Car group tests

Hyundai i20 vs Citroen C3 vs Nissan Micra

Does the new Hyundai i20 have what it takes to top the supermini class as it meets the Citroen C3 and Nissan Micra?

A wave of all-new superminis has arrived recently, vying for customers in the UK. This is one of the most popular classes of the new car market, so these models are crucial for manufacturers.

However, it’s fair to say that the Hyundai i20 didn’t set any fires under the competition when it hit dealers in 2014. So the Korean brand has introduced a new model with upgraded connectivity and better safety features.

There’s plenty of tough competition for it to face, though. For our group test, we’ve lined up the Citroen C3 and Nissan Micra, two superminis that are full of tech and safety kit.

The C3 brings something different in this class, with its individual looks and focus on comfort and practicality. In a crowded sector like this, a little personality and a unique selling point can really make a difference.

Best superminis on sale

The latest Micra mixes sharper styling than ever with loads of safety kit, even on low-spec models. Here we’ll find out if the revised and upgraded Hyundai can stand tall alongside these two offerings. 

Hyundai i20

Model:Hyundai i20 1.0 T-GDi 100 SE 
Price: £16,395
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol, 99bhp 
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds
Test economy: 47.8mpg/10.5mpl 
CO2: 114g/km  
Annual road tax: £140

The Hyundai i20 has been updated with a subtle new look and some minor changes inside, but how will the latest version fare against two hi-tech rivals? Here we’re testing the 1.0 T-GDi SE model, which at £16,395 is the cheapest car of the trio.

With its settled and composed chassis, the i20 is good to drive in a very unspectacular way. The ride is well controlled, especially on this SE model’s 15-inch alloys, and although it doesn’t deal with potholes as well as the Citroen C3, it’s nearly as supple on the motorway. It’s smoother and more comfortable than the Micra, particularly on rougher roads.

Control weights in the i20 are good, with well-judged steering and a light but positive gearshift. However, the steering feels exactly the same no matter how much lock is applied, and you get very little feedback about what the front wheels are doing. None of these cars is particularly involving, but the Micra does handle with more agility than the dull i20.

While the steering is devoid of life, the gearbox and engine in the i20 are better. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol is punchier than the Nissan’s 0.9-litre unit, and while the C3’s motor is stronger still, the Hyundai’s is linked to a better transmission and is smoother.

With 99bhp and 172Nm of torque, the i20 sits in between its rivals for power, and that was reflected in its mixed results in our track tests. It accelerated from 50 to 70mph in fifth in 12.0 seconds, splitting the 11.0 and 14.5 seconds it took the C3 and Micra respectively. It did match the Citroen from 0-60mph, with both cars’ 9.7-second sprint time beating the Nissan’s more sluggish 10.8 seconds.

The Hyundai’s engine put in a decent showing, then, but its best feature is refinement. The engine is hushed almost all the time, and only at higher revs will you notice its not-unpleasant thrum. While wind and road noise mean the i20 isn’t as quiet on the motorway as its rivals, the South Korean model’s engine is barely detectable at speed. 

Testers’ notes: “The only option you can choose on the Hyundai i20 SE we tested is metallic paint, which costs £550. To get extra kit, you’ll need to move up to Premium Nav or Premium SE Nav trim levels.”

Citroen C3

Model:Citroen C3 PureTech 110 Feel Nav Edition
Price: £16,750
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl petrol, 108bhp 
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds
Test economy: 43.3mpg/9.5mpl 
CO2: 103g/km
Annual road tax: £140

As part of a recent range shake-up, the Citroen C3 is available with a 108bhp 1.2-litre engine in new Feel Nav Edition trim. This is the model we’re testing here, and it costs from £16,750.

The C3’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo is the most powerful of the three cars’ engines, with 108bhp and 205Nm of torque. That latter figure comes in from just 1,500rpm, so there’s plenty of low-down punch; that’s a good thing because the engine doesn’t relish revs, so it’s best to stay in the middle of the range.

