What is it?:
The new Hyundai i10 is the successor to a city car that has played an important role in the Korean manufacturer’s growth over the past half a decade.
During the life of the current i10, which has been on sale for five years and in turn replaced the Atoz introduced in 1999, Hyundai’s market share in Europe’s competitive A-segment has grown from 3.3 per cent to 5.6 per cent.
The i10 is currently Hyundai’s biggest seller in the UK and accounted for nearly one-third of the firm’s 74,000 sales last year.
However, Hyundai believes there are more conquests to be had. Industry analysts predict the city car category could grow by 25 per cent to 1.6 million units by 2016, which makes it vital for Hyundai’s i10 to remain competitive and contemporary against a glut of talented rivals such as the Volkswagen Up (not to mention equivalents from Seat and Skoda) and Fiat Panda.
Hence the arrival of this new i10 – which will go on sale in the UK as a five-door only – is predicted to capture 6.4 per cent of the European city car market in 2014, its first full year on sale.
The Hyundai i10’s price will start from £8345, narrowly undercutting the entry-level five-door VW Up’s list price of £8560, and on a par with the Up’s sibling, the Skoda Citigo.
Two petrol engine variants are available, a 1.0-litre and a 1.2-litre petrol, and three trim levels: S, SE and Premium.
Here we sample the i10 in Premium 1.0 equipped with a manual gearbox. In the UK the smaller-capacity engine is expected to account for about 60 per cent of i10 sales, with the majority of buyers opting for well-specified cars.
The derivative we tested costs £9995, and adds 14in alloys, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, a multi-function steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps, rear audio speakers and door mirror indicators to the i10’s fairly healthy standard specification. Satnav isn’t included as standard equipment on any of the trim levels.
What's it like?:
Unlike its predecessor, the new-generation i10 is a European car through and through. Based upon an all-new platform, it was designed and engineered at Hyundai’s technical centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and comes off the company’s recently expanded production line in Ízmit, Turkey.
Hyundai has set about improving the car’s desirability for European buyers via measures such as offering more space, making the design more appealing and improving the ride, handling and NVH qualities.
The car feels exceptionally grown-up for a city car. In most cars of this ilk, the thrum of the three-pot engine creates a characterful soundtrack that can become tiresome on longer journeys. In the i10, the isolation of engine noise in the cabin is excellent; you have to press on with some degree of aggression before the 998cc triple sounds at all harsh. There’s also little in the way of external wind noise thanks to a low drag coefficient and some detailed aerodynamic refinement, such as careful sculpting of the wing mirror mounts.
A 0-62mph time that only just dips under 15.0sec might suggest that this i10 variant holds little in store for the enthusiastic driver. While the 998cc engine might be lacking in accelerative urge, it delivers what power it has very smoothly.
On twisting, hilly roads a fair amount of gear stirring is necessary to keep the engine in its comfort zone, but that’s the story with most small powerplants. The chassis feels exceptionally well sorted and the ride is very compliant, isolating most road imperfections and giving the i10 a competency that’s not always present in this class of car, yet remaining fairly well composed during fast cornering.
The steering could benefit from feeling a touch less remote – it is neutral, but doesn’t quite have that direct connectedness that makes the Up such a hoot to drive.
At 3665mm long, 1660mm wide and 1500mm high, the Korean company’s new A-segment challenger is 80mm longer, 65mm wider and 50mm lower than the car it replaces. Whereas the outgoing i10 is the narrowest car in its class, the new iteration is the widest.
It feels airy and comfortable inside, and the strikingly bold strip of colour that runs all the way across the lower dashboard and surrounds the gearstick does an excellent job of lifting the ambience. Some might find it a little overbearing, but to our minds it is preferable to the ocean of black plastic you often find in cars at the reasonably priced end of the market.
Hunt for signs of economising and you’ll find some plasticky switchgear, but this is a stylish interior with plenty of storage cubby holes and drinks bottle holders.
Visibility out of the front is very good thanks to unobtrusive A-pillars. Up front the driving position isn’t cramped and in the rear, legroom and headroom are as good as you get in this class, although only the most slender-hipped of passengers will be able to withstand the middle berth of the rear bench for any length of time.
Hyundai cheekily claims the i10 offers the greatest luggage capacity in the sector, with the boot holding 252 litres with the rear seats in place, trumping the Up by all of one litre. Mind you, the i10’s advantage is extended when you fold down the 60/40 split rear bench, which frees up 1046 litres of load space to the Up’s 951 litres.
Should I buy one?:
The new Hyundai i10 feels like one of the most accomplished and well-rounded offerings in the city car segment, and has road manners that would embarrass a few much larger (and more expensive) vehicles.
Some buyers might prefer the slightly more direct driving feel offered by the VW Up and its siblings, or prefer the chic styling of the Fiat Panda, but the i10’s useable space, sophisticated ambience and generous standard equipment levels are significant advantages in this closely fought segment.
Add the manufacturer’s generous five-year warranty into the mix and there are plenty of sensible economical reasons to put this new Hyundai i10 on the shortlist. Now more than ever, though, Hyundai’s city car is a purchase that can be considered as much with the heart as with the head.
Hyundai i10 Premium 1.0 Manual
Price £9995; Top speed 96mph 0-62mph 14.9sec Economy 60mpg CO2 108g/km Engine 3 cyls, 998cc, petrol; Power 65bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 69 lb ft at 3500rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual