Hyundai i20 review
The Hyundai i20 is a value alternative to the Ford Fiesta, with lots of space and a comfortable ride
The Hyundai i20 is a rival for the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Note and Suzuki Swift. It has been a big sales hit in the UK, kickstarted by the Scrappage Scheme back in 2009, where it really benefitted from the £2000 government discount. At the heart of its appeal today are a low list price, great value for money, generous interior space and a five-year warranty. In an effort to keep the i20 fresh, Hyundai launched a facelifted version in 2012, with a new look and some subtle tweaks to the engines and gearboxes. It’s available in three and five-door bodystyles, and in a choice of four main specifications - Classic, Blue, Active and Style. There are two petrol engines and two diesel units, the most economical of which is the a 74bhp 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel that emits just 84g/km of CO2 and is said to be able to return 88.3mpg, making it one of the most fuel efficient combustion-engined car on sale today. Combine that with its low insurance group rating and you've got a car that's extremely cheap to run. It can be cheap to buy, too, as Hyundai dealers like to do a deal. If you want an automatic gearbox engine choice is restricted to the 1.4 petrol, but our favourite combination would be the 1.2 petrol engine combined with Active trim.
Our choice: 1.4 CRDi Active Blue 5dr
The Hyundai i20 isn’t the most stylish supermini on the market. Rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and curvy Suzuki Swift are far more distinctive, which leaves the i20 to blend into the background. A raft of updates were introduced in 2012, though, which has improved matters. The biggest styling changes were made at the front, with a hexagonal grille, detailed headlights and a new sculpted bonnet, all influenced by Hyundai’s new fluidic sculpture design language (as seen on everything from the i10 and i30 hatchbacks to the ix35 off-roader). Hyundai also made the i20 55mm longer, which helps to make it look more grown-up. The interior is well laid out, with a smart centre console and piano-black inserts around the stereo. But touches like the slim trip computer integrated into the top of the dashboard look dated, while some of the trim feels flimsy. There are four specifications to choose from – Classic, Blue, Active and Style – but all come with plenty of kit and accessories. Entry-level Classic cars come fitted with electric front windows and air-con, although Blue cars have to make do without the latter. But, to compensate, the fuel economy-focused and environmentally friendly Blue model gets a stop-start system and more fuel-efficient tyres. Active models get 15-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles, front fog lights, all-around electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity and a leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob, while range-topping Style cars come fitted with 16-inch alloys, climate control, automatic headlamps and wipers, as well as LED daytime running lightsand parking sensors. A Convenience Pack is available as an option on Style models, and includes keyless entry a start button.
The i20 can’t match the Ford Fiesta or Suzuki Swift for handling, but it does have its own strengths. Most notable is its refinement, especially at motorway speeds. The steering is light enough for town use but it weights up inconsistently in corners and lacks feel, while the ride is a little firm. It’s available with a choice of two petrol engines and two diesels. The 84bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol is cheap to buy, but is best avoided as it sounds rough and is very slow to respond. The 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol is almost as efficient but much more responsive, which makes it much easier to live with. In the Blue specification, the new three-cylinder 1.1 CRDi diesel is remarkably refined, but needs to be revved hard to deliver its best, while the larger 89bhp 1.4 diesel pulls strongly.
The Hyundai i20 was given a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating when it was tested back in 2009, with 88 per cent for adult occupant protection and a score of 86 per cent in the safety assist category. Electronic stability control is fitted as standard across the range, as is anti-lock brakes, Isofix child-seat fixings, active head restraints and a total of six airbags. As for reliability, the i20 finished 59th in the 2012 Driver Power survey - just two places behind the i10 and six places ahead of the Ford Fiesta – while Hyundai finished an impressive seventh overall. Owners said that it delivers low running costs and plenty of technology, but that it isn’t as easy to drive or as comfortable they would like it to be. But, in our 2013 survey Hyundai fell seven places, ranking 14th in the list of manufacturers. As well as this, in our 2013 Driver Power survey, the Hyundai i20 ranked a disappointing 120. Despite this, overall reliability, low running costs and high equipment levels with plenty of accessories are still plus points among Hyundai models. It has never been the subject of a recall, though, and there have been no reports of any major problems or faults. The interior plastics might not look great but they are hard wearing and should stand up to family life. As well as all this, the Hyundai i20 is offered with the same excellent five-year warranty that comes with the rest of the Hyundai family.
At 3,995mm long, 1,710mm wide and 1,490mm tall, the i20 is one of the longest and widest superminis available, which means it’s not short on interior space. You also get a handy cooled glove compartment that is ideal for storing sandwiches and drinks, while plenty of convenient storage cubbies placed around the interior make it ideal for all iPod and other accessories. Three adults will be able to sit comfortably in the back seats and there’s plenty of boot space, too. No matter which bodystyle you opt for the i20 has 295-litres worth of boot space – that’s more than both the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. With the rear seats folded this figure increases to a massive 1,060 litres. However, there is one downside – folding the rear seats is no mean feat, and you’ll even need to remove the headrests, too. It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, though, as the driver’s seat adjusts for height, while the steering wheel can be repositioned for height and reach. All versions come with a space-saver spare wheel as standard.
As with most Hyundais in the range, the i20's low price tag is appealing. It costs around £1,000 less than an equivalent Fiesta and even undercuts the Suzuki Swift by a few hundred pounds. The highlight, though, is the new three-cylinder 1.1 CRDi Blue diesel. It’s the same engine fitted in the Kia Rio, but it has been further refined so that when combined with a six-speed manual gearbox it produces only 84g/km of CO2 and has an average fuel economy figure of 88.3mpg – not only does this mean it’s exempt from road tax, it also makes it the most efficient non-electric or hybrid car on sale. An 89bhp 1.4-litre CRDi diesel is also available which, when fitted with Blue Drive technologies such as the manufacturer’s Intelligent Stop & Go stop-start system, aero tweaks and low rolling resistance tyres, emits just 96g/km and returns 76.3mpg. As for the petrols, the 1.2-litre units delivers 57.6mpg and 114g/km of CO2, while even the 1.4-litre petrol with a four-speed automatic manages to return a claimed 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 140g/km. All Hyundai’s come with the firm’s Five Year Triple Care package, which includes a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, five years’ free roadside assistance and five years of vehicle health checks. There’s a range of fixed-price servicing deals, too. On top of this, insurance groups range from eight to 12, giving it an extremely low price for all owners. The one downside is that the resale price isn't great, but it's no worse than other cars in the same class.