Korea’s biggest car brand continues to impress with every new model, and this is the best Hyundai i20 yet. While the standout styling might not be to all tastes and the cabin is let down by mixed materials and a lack of colour, the i20 hits the mark in almost all other respects, from its entertaining chassis and sweet-spinning three-cylinder engine to practicality, equipment and running costs thanks to Hyundai’s strong warranty and finance rates helped by a low deposit. It still isn’t quite the all-rounder that are our favourite superminis the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta, but it gets closer than ever.
Engines, performance & drive
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.
MPG, CO2 & running costs
With just the one engine and a pair of transmissions you get what you’re given when it comes to economy, though thankfully the i20 is respectably frugal – and indeed, nearly identically frugal regardless of whether you opt for the manual or DCT automatic. The important figure is the WLTP combined fuel economy rating of 55.4mpg. Premium and Ultimate versions take a small hit on their larger wheels, at 54.3mpg for the manual and 53.3mpg for the DCT.
That’s a touch more than a Renault Clio with the TCe 100 engine, but despite the i20’s hybrid tech, it still can’t quite match the few remaining diesels in this class – the diesel Clio, for comparison, manages 67.2mpg.
Hybrid tech does result in low CO2 emissions figures, however, at 115g/km for the manual and 117g/km for the DCT. Premium and Ultimate versions emit a touch more, but not enough to change their tax bands. As an alternative fuel vehicle that means a first-year bill of £165 for all i20s, and £140 per year thereafter. The numbers do have a slight effect on BIK rates for company users, with most i20s in the 28% band but Premium and Ultimate DCT i20s, with their 121g/km ratings, falling into the 29% segment. All figures remain unchanged through the 2022/23 tax year.
Insurance premiums shouldn’t prove to be too expensive with entry-level SE Connect cars placed in group 12. Higher-spec i20 Premium and Ultimate versions will cost a little more as they are ranked in group 14 and 15 respectively. In comparison, base Renault Clio models start from group 10.
Specific residual value data isn’t yet available for the i20. The previous generation i20 model retained around
37-39% over a typical three-year/36,000-mile ownership period, so the boxfresh third-gen model should prove to be a slightly stronger bet. Again, by way of comparison, the Renault Clio manages to hold onto around 42-46% of its original value after the first three years.
Interior, design & technology
If the i20’s exterior styling is wild, then the cabin is closer to mild. There’s some visual interest with the unusual four-spoke steering wheel design, vents that seem to flow into the rest of the dashboard design and a 10.25-inch digital instrument display standard to all i20s, but there’s a depressing lack of colour in here – strange, when Hyundai’s own Kona allows you flashes of colour around the vents and on the seats. It’s not up to the quality of a Fiesta, and nowhere near a Citroen C3 in terms of imagination.
There’s a bit of a mishmash of textures too, though to be fair to Hyundai everything seems well screwed together, with no evidence of squeaks or rattles.
Equipment levels are good too and make up for the lack of imagination – SE Connect gets cruise control, manual air-conditioning and a rear-view camera along with parking sensors; Premium and Ultimate models get such niceties as heated seats and a heated steering wheel, while there’s ambient lighting in the footwells to make night-time driving a little more interesting.
Premium trim additionally adds LED front and rear lights, folding mirrors, automatic wipers and 17-inch alloys, while Ultimate brings a contrasting roof colour, keyless entry and start, a wireless smartphone charging pad, blind spot warning and Bose premium audio. That digital cluster is neat too, available on all models and with a configurable display to keep track of major functions, as well as an overview of the 48-volt mild-hybrid system’s energy flow.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Like many rivals Hyundai has now put its infotainment screen high on the dashboard, level with the driver’s instrument cluster. On SE Connect models you get an eight-inch screen with useful physical controls either side of the display which serve as quick links to the system’s major functions and can connect to your smartphone for further utility.
Premium and Ultimate trim lines get a larger 10.25-inch display, while the hot keys migrate below the screen and now use touch-sensitive technology – not as intuitive, though thankfully the volume knob remains a physical control. Hyundai’s systems are always logical to use, and the larger screen features built-in navigation, though smartphone users can still connect for further functions just like they can with the smaller screen.
Practicality, comfort & boot space
Hyundai’s supermini has had a growth spurt over the last couple of generations and the latest model is no exception, growing in every dimension apart from height, with its slightly lower profile combining with greater width to lend the car its sporty proportions. Most importantly there’s been a small increase in wheelbase to improve cabin room, and general improvements to the cabin design make this the most accommodating i20 yet.
The usual suite of cubbyholes makes it easy enough to stash stuff around the i20’s cabin, though no better or worse than the class average. The cubby ahead of the gearlever is more than suitable for a mobile phone or two though, and in Ultimate models the pad within it can be used to charge your device.
The i20 is right in the supermini ballpark, with a length of just over four metres, at 4040mm. It’s also 1,775mm wide excluding mirrors, and 1,450mm high, with a 2,580mm wheelbase, 10mm greater than its predecessor. For comparison those figures are within a few centimetres of a Volkswagen Polo in terms of length, marginally wider and around the same height, while it’s identical to a Fiesta in length but a touch wider and lower.
Legroom, headroom &
Being among the larger superminis the i20 can comfortably accommodate four adults – you might even squeeze four six-footers in there, so carrying a couple of children around is no issue at all.
At 352 litres, the i20’s boot is among the largest in its class. It bests the Fiesta’s 292-litre space quite significantly and has the measure of the Peugeot 208’s 311-litre hold too – only Volkswagen’s Polo can claim similar space, with an insignificant one-litre difference at 351 litres. Even then, the Hyundai’s 1,165-litre seats-down volume is 40 litres greater than that of the Volkswagen.
Reliability & safety
Take one look at Hyundai’s five-year warranty and it should give you a pretty good idea of how the brand sees its reliability, which in turn is reassuring for the customer. Hyundai as a whole has seen improvements in recent years and the old i20’s 4.2% fault rate in the first year of ownership is usefully lower than the Ford Fiesta’s 17.3% figure for the same metric.
The latest i20 has not been crash tested by Euro NCAP as yet. When it is, there should be a sizeable improvement on its predecessor, last tested in 2015, which already received a four-star rating (out of five) and achieved fairly impressive scores for both occupant protection and, admirably, pedestrian protection. The i20 range packs plenty of useful safety tech, from autonomous emergency braking, forward collision assist, lane keep assist and blind spot collision warning to the usual stability control, six airbags, and an eCall system that alerts rescue services in the event of an accident.
Hyundai has one of the best warranties on the market with a five-year, unlimited-mileage offering that should cover the length of most lease deals and offer plenty of peace of mind for customers buying and intending to keep their i20 for longer. Only a few companies, including compatriot Kia with its seven-year guarantee, offer more security.
Much like the warranty situation, Hyundai’s servicing packages are pretty good too. The fixed-price options cost around £500 for three years and £1,000 for five years, which can be paid monthly and include all routine maintenance over those periods. Hyundai also offers “Essentials” service plans for used cars out of warranty, though used and nearly new i20s still currently have plenty of years left.
- Responsive chassis
- Well equipped
- Dull cabin
- Limited engine range
- Larger wheels may harm ride quality
Price: £13,326 to £22,541
Source: ADI News
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