Hyundai i10 review
With the space, refinement and efficiency to trouble the class above, the Hyundai i10 is one of the best city cars around
The Hyundai i10 is one of those small cars that make you question the wisdom of buying anything bigger. The styling is a little forgettable but Hyundai’s smallest offering is smart, sensible and practical. Excellent value too.
Light controls, excellent visibility and compact dimensions make the Hyundai i10 a breeze to thread through crowded city streets, yet it feels equally composed and assured out on the open road. The handling is safe and predictable, while on the motorway road, wind and engine noise are kept in check.
In case you are wondering, the latest Hyundai i10 is a completely different kettle of fish to the penny-dreadful small cars that litter the company’s past. Remember the awful Atoz, anyone?
Well forget it, because the latest i10 is a proper small car, and it competes on a lot more than just price. It’s designed to pitch into the city car segment, where it rivals cars like the Skoda Citigo, Volkswagen up!, Toyota Aygo and Kia Picanto. Like the best of its rivals, the Korean contender has grown-up into a super all-rounder, by combining extremely compact exterior dimensions and frugal running costs in a package that boasts lots of kit and a ‘big car’ quality feel.
OK, so the i10’s exterior design may lack some of the trendiness of more fashion-conscious designs, but the improvement in quality is most noticeable inside the cabin. There was bags of room in the old i10, but this version does even better – you can even squeeze five adults in, at a pinch, whereas the Citigo and up! are only four-seaters. The i10 tops that off with a 252-litre boot behind the rear bench, too.
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Hyundai only offers two engines in the i10, and they’re both petrols. The first is a 65bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, and the second is an 86bhp, 1.2-litre four. They’re both good performers and efficient, but we prefer the three-cylinder thanks to its extra economy and lower C02 output. It’s smooth, refined and eager to rev, too. There’s a slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox offered with both engines, but if you fancy the five-speed auto you’ll need to choose the bigger engine to go with it.
The Hyundai i10 model range is relatively straightforward, and the options range from the S entry-model, through S Air, SE, SE Blue Drive, up to the Premium and Premium SE trim levels.
All Hyundai i10 models get electric front windows, remote central locking, a trip computer and a USB connection for the stereo, while S Air models and above add air-conditioning. SE models are further kitted out with cruise control, electrically operated door mirrors and alloy wheels. Range-topping Premium models are given a luxurious feel courtesy a leather trimmed steering wheel and gearlever, and Bluetooth phone and music streaming.
As with all Hyundai models, the i10 is backed by a generous five year, unlimited mileage warranty that also includes five years of breakdown recovery.
Engines, performance and drive
With 65bhp on offer from the 1.0-litre engine (the 1.2 gets 86bhp to play with), the i10 is never going to be a sparkling performer. Hyundai claims a 0-62mph time of 14.9 seconds, which doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing before you’ve even taken the wheel.
And yet this little car is very pleasant to drive. It weighs only 933kg, so that 65bhp and 95Nm of torque can get you up to speed quite nicely, and this is helped by a slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox. We’d avoid the optional automatic transmission unless you’re absolutely desperate for the gears to shift themselves – it’s an old four-speed design and not the best around.
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The Hyundai has decent driving dynamics: it handles quite tidily and the ride quality is fairly comfortable for such a small and light car. Plus, it doesn’t start to feel out of its depth when dicing with HGVs and SUVs on the motorway.
But it has one significant flaw: the steering is really vague, with a strong self-centring action, and that can take any fun out of cornering. Sadly, the steering has an equally unpleasant effect in town, which is the i10’s natural habitat. It leaves you unsure of precisely what the front wheels are up to sometimes, which can make low-speed manoeuvring tricky.
Other than that, the i10 is ideally suited to the urban environment. It’s only 3.6 metres long and just 1.6 metres wide, so tight gaps are a doddle to squeeze through and almost any gap is a parking space.
Picking from the i10’s two engines is easy – go for the small one. Even though the 1.0-litre has only 65bhp, it’s lively, quick to rev and emits a pleasant little three-cylinder thrum when you push it hard. It’s also fractionally lighter than the 1.2 (by 10kg), and it’s certainly more tax-efficient. The base i10 1.0 will only cost you £20 a year in VED, and if you go for the slightly more frugal BlueDrive model, it’ll be exempt from road tax.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
As the i10 isn’t the strongest choice in terms of performance, you’d expect some kind of trade-off on efficiency. And sure enough, the car scores with impressive official fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.
The most efficient version is the 1.0 BlueDrive with 65bhp. While it’s similar to the standard 1.0-litre model, it benefits from stop/start, which Hyundai badges Intelligent Stop&Go. This cuts emissions by 10g/km from 108g/km to 98g/km and helps improve claimed fuel economy from 60.1mpg in the regular car to 65.7mpg for the BlueDrive.
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As tempting as these figures are, though, the BlueDrive is over £200 more expensive to buy than a regular i10 1.0 SE, and it would take the driving standards of a saint to ensure that you achieve that extra 5mpg or so on every journey. In the real world, the gap between the two is likely to be minor.
Plus, while the BlueDrive model is exempt from road tax, owners will only pay £20 a year for the standard 1.0. And although the £200 extra buys climate control in the BlueDrive over the regular SE’s air-con, the eco-minded model also features 13-inch wheels instead of 14-inch versions – so we’d probably save our money.
