What is it? Second-generation version of Hyundai i20 supermini
Key features: More space, sharper style, more equipment
Our view: A definite step forward, and a lot of car for the money.
Since being introduced in 2009 the Hyundai i20 has become one of the brand’s big sellers, and a crucial player in the brand’s continued UK growth after being propelled to prominence by the recession-era Government scrappage scheme.
However compared to its smaller and larger sisters the i10 and i30, the supermini-sized i20 has written few headlines – which it really needs to do if it is to compete in a market where rivals include the much-praised Volkswagen Polo, the brand-new Vauxhall Corsa and Britain’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta. And in the ‘New Generation’ i20, Hyundai feels it has the answer.
First impressions are certainly positive. The looks of the second-generation i20 are sharper, more purposeful – and in appearance it feels less supermini, more hatch from the next sector up.
Such feelings are not entirely misplaced. The Hyundai i20 is built on an all-new platform – the car is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor and crucially has a wheelbase extended by 45mm to 2570mm. The resultant 1892mm of combined front and rear legroom enables Hyundai to claim best-in-class interior space, along with a 326-litre boot. This is 36 litres more than in the Fiesta, and 10 more than in the Focus – which is from the next class up…
Slipping inside the i20 it certainly feels roomy, in front or back. Ahead of the driver is a pretty traditional dash layout, and it’s here perhaps where the Hyundai lags behind its big-name rivals.
While the panel fit and surfacing is of good quality, it doesn’t feel as plush as the latest from the likes of Ford and Volkswagen. And in an era when touchscreen-based centre consoles are becoming the norm, the more traditional display of the i20 feels a little dated, the top-of-dash mounted smartphone holder enabling one to use its navigation app a somewhat basic alternative.
The new i20 launches with a five-way engine choice, all of which are existing Hyundai units, updated to meet the latest EU6 emissions regulations. They will be joined by a brand new 1.0-litre three-cylinder T-GDI turbocharged petrol engine of 118bhp, the first of a new family of power units, but this is still some months away.
There are three petrol units of 1.2-litre 74bhp, 1.2-litre 83bhp, and 1.4-litre 99bhp, plus 1.1-litre 74bhp and 1.4-litre 89bhp diesels. The Car Expert drove the more powerful of the 1.2-litre petrol units, and overall it’s a competent, refined engine, smoothly accelerating and bowling along happily at motorway speeds, with little noticeable noise.
The problem is it takes a while to get to such speeds – 13.1 seconds to 62mph is pedestrian compared to rivals who have the advantage of turbochargers on their engines. The Hyundai also suffers the moment it encounters a significant gradient, its mere 90lbft of torque causing one to hurriedly drop through the five-speed gearbox, which it should be said is very slick and precise in operation. The new engine could well be a major gain for the i20.
In terms of roadholding and handling – the Fiesta is better, but then just about everyone in the segment looks to the Ford for its benchmark. Hyundai has made great strides with its chassis – it’s comfortable in a straight line, with only the largest of potholes making themselves felt in the cabin, and it is equally competent and easy to place into corners, staying upright with confidence-inducing grip.
The new i20 is offered in five trim levels, and our test car was furnished in the second SE grade, with which by far the majority will be sold. The spec is impressive, including such niceties as daytime running lights, leather on the steering wheel and gear-knob, parking sensors and, surely fast becoming an essential accessory, Bluetooth connectivity for one’s phone – controlled either by steering wheel controls or voice recognition.
A comprehensive safety spec includes technology one doesn’t necessarily expect in volume superminis, such as Emergency Stop Signal and Lane departure warning, described by Hyundai as a segment first.
Similar highlights are on the options list, including a full-length panoramic sunroof.
When one factors in the price of our test car, £12,725, it becomes a serious contender. Fiesta and Vauxhall can both compete on price but with less equipment, the VW Polo is more expensive and again with less equipment, while no contender matches the Hyundai on space or its five-year warranty.
So the new Hyundai i20 is a definite step forward, and should keep many supermini buyers in a Hyundai – it’s a lot of car for the money.
Hyundai i20 – key specifications
Model tested: Hyundai i20 SE 1.2 84PS
On sale: January 2015
Insurance group: TBA
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Power (bhp): 83
Torque (lb/ft): 90
0-62mph (sec): 13.1
Top speed (mph): 106
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 55.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 119
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo
Test Date: January 2015