The C3 matched the i20 from 0-60mph, but it was the fastest car here from 30-50mph in third gear, taking a reasonable 4.6 seconds, and also the fastest in the crucial ‘motorway slip road’ test of 50-70mph in fifth gear, where it took 11 seconds exactly.

While the French car has plenty of performance, it’s not likely to excite keen drivers. The steering is light and numb, and the soft suspension means there’s lots of body roll. Also, the less pleasant shift of the five-speed transmission means it’s not much fun to flick between gears. It’s a crunchy, imprecise action that’s not as good as either rival’s offering, so the C3 suits a very relaxed driving style.

There are positives to this, though. In removing any sporting aspirations and focusing on comfort, Citroen has given the C3 a set-up that will really appeal to drivers who like to take things easy.

The car’s suspension is genuinely soft, but it doesn’t feel floaty or uncontrolled. Instead it soaks up bumps and imperfections very well, yet offers just enough grip. If you push it hard it will lose grip earlier than its rivals here, but that’s not the point.

Higher-speed driving on the motorway or a bumpy back road is more comfortable in the C3 than in either the i20 or the Micra, both in terms of ride quality and refinement. However, rev the engine too much and it can get a bit noisy in the cabin. 

Testers’ notes: “The Airbumps on the C3’s doors should help prevent dings in car parks, and they’re standard on Flair models; to get them on our Feel Nav Edition you’ll have to pay an extra £290.” 

Nissan Micra

Model:Nissan Micra IG-T 90 N-Connecta
Price: £16,770
Engine: 0.9-litre 3cyl petrol, 89bhp 
0-60mph: 10.8 seconds
Test economy: 45.5mpg/10.0mpl 
CO2: 99g/km
Annual road tax: £140

The latest Nissan Micra is more attractive than ever, bringing the car bang up to date with a rejuvenated formula that appeals to younger drivers. Here we’re testing a £16,770 N-Connecta (our pictures show a Tekna) with the 89bhp 0.9-litre petrol engine.

As with the i20 and C3, the Micra uses a three-cylinder turbo engine. It has the smallest capacity in this test, at just 898cc, and produces the least power and torque, at 89bhp and 150Nm respectively.

Straight-line performance isn’t the most important factor for a supermini, but the engine does feel more strained than its rivals’, particularly in the higher gears. The Nissan took 10.8 seconds to cover 0-60mph on test, more than a second slower than the other models. Still, it beat the i20 from 30-50mph in third and fourth gears, posting respective times of 5.0 and 7.2 seconds in those tests, due to shorter gearing. Yet its 14.5-second time from 50-70mph in fifth shows how lethargic the car is in the higher gears.

That means you’ll need to shift more often in the Micra, and while the box has a more precise action than in the Citroen, it’s not as smooth and satisfying as the i20’s transmission. None of these superminis has an above-average gearbox; they’re all merely fit for purpose rather than fun to use.

The clever Active Trace Control electronic system uses the brakes automatically to improve the Micra’s agility by subtly applying braking to the wheels to help turn the car around a corner. It’s only discreet intervention, but the Nissan does handle better than its rivals because it maintains body control while cornering.

However, another system, called Active Ride, isn’t quite so effective. The ride is acceptable on faster roads, but potholes and ridges upset the car’s slightly firmer-feeling chassis next to its rivals here. The Nissan is also blighted by a high driving position that means taller drivers will feel uncomfortable behind the wheel.

Testers’ notes: “Nissan is offering plenty of customisation options with the latest Micra. Exterior colour accents for the bumpers, doors and wing mirrors are all available for customers to choose from.”

Verdict

First place: Citroen C3

With its unique personality, the C3 seals the win. It has by far the best interior of these three cars and offers a strong mix of performance and comfort. It’s not the best to drive, but a soft ride and comfy seats will appeal to many, plus the punchy and efficient engine, strong kit list and impressive practicality give you more reasons to choose the well-rounded Citroen.

