Car group tests

Hyundai i20 vs VW Polo

All-new Hyundai i20 is one of the most practical superminis, but can it steal the class crown from the Volkswagen Polo?

The supermini class is one of the UK’s most fiercely fought, so any new car needs to be outstanding just to get noticed. And Hyundai has left no stone unturned to make its i20 a winner.

This new, second-generation model promises to add style, quality and desirability to the original’s reputation for value and a no-nonsense ownership experience.

Plus, as the new i20 is bigger than before, it’s now one of the most spacious and practical small cars around. Add the brand’s trademark five-year warranty, keen pricing and a range of efficient engines, and the car looks to have all the bases covered. Here we test it with a 1.4-litre CRDi diesel engine.

Best superminis on the market

The supermini the i20 has to beat is the VW Polo. Recently revised and boasting class-leading refinement and quality, this small car really does think big. It’s quiet and comfortable, with the sort of hi-tech kit you’d normally expect on much larger and more expensive models.

This is the first time we’ve tested the diesel Polo, but the promise of extremely low running costs and grown-up driving dynamics should make it a tough opponent for the new i20.

Hyundai i20 review

Volkswagen Polo review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which supermini comes out on top in this twin-test...

Head-to-head

Hi-tech kit

Both our contenders prove hi-tech kit is no longer the preserve of big executive saloons. However, it’s the Polo that leads the way with its superb £700 touchscreen sat-nav and £500 adaptive cruise control. 

The Hyundai gets lane departure warning as standard, while the rather cheap-looking smartphone dock (below) is part of the £375 Driving Assistant pack, which also includes cornering headlamps and distinctive LED running lights.

Refinement

You’ll have no trouble guessing what type of engine powers the Polo. Start the three-cylinder diesel from cold and it sounds like there’s a pneumatic hammer under the bonnet. Our noise meter revealed it emitted 47dB at idle – 4dB louder than the i20. Still, the two cars were equally refined at speed.

Space race

The Hyundai is fractionally longer, wider and taller than the VW, so it’s no surprise it offers a bit more interior space. It has a bigger boot, too – when the seats are in place, there’s a very generous 301-litre capacity. Fold the rear bench flat and this increases to 1,017 litres, which is 65 litres up on the Polo.

Verdict 

1st place: Hyundai i20 

If you need a diesel supermini, the i20 is a better buy than the Polo. Its 1.4-litre engine is punchier, smoother and more economical. The Hyundai also benefits from handsome styling, a practical interior and decent refinement. The driving experience lacks sparkle and the ride is firm, but this is offset by value pricing and a long warranty. However, if we were testing petrol cars, this result would be reversed. 

2nd place: VW Polo

The Polo is still our favourite supermini, but it’s badly let down in this encounter by the noisy and unrefined three-cylinder diesel. Not only does it lack the smoothness of rival engines, it’s a sluggish performer and can’t match VW’s impressive fuel economy claims. Unless you plan to do tens of thousands of miles a year, the smooth and punchy 1.2-litre TSI is a far better bet – plus it’s nearly as efficient.

Key specs

 Hyundai i20 1.4 CRDi SE Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TDI SE
On the road price/total as tested£14,725/£15,595£15,425/£15,425
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)N/A£7,527/48.8%
DepreciationN/A£7,898
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£499/£998£430/£861
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,308/£2,180£1,327/£2,212
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost11/£314/B/£2013/£299/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£449 (3yrs/30k)£288 (2yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,035/2,570mm3,972/2,470mm
Height/width1,474/1,734mm1,453/1,682mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,396cc3cyl in-line/1,422cc
Peak power/revs 89/4,000 bhp/rpm74/3,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 240/1,500 Nm/rpm210/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/foam45 litres/foam
Boot capacity (seats up/down)301/1,017 litres280/952 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,280/410/1,100kg1,152/498/1,000kg
Turning circle10.2 metres10.6 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery5yrs (unltd)/5yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers10,000 miles (1yr)/162Variable/223
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.18th/13th19th/31st
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/starsN/A90/86/41/71/5
   
0-60/30-70mph11.8/12.6 secs13.4/14.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.3/5.9 secs5.4/8.0 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th8.7/11.0 secs12.9 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 109mph/2,000rpm107mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 54.0/39.9/9.3m52.9/38.0/10.3m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph63/44/59/67dB67/47/60/67dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range49.3/11.0/542 miles48.6/10.8/481 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 57.6/80.7/68.9mpg70.6/91.1/83.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 12.7/17.8/15.2mpl15.5/20.0/18.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket154/106g/km/17%156/88g/km/14%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/noFour/yes/£295/£240
Automatic box/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/yesNo/yes/£400*
Climate control/leather/heated seatsNo/no/no£380/no/£360*
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£495/no/no£540/£900/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothNo/yes/no/yes£700/yes/yes/yes

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