In-depth reviews

Hyundai i20 review - Engines, performance & drive

More capable than its predecessor and now a proper Fiesta rival for fun. Smooth engine and effective mild-hybrid system are impressive, too

Previous generations of Hyundai i20 have driven neatly enough but rarely got within striking distance of the more entertaining cars in their class. It’s all change this time around though, because the latest i20 is now a genuinely fun little car to drive, and much closer in spirit to the Ford Fiesta that has traditionally led the way in this class.

When you consider that a sporty i20 N hot hatchback will soon join the range, it’s clear that Hyundai made sure the basic package was up to the task – but it hasn’t sacrificed the needs of everyday buyers in the pursuit of a more entertaining drive. The ride is a little firmer than previous i20 buyers might be used to, which has helped reduce body roll in corners and sharpen up the Hyundai’s handling, but it still smothers bumps admirably well, at least on the smaller wheel options.

Lack of engine choice might spell disaster if the sole unit wasn’t up to snuff, but luckily Hyundai has got things spot-on here too. The three-cylinder power plant uses 48-volt mild-hybrid technology to recoup energy when slowing down, also allowing for stop-start functionality when you pull to a halt. It’s smooth when both stopping and restarting, and doesn’t produce much vibration underway either – wind and tyre noise are more apparent at speed.

Both the engine and gearbox are pleasant to use in their own right, the engine pulling strongly from relatively few revs and happy to pull higher gears at relatively low speeds, which is great for economy. We’ve only tried the manual gearbox so far, but it’s smooth and easy to use too, while a sport mode improves throttle response if you’re feeling racy.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

There’s just one engine offered in the i20, driving the front wheels through a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The three-cylinder petrol unit develops 99bhp, and thanks to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system there’s a useful 171Nm of torque on offer from only 1,500rpm – or, unusually, 172Nm if you opt for the dual-clutch auto.

Doing so does lose you a little accelerative performance though, the DCT taking a second longer to reach 62mph from rest, at 11.4 seconds compared to 10.4 seconds for the petrol – not fire-breathing, but competitive with similarly powered rivals. The top speeds of 118mph for the manual and 113mph for the automatic are also par for the course.

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