Second place: Hyundai i20

While the C3 is a clear winner here, the i20 and Micra are much closer. Improved infotainment, more safety tech, a big boot and extra equipment helped the Hyundai to nudge ahead. Strong economy and an acceptably comfortable ride add to its appeal, and while the i20 has few dramatic flaws, it’s dull, with a plain interior and a forgettable driving experience. 

Third place: Nissan Micra

The Micra is more fun to drive than either rival here, delivering the kind of nimble handling you’d expect from a modern supermini. However, it sacrifices ride comfort in the process, and is more cramped inside than the C3 or i20. Its underpowered engine hampers its appeal further, and the infotainment system lags behind. Good safety tech will be a major draw, mind. 

Is it worth waiting for this model?

Skoda Fabia

Skoda Fabia - front

Due: SeptemberPrice: From £11,160Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 108bhp 

We’ve already driven the revised Skoda Fabia ahead of first deliveries next month, and it promises lots of space and hi-tech equipment. A 108bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine will be available.

Figures

 Citroen C3 PureTech 110 Feel Nav EditionHyundai i20 1.0 T-GDi 100 SE Nissan Micra IG-T 90 N-Connecta
On the road price/total as tested£16,750/£16,750£16,395/£16,395£16,770/£16,770
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£6,017/35.9%£5,850/35.7%£5,900/35.2%
Depreciation£10,733£10,545£10,870
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£708/£1,415£744/£1,488£664/£1,327
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,623/£2,705£1,470/£2,450£1,544/£2,574
Ins. group/quote/road tax16/£336/£14013/£365/£1404/£357/£140
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd serviceVaries by dealer£99/£219/£99£199/£269/£199
    
Length/wheelbase3,996/2,539mm4,035/2,570mm3,999/2,525mm
Height/width1,474/1,829mm1,474/1,734mm1,455/1,743mm
Engine3cyl in-line/1,199cc3cyl in-line/998cc3cyl in-line/898cc
Peak power/revs 108/5,500 bhp/rpm99/4,500 bhp/rpm89/5,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 205/1,500 Nm/rpm172/1,500 Nm/rpm150/2,250 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel45 litres/space saver50 litres/repair kit41 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)300/922 litres326/1,042 litres300/1,004 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,050/550/600kg1,065/535/1,000kg1,068/462/1,200kg
Turning circle10.9 metres10.2 metres10.0 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr5yrs (unlimited)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.25th/11th15th/12th4th/25th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars88/83/59/58/4 (2017)85/73/79/64/4 (2015)91/79/79/72/5 (2017)
    
0-60/30-70mph9.7/10.5 secs9.7/10.2 secs10.8/10.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.6/7.7 secs5.4/7.8 secs5.0/7.2 secs
50-70mph in 5th11.0 secs12.0 secs14.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 117mph/2,500rpm117mph/2,500rpm109mph/2,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 53.7/38.8/11.2m48.6/36.0/9.0m49.0/34.0/9.2m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph74/51/62/70dB67/42/68/75dB71/51/65/73dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range43.3/9.5/429 miles47.8/10.5/526 miles45.5/10.0/410 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 51.4/70.6/61.4mpg48.7/62.8/56.5mpg50.4/76.3/64.2mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.3/15.5/13.5mpl10.7/13.8/12.4mpl11.1/16.8/14.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket151/103g/km/21%137/114g/km/23%143/99g/km/20%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£250/noSix/yes/yes/noSix/y/£600*/£600*
Auto box/lane keep/blind spot/AEB No/yes/no/£600*£1,250/yes/no/yesNo/yes/£600*/yes
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/no/noAir-con/yes/no/noYes/yes/no/no
Metallic/LEDs/keyless go/pwr tailgate£495/no/no/no£550/no/no/no£575/no/£250/no
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected appsYes/no/yes/yesNo/no/yes/noYes/no/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android AutoNo/yes/yesNo/yes/yesNo/yes/no

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