Say hello to the new, third-generation Hyundai i20, driven here in the UK for the first time in not-quite-finished pre-production guise.
A definitive first drive report will have to wait until we can get our hands on an example with a properly finished interior, production-spec noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures and a correctly calibrated gearbox. But for now, this left-hooker should give us a reasonably accurate idea of what we can expect from the new i20 when it officially goes on sale later this year.
Stylistically, the latest i20 represents a fairly dramatic departure from its predecessor. Whereas the previous one was a handsome but relatively plain-looking thing to behold, this latest version is much more radical. Hyundai’s rather curiously titled ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design language is to blame here, introducing sharper surface treatments, a lower roofline and a wider body to endow this new i20 with a rather more aggressive stance than it had before.
It’s longer now too, both nose-to-tail and between the wheels, which should bode well for passenger and luggage space. Either way, the foundation for the forthcoming i20 N hot hatch certainly looks to be a pretty strong one.
Until that performance model arrives, the i20 engine line-up is pretty run of the mill. The UK offering hasn’t been finalised yet, but everything revolves around two different engines and four gearbox choices. An 83bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol kicks proceedings off at the entry-point to the range and is paired with a five-speed manual 'box. Then there’s the 99bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot, which is available with either a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or a six-speed manual.
That 99bhp 1.0-litre engine is also available with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system as an option, and there’s a 118bhp version too. The 118bhp unit has the 48v system as standard, and is the car we’re testing here. It uses a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box to drive the front wheels, although Hyundai’s newly-developed six-speed ‘Intelligent Manual’ is also available. The South Korean manufacturer hasn’t confirmed how this affects things like system power and torque outputs, but a 3-4% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions is a byproduct of having it fitted.
Elsewhere, the i20 is pretty standard supermini fare. There are a couple of MacPherson struts up front, while a torsion beam stretches itself across the rear axle.
Although it was pretty apparent that this i20 wasn’t quite finished, it still proved likeable on a short drive on the roads around High Wycombe. Despite the really quite noticeable levels of audible suspension thump and pitter-patter being transmitted into the cabin, the i20 rides in a largely respectable fashion for a car of its size.
Body control over undulations is good, and while sharper impacts certainly make themselves felt (and, at present, heard), it never feels overly agitated or upset on particularly coarse stretches of road. A drive in the finished car will prove just how good (or bad) it really is, but if things are only going to improve from this point, it seems there’s little to be too concerned about.