A worthy rival to the Europeans, but lacking any originality

Our Verdict

Hyundai i20 2009-2014
The i20 continues Hyundai's impressive development

Hyundai’s i20 is all about quality and value rather than desirability, although a nip and tuck in 2012 has helped

  • First Drive

    Hyundai i20 1.2 Active

    New Hyundai i20 is smarter, cleaner and more grown-up than the outgoing model. It’s certainly well worth a close look.
  • First Drive

    Hyundai i20 Blue

    A few niggles when it comes to refinement of driving experience, but it’s hard to argue with 98g/km

What is it?

The new Hyundai i20 replaces the ageing Getz. Hyundai hopes its new baby will be able to capitalise on growing demand for small cars and superminis, with the i20 claimed to prove that the company can create successful products for the specific demand of the European market.

What’s it like?

Considering its importance to Hyundai, you may be slightly disappointed when you first clap eyes on the i20. This can fairly be described as a conservative-looking car that does without the panache of funkier segment rivals.

The i20 is certainly no fashion object, but the relatively high roofline has practical benefits and the shape is elegant enough.

Hop into the cabin and you’re greeted by a more contemporary interior than we’ve seen from Hyundai thus far. The top-spec Style gets a leather steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake handle, but even lesser i20s will have generous standard equipment. Vibrant two-tone seats jazz up the interior, but there are still some old-fashioned, cheap-looking plastics – and the fragile-feeling switchgear is a let-down.

However, those minor niggles don’t detract from the amount of space available - there’s decent headroom and knee room in the back, and the luggage area is reasonable too.

The range-topping 1.4-litre diesel is capable of more than 50mpg under hard use, but it’s a coarse-sounding motor and it doesn’t really suit what is potentially a smart, nippy little car.

On the road, the i20 is surprisingly composed and dynamically accomplished, especially when compared with the Getz. There’s much less body roll and it steers with neat, accurate precision.

Beyond the limit, the i20 behaves predictably and optional ESP adds an extra safety net.

In fact, if you’ll excuse the stereotyping, it drives like a German car – not surprising since much of the high-speed and handling testing has been done in Deutschland.

But therein lies the i20s biggest flaw: its ride quality. There’s too much vibration through the cabin at low and high-speeds. And although it rides over big bumps quite adeptly, the low-speed fidget is a constant distraction.

Our test car’s Kumho tyres could be part of the cause - UK models will be shod with Hankooks.

Should I buy one?

The i20 moves the game on for Hyundai. It’s a decent car and a justifiable rival for European products in terms of quality and driving experience as well as price.

It’s not particularly fresh or original, but it does undercut its significant rivals and Hyundai’s five-year warranty remains one of the best in the business. As an overall package, it’s fair to say the i20 has got what it takes to bring many new buyers to the brand.

Will Powell

Join the debate

Comments
1

23 October 2008

So the Koreans have just about caught up with European manaufacturers for "conventional mainstream cars" at the same time as many of these manufacturers seem to be having a crisis of confidence about which niches their next products should fill.

It seems to me that the Koreans are poised to see a dramatic growth in their market share should the public decide they do not wish to pay through the nose for niche products.

In fact the Europeans appear to be on the point of conceding the conventional car market without putting up any real fight.Perhaps Ford is an exception hoping that a really well developed chassis and reasonable running costs can still give them an edge. Otherwise will the remaining European mass market manufacturers follow Rover and Land Rover into niches that most do not want to buy?

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka