Hyundai i20 review
The Hyundai i20 is a spacious supermini that takes on the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo
The Hyundai i20 is the Korean brand's offering in the very competitive supermini sector. It faces stiff competition from the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa, but the i20 gets off to a good start with a sharp design and a spacious interior.
The interior size is down to the all-new platform the hatch uses. It's longer, lower to the ground and wider than before, and its wheelbase has increased by 45mm. All of that adds up to an impressive increase in space for passengers.
The latest i20's sharp creases, swooping bonnet and floating C-pillar gives it more of a modern and grown-up look than its predecessor.
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There are seven engines in total available to choose from - five petrol and two diesels. The diesel and non-turbo petrol variants have been carried forward from the previous-generation Rio, with slight improvements to efficiency ratings to ensure that they are EU6 compliant. The new, 3cyl turbocharged engines are designed to take the battle to the Fiesta EcoBoost and turbo-powered Corsas.
Despite its size, the i20 is very practical. The 326-litre boot is lager than that of a Ford Focus, and there's plenty of rear space for three adult passengers.
There are four core trim levels: S, SE, Premium and Premium S. However, if you opt for an S, there's the S Air (with air-conditioning) and the S Blue (the ultra-efficient model), while the Premium (and Premium S) models can be upgraded to Premium Nav and Premium SE Nav. These Nav models include a touchscreen infotainment system with satnav, a DAB radio and a rear parking camera. Just to add to the model list, there's also the chunkier Hyundai i20 Active, which we've reviewed separately.
Engines, performance and drive
Buyers have seven engines to choose from. Options include a 74bhp as well as an 84bhp version of the 1.2-litre petrol. The more frugal diesel options are made up of a 74bhp 1.1-litre three cylinder and 89bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder.
The i20's 84bhp 1.2 isn’t turbocharged so feels lethargic and short on power. A 0-62mph time of 13.1 seconds highlights its power deficiency: a 1.2-litre Polo, for example, will do the same sprint in 10.8 seconds.
The 1.0-litre turbochaged T-GDi engine comes in two states of tune. The 99bhp version replaces the naturally aspirated 1.4, while topping the range is a new 118bhp version, which is the most powerful engine seen in a roadgoing i20.
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If you need a little more torque, the 1.4-litre diesel has far more urgency about it. It’s a little loud at idle but on the move power delivery is smoother and the car is quicker. Both models do handle well, however. The steering is light but precise, with minimal body roll and the manual gearbox – five-speed in the petrol and six-speed in the diesel – has a short and well-weighted throw.
Thanks to a longer wheelbase and wider track, the Hyundai feels stable and secure when tackling corners. There’s also plenty of grip and body roll is well controlled. And while the electronically assisted steering isn’t as well weighted as some rivals' set-up, it’s direct and allows you to place the car precisely on the road. The price you pay for the i20’s tidy handling is a firm low-speed ride, though.
Plus, the ride improves the faster you go, and when you combine that with the low noise levels and reasonably refined engine, the i20 is quite a relaxing cruiser.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
As all of the engines have been carried over from the outgoing i20, the new model isn’t as cheap to run as a VW Polo. The 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol returns 58.9mpg and emits 112g/km of CO2, with the more powerful 84bhp version returning 55.4mph and 119g/km. Despite the power difference, both models sit in the same tax band.
The range-topping 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol jumps a tax band with CO2 emissions at 127g/km but 51.4mpg isn’t much to sacrifice considering how much more performance you get.
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If you plan on doing longer journeys, the diesel models will be more suitable. The 1.1-litre three-cylinder in S Blue trim is able to return over 88mpg with tax-free emissions of 84g/km. The more powerful 89bhp diesel, however, will still return an impressive 68.9mpg - but falls just short of tax-free motoring with emissions of 106g/km.
Interior, design and technology
Hyundai has clearly worked hard to give the new i20 greater showroom appeal. By taking its cues from the i10 supermini and i30 family hatch, the newcomer looks far more grown-up and sophisticated than before. Highlights include the distinctive trapezoidal grille, swept-back headlamps and gloss black trim panels covering the C-pillars.
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Even bigger strides have been made inside, where the Hyundai now comes close to matching the pricier Polo for slick design and upmarket appeal. For starters, the dashboard is neatly designed and well laid out. There’s a large speedo and rev counter, plus the major switchgear is logically sited – although some of the minor switches are hidden away on a panel down by the driver’s right knee.
As we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, the fit and finish is first rate, while decent-quality materials are used. The top of the dashboard is trimmed in soft-touch plastic, the chunky three-spoke steering wheel gets a soft leather covering and the seats are upholstered in durable fabrics. Elsewhere, bright contrasting coloured panels for the dash and door inserts give the cabin a lift on some models.
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Hyundai hasn’t scrimped on standard kit. Mid-spec SE cars come with all the essentials, including air-con, Bluetooth phone connection and a multifunction steering wheel, plus big-car additions such as lane departure warning and cruise control.
It’s not all good news, though. For instance, there’s no DAB radio, while the optional dashtop smartphone dock looks like a cheap afterthought. Fortunately the firm rectified this on top spec Premium Nav models, with a seven-inch touchscreen navigation and infotainment system.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
As the i20 has significantly grown in size over the outgoing model, it’s no surprise the second-generation supermini is one of the most practical and spacious in its class.
It’s longer, lower and wider than before, with 45mm added to the wheelbase. There’s ample room in the rear and the floor is only slightly elevated so you can easily sit three adults on the rear bench comfortably.
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As a sector first a full-length panoramic roof is available. It's standard on top spec Premium SE models, and while it does slightly encroach on headroom, this model still rivals the Ford Fiesta for head space.
The 326-litre boot is huge and one of the the biggest in the class. It’s even larger than some models from the class above – the Ford Focus only offers 316 litres of space. A false floor can be removed and stowed away to further increase space and the standard 60:40 split rear bench folds flat, freeing up 1,042 litres of space.
Reliability and Safety
In recent years, Hyundai has gained a reputation for building durable cars, Even so, it suffered a disappointing showing in our Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey results - the brand placed 30th out of 32 brands, and the i20 didn't even make the top 100 best cars to buy.
That said, its i10 city car finished a decent 38th overall in the same poll, and it shares many of its mechanical components and systems with the i20, which should mean trouble-free motoring. In fact, the i10 also took 2nd place out of the most reliable small cars to own in 2016. Of course, if anything does go wrong, you’ve also got the peace of mind that comes with Hyundai’s unlimited-mileage, five-year warranty and breakdown aftersales package.
Euro NCAP has recently tested the i20 and awarded it a four-star rating. It lost out on a fifth star due to the lack of any autonomous emergency braking systems – you can’t even specify this gear as an option. Still, look past this and you’ll discover the i20 comes loaded with standard safety kit, including six airbags, stability control and lane departure warning.