Car group tests

Hyundai i10 1.1 Comfort 5dr

It’s the world’s sixth biggest car maker, but Hyundai has grand ideas to grow even further.

  • Excellent stereo, adequate stowage, split fold rear seats, £35 a year road tax, Comfort trim has a generous amount of standard kit
  • Dark cabin finish, isn’t quite as welcoming as the Panda’s, slightly firm ride, bland styling

It’s the world’s sixth biggest car maker, but Hyundai has grand ideas to grow even further. And in Europe, the thrust of that plan is the latest generation of ‘i’ prefixed models, which the firm claims heralds new levels of engineering and quality.

The i30 family hatch arrived in September, and the i10 hopes to get an equally good reception when it appears in UK dealerships in April. There’s certainly a familiar look to the city car, because the front end is similar to its bigger brother’s. It’s a modern face in contrast to the less convincing profile, which lacks the chunky appeal of the Panda.

It looks taller and narrower than its rival, but the Hyundai is actually 17mm wider at 1,540mm and has a 2,380mm wheelbase, which is 81mm longer. This helps to ensure interior space is more than up to class standards – in the back, the i10 is very roomy for such a small car. Adults have enough head and legroom to be comfortable, and crucially, unlike the Fiat, the Hyundai has a trio of three-point rear seatbelts, as well as a full complement of headrests. The quality of the seat fabrics is good, too, and there’s no bare metal, exposed screwheads or cheap plastics on show.

In fact, the Hyundai is well put together, and while it’s certainly basic, it doesn’t feel brittle or low-rent. The dash is modern and well laid out, and the steering wheel adjusts for height. The dash-mounted gearlever is perfectly placed, and, crucially for a city car, the controls are light. Add in a tight turning circle and excellent visibility, and the i10 is very responsive.

The revised 1.1-litre engine also contributes to making the Hyundai fun and well suited to life around town. It delivers its power in a peppy manner and is lively. With only 65bhp, it’s not particularly quick, but it has a 5bhp advantage over the Panda, and was more than a second quicker from 0-60mph at 13.3 seconds. It was swifter in all of our in-gear tests, too. On the road, the i10 is keener than the Fiat under acceleration.

Unfortunately, the trade-off for this eagerness is a slightly coarse and strained engine note at higher revs. Nevertheless, thanks to the slick action of the five-speed gearbox, it’s great fun to hustle the i10 along and make the most of its small output.

The handling also raises a smile, because the steering is responsive and the chassis grippy. There’s less body roll than in the Fiat, although the flipside of this firmer set-up is that the ride isn’t as supple as the Panda’s.

Around town, severe bumps can be felt in the cabin, and the suspension doesn’t isolate imperfections as well as the Fiat’s. Head for faster roads, and the i10 can fidget over rough surfaces, but there’s no need to avoid motorways, because the Hyundai is stable and secure. It isn’t quite as refined as the Panda, though. The engine is noisier, while the busier ride means the Italian car still has the upper hand for comfort at speed.

However, when it comes to value for money, the Hyundai wins hands-down. At £7,095, it’s £500 cheaper than the Fiat, but has air-con, split-fold seats, side airbags and power mirrors as standard.

Overall, Hyundai has created an impressive city car that’s worthy of attention, not only because it’s good value and cheap to run, but also because it’s well mannered and neatly packaged.

Details

Price: £7,095Model tested: Hyundai i10 1.1 Comfort 5drChart position: 1WHY: The second of Hyundai’s new ‘i’ generation models, the i10 replaces the Amica in the range.

Economy

The i10 proved more economical than the Panda, and came close to topping 50mpg. Both cars have 35-litre tanks, but the Hyundai’s range should be around 50 miles greater.

Residuals

Our used experts have yet to calculate figures for the i10, but its predecessor, the Amica, retained 44.8 per cent of its price. This is better than the Panda, and the new car should beat the Fiat, too.

Servicing

The Hyundai’s first dealer visit is at 10,000 miles, then every 12,000 miles thereafter. The firm’s garages came seventh out of 32 in Driver Power 2007, so expect good service.

Tax

Thanks to its impressively low emissions, the i10 is cheap to tax. Falling into Band B, the annual road fund licence costs only £35 – that’s £80 less than the Panda’s.

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