The Hyundai i10 is as cheap to insure as any car on the market. All of the 1.0-litre versions sit in insurance group one, while even the 1.2 is only in group four or five, so you won’t pay very much for your annual premiums.
There is more good financial news here. With an expected retained value of 49 per cent after three years, the i10 is well ahead of some of its major rivals in the city car market, such as the Renault Twingo and Peugeot 108. In fact, only the Volkswagen up! and Skoda Citigo are safer places for your money in this class.
Interior, design and technology
Industry rumour has it that, when Hyundai took the wraps off the latest i10 for the first time at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in 2013, a senior Volkswagen executive has overheard saying that he couldn’t understand how his company wasn’t able to make a small car cabin that was as classy.
He had a point – the i10’s dash is made of very high-grade materials, and the dials and instruments are just as upmarket. Plus, even the affordable, entry-level i10 S version comes with a decent level of equipment as standard. This includes electric front windows, an MP3-compatible stereo with USB and aux-in connections, as well as a full suite of electronic safety aids.
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You don’t have to trade up to an SE model to get air-conditioning, either – there’s an S Air model that has the function, although it’s effectively the same price as an SE. Occasional special offers bring that model’s price down, although you’re probably better off just going for the SE in the first place.
This spec also brings body-coloured mirrors and door handles, a light in the boot and a height-adjustable driver's seat, as well as cruise control, electric rear windows and a space-saver tyre (which is a £50 option on S and S Air versions).
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The basic stereo in the Hyundai i10 is actually pretty decent, and it comes as standard with a USB connection – allowing owners to hook up their smartphones – as well as a more old-fashioned auxiliary input. There’s a CD slot, too, which is compatible with MP3-encoded discs.
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Spend £175 extra, and you can upgrade to a four-speaker sound system with a Bluetooth connection, voice recognition and remote controls on the steering wheel. However, there’s been no talk yet of Hyundai introducing DAB on the i10, which seems like a glaring omission given how common the technology is becoming on rival models.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
All versions of the Hyundai i10 come with rake movement on the steering wheel. It doesn’t adjust for reach, but this combines with the seat height adjustment on SE models upwards to allow drivers to get comfortable easily. The five-door bodystyle also makes access to the rear a breeze, while the three seatbelts in the back mean the car is a genuine five-seater. And considering the price, you’ll be reasonably comfortable wherever you’re sitting in the car.
The key to the i10’s interior space is right there in the spec list. At 1,500mm tall, it’s almost as high as it is wide, and that square space pays dividends both for interior room and for easy agility around town. This is a small car in which tall drivers can comfortably fit and out of which all drivers can comfortably see.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The front seats of the i10 pull off a neat trick. Usually in a small, tall car like this, extra space in the cabin is found by mounting the front seats tall and upright, and in some models this can make the driver feel as if they’re perched on rather than in their seat.
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But that’s not the case in the Hyundai, which manages to provide a driving position that feels natural and comfortable. If you’re going to choose a small car for a long journey, it’s going to be this, a Volkswagen up! or a Skoda Citigo, at least in the comfort stakes.
That tall roof means headroom is simply not going to be a problem, and while knee room in the back isn’t exactly cavernous, you’ll be fine unless you’ve promised the local basketball team a lift.
There’s a choice to make between space and space-saver when you’re buying a Hyundai i10. If you think you can do without the spare tyre in the boot, then the load bay has a capacity of up to 252 litres with the rear seats in place. That’s one of the biggest in the city car market, and bigger than some cars in the next class up. Fold the back seats and the space expands to a small delivery van-like 1,046 litres.
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However, if you specify a spare wheel in the showroom – or buy an i10 SE, which comes with the spare as standard – then boot space shrinks to a significantly less useful 218 litres. The maximum capacity is also reduced, although it’s still decent, at 1,012 litres.
Reliability and Safety
How good is the i10 as an ownership prospect? Well, it finished an incredible third in the Auto Express Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, beating some prestigious and much more expensive cars in the process – these included the Lexus NX, Jaguar XJ, MINI, Audi Q3 and Range Rover. In fact, only the Skoda Yeti and our overall champion, the Lexus IS, were more highly rated by their owners than the little Hyundai.
Reliability doesn’t seem to be an issue, according to our survey, and respondents report build quality is generally excellent. Of course, it’s all backed up by Hyundai’s enviable reputation for customer service.
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The only thing that perhaps lets the i10 down is its Euro NCAP crash test record. The car scored four out of the maximum five stars when it was assessed as part of the independent programme – although this wasn’t because the body or airbags aren’t up to standard. Instead, it was marked down in the Safety Assist category, which basically means you don’t get all of the available electronic safety aids as standard.
It would be cruel to refer to any Hyundai as a warranty on wheels, but there’s little doubt that the five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty is a major draw not only to new buyers, but those shopping on second-hand forecourts. Just remember that there are terms and conditions to the warranty, which you must hit if it’s not to default.
Hyundai offers three levels of inclusive servicing packages, which are worth going for not only for their fixed prices, but also because they’re the best way of maintaining that excellent warranty cover. You can choose from two years and 20,000 miles for around £250, three years and 30,000 miles for £350 or so or the full five years and 50,000 miles for around £650.