, while the cabin is tall enough that they won’t have to slump low to avoid ruining their hair.
There’s plenty of shoulder room for three smaller passengers to get comfy in the back seats, but three adults will find things rather cramped on long drives. The central rear seat is narrower and harder than the outer two, but at least the rear floor is almost completely flat so your middle passenger has plenty of space for their feet.
The Hyundai i20 might be small on the outside, but it’s got plenty of room on the inside as it comes with a good number of handy storage spaces to help you keep its interior nice and tidy. The front door pockets are roomy enough to hold a 1.5-litre bottle and those in the back can carry a slightly smaller 1.0-litre one.
If you get the central armrest that comes with a cubby underneath it then you gain enough space to tuck a few phones or smaller items out of sight, while the glovebox is big enough to take a 1.0-litre bottle. As an added bonus, on all but S Connect models you can keep said drink cool, too, as the glovebox is cooled as standard.
It’s not all good news, though. None of the models come with a folding rear armrest and the front cupholders will have trouble holding anything larger than a small cup of coffee as they are quite short and narrow.
The Hyundai i20’s 326-litre boot puts it ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta and on a par with the Skoda Fabia, but you can’t fit in quite as much luggage as in the roomier VW Polo. Still, there’s plenty of space for a baby buggy or a pair of large suitcases. It’s worth bearing in mind that you lose a bit of the space on models with the space saver spare wheel – it eats up 25 litres of room under the floor.
Unfortunately, there’s a very tall boot lip that makes lifting heavy items in and out rather difficult. Go for a Premium Nav or Premium SE Nav model, however, and you get an adjustable boot floor which (in its raised position) reduces this lip from around seven inches to less than four.
The boot has been well thought out, too, with space to store the parcel shelf underneath the floor, a pair of shopping hooks to keep bags from flying around and a selection of velcro straps and tether points to lash luggage down.
You can flip the back seats down in a 60/40 split, so you can carry long items and a passenger in the back at the same time. Drop both the seats and the Hyundai i20’s offers up to 1,042 litres of storage. That’s not as much as the main rivals but it will still carry a bike once you’ve removed one of its wheels.
In models with an adjustable boot floor, the Hyundai i20’s loadbay is completely flat, so it’s easy to push large boxes all the way up behind the front seats.
The Hyundai i20’s perky 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines are great all-rounders, but you can’t get it with a motorway-friendly diesel
The Hyundai i20 won’t put a great big gurning grin on your face on a twisty country road, but it will ferry you home comfortably after a hard day’s work
You can get the Hyundai i20 with a choice of four petrol engines, and with either a manual or an automatic gearbox.
If you’re on a very strict budget, one of the 1.2-litre non-turbocharged cars is worth considering. These come with just 75hp and 84hp (so they feel a tad sluggish) but they’ll have no trouble pottering around town. Hyundai claims they’ll return around 46mpg.
If you take in a broader mix of city and countryside driving, one of the turbocharged 1.0-litre models will be much more suitable. These come in 100hp and 120hp flavours and, while they are not exactly blisteringly quick, they will accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.8 and 10.2 seconds respectively. They’ll also happily tackle the odd motorway journey without struggling. Fuel economy is not a million miles away from the lesser-powered engines either, with mid to high 40s also claimed.
The majority of the engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, with the exception being the 120hp 1.0-litre, which gets a six-speed to help make it quieter at motorway speeds.
Both of the manual gearboxes are smooth and easy to use – even around town – but the seven-speed automatic you can get in 100hp cars is even better. It’s smoother than most dual-clutch gearboxes at slow speeds and really takes the sting out of long drives in heavy traffic.
Despite being relatively small, the Hyundai i20 is surprisingly comfortable to drive. On a rough country road the fairly soft suspension does an impressive job ironing out potholes and bumps without any unpleasant body lean that might cause your passengers to feel slightly queasy.
Around town, it’ll soak up potholes and drain covers better than some much larger (and more expensive) cars, too.
Speaking of driving in town, the i20’s very easy to manoeuvre thanks to its light steering and good visibility. Its small size makes it a doddle to park, too. You even get a reversing camera as standard across the range, rear parking sensors on SE models and front and rear parking sensors on Premium Nav and Premium SE Nav versions.
Head out of town and onto a motorway, and you’ll only hear a slight hum from the engine in 1.0-litre models, and there isn’t too much noise from the tyres, either. Unfortunately, the Hyundai i20’s door mirrors and windscreen produce quite a lot of wind noise at speed. You do get cruise control as standard in SE models and above, however, to help make long motorway journeys that bit more relaxing.
The lack of recent major update means that the i20 was last crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2015 when it got a four-star safety rating. If safety is your main priority, you’ll want to avoid basic S Connect models and go for an SE or above as they get safety kit like automatic emergency braking as standard. This feature helps you avoid low-speed collisions by automatically applying the brakes if the car detects an obstacle in the road ahead.
The Hyundai i20’s cabin is all about function over form. As a result, it’s all very easy to use and impressively roomy, but it looks very forgettable compared with other small cars.