The Hyundai i10 offers bags of kit at a keen price, but needs more character

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Hyundai has a history of producing cheap, competent but forgettable small cars. Previous budget offerings such as the Atoz were light on the pocket, but offered little to the enthusiast driver, the image conscious or even those looking for a nicely resolved runaround.

The Hyundai Hyundai i10 became Hyundai’s first serious attempt at a city car in 2007. And after the universal praise heaped on the Focus-sized Hyundai i30 hatch when it arrived the same year, which was instantly lauded as perhaps the finest Korean car Europe had seen, big things were expected of this little car.

Korea’s latest city car comes packed with standard goodies

At the time, it was for Hyundai to mix the value and dependability for which it was already reputed with enough quality and dynamic sparkle to distinguish the i10 in a class populated by fairly ordinary cars. But since 2007, the likes of the Volkswagen Up and renewed Fiat Panda have made the city car competition much stiffer.



The i10 is a handsome little city car, but one without the overall chic appeal of some of its European rivals. The basics of its design are simply and effectively executed; there are no gimmicks and no awkward styling flourishes that would turn it into a love it or hate it design. But in the same breath, there's little that stands out or sticks in the memory here: little to make you desire the car.

At launch the i10 featured a cheery Hyundai corporate grille first seen on the 2007 i30. This look was evolved further with its mid-life facelft, which gave the car a more distinctive and bolder front end, an indication of Hyundai’s growing confidence as a company

The i10 can't match the visual appeal of the latest crop of city cars

The i10 is a fairly tall car, essential for making the most of the interior space. One thing that instantly adds appeal to its design is the rear spoiler, but this is only standard on top-spec models. That’s a shame, because it helps to balance the car’s proportions and adds a little character to the otherwise slightly anonymous shape.

A neat design touch on the rear of the i10 doubles up as access to the boot. There are no buttons or fiddly key fobs for the boot release; as long as it’s unlocked, the boot badge doubles as the handle for the latch, which means opening the boot is one easy, fluid motion. 

The trailing edge of the rear door seems unusually steeply raked, giving the impression that access could be tricky. Actually, the opposite is true. The fact that the rear door is longer than the front one no doubt helps this. 


Hyundai claims the i10 is “small, but packed with luxury”. Standard equipment is not to be sniffed at, but where the i10’s pretensions towards luxury fall short is in the design, feel and general ambience of the cabin.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the cabin’s layout or with the way it looks, but neither is there any real flair or spark to the design. The interior is a sea of dark-hued plastics of varying texture, and there’s very little that’s bright, innovative or striking about it. Compared with a Fiat Panda’s or Volkswagen Up’s interior, the i10 seems drab and uninspiring.

The ashtray can be removed to reveal a larger cupholder, but then there’s nowhere to put it

There’s little doubt about the Hyundai’s build quality – it seems durable enough and is backed up by a five-year warranty – but the feel of it again disappoints slightly. The hollow-sounding, grainy, shiny plastics feel far more workmanlike than anything else.

Space, however, is generous. You should be able to accommodate four average-sized adults in adequate comfort even over long distances, although taller or longer-legged occupants might prefer shorter journeys. Head and legroom are good, but try to squeeze three into the back and you’ll suffer from a severe lack of elbow room. Better to keep the rear for children, where the standard Isofix seatbelt points will come in handy.

The 60/40-split folding rear seats are also useful for transporting longer items, as the seats-up boot length is pretty short. Higher spec models also get an underfloor storage tray in the boot which, although it raises the main boot floor by a few inches, is extremely useful for oddments and clutter that would otherwise roll around in the rear.

The rubber steering wheel of entry-level versions leaves a slightly unpleasant smell on your hands and is also a little abrasive. The top-spec model gets a leather-covered wheel, which is worth having.


The i10 offers a slightly confusing engine range, where the smallest engine isn’t actually the cheapest. So there’s the 68bhp 1.0-litre Blue model, which sits above the 84bhp 1.2-litre engine in two of its three combined trim options on the basis that the three-cylinder Blue model throws in a load of fuel-saving technologies to boot.

If you’re in the majority of i10 buyers who’ll go for the 1.2 engine, you can expect peppy performance around town. For the most part the i10 delivers with that particular engine, serving up more power and flexibility than many rivals. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre car, by contrast, seems a little strained and compromised in its quest for low emissions.

The optional four-speed auto is great at low revs around town, but slow to react under hard acceleration

Accelerating up to the 30-40mph maximum speeds of town and city driving, the i10 1.2 feels immediately lively and agile. This is partly thanks to a pleasantly light and smooth clutch action, and to well spaced gear ratios. Mainly, however, the i10’s feeling of urban agility comes from the action of the gearshift itself. The five-speed ’box’s throws are nicely judged and the lever moves with a satisfying, well oiled ease.

The true benefit of picking the 1.2-litre i10 is not its performance figures, rather its dramatically improved refinement. At idle you can barely hear the engine, and although it starts rasping under full throttle, it’s always a civilised performer.

Venture onto the motorway and the benefits of the bigger engine are apparent in terms of both reduced engine noise when cruising, but also a welcome boost in performance. It’s still far from being rapid - something true of any city car - and overtaking requires anticipation and plenty of gear changes.

Stopping isn’t a problem. Being one of the only cars in the class with disc brakes all round and with less than one tonne to haul to a stop, the i10’s braking is more than up to the job, with good feel, strong retardation and a commendable resistance to fade.


This is probably the i10’s strongest suit. Most impressive (and certainly most important) is the Hyundai’s ride around town. It’s controlled but compliant enough to cushion you from sleeping policeman and the like; it deals with urban surface scars and potholes very well, rather than heaving and pitching over them as a more softly sprung car would, or allowing them to jolt into the cabin as a firmer car might.

The steering is also exceedingly well judged for busy urban traffic. The electrically assisted rack is light, direct and relatively quick (3.0 turns from lock to lock), and the car has an impressively tight turning circle of 9.2 metres. Best of all, however, it feels very much like a hydraulically assisted system; it’s free of the judder that often mars a rapidly twirled electrically powered wheel, and provides a fluent and feelsome sense of control.

The i10’s taut, controlled but comfortable ride leads you to expect good things in the unlikely event that you decide to attack a series of bends

Out of town, the taut but comfortable ride translates into impressive country-road composure. The i10 manages to flow over undulating, lumpy B-roads almost with the aplomb of a large family hatchback. You can certainly feel what speed you’re doing, just as you would expect of such a small, short car, but the car's handlng and ride always feels measured and controlled.

Through corners the i10 stays flat, neutral and safe, with progressive but controlled body roll and keen turn-in. There’s limited traction from the skinny tyres, though, and the chassis doesn’t feel the most adjustable once you’re settled into a corner. But the i10’s mid-corner behaviour is certainly predictable; it’ll either stay on line or drift into benign understeer.

In almost all of these respects, however, the 1.2-litre i10 seems significantly more impressive than the 1.0-litre Blue-spec car. Lower-resistance tyres and shorter-travel suspension hobbles the 1.0-litre car's dynamic performance a little, and turn an outstanding act into a merely acceptable one. 


Hyundai i10 2008-2013

The combination of a low sticker price and a high kit count is a powerful one for the littlest Hyundai. Top that with Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited mileage warranty and you’ve got a tempting prospect for the private buyer.

Running costs are generally commendably low, and fuel consumption competitive, although not quite class-leading. The 1.0 and 1.2-litre petrol engines offer claimed economy ratings of 67.3mpg and 61.4mpg respectively. There is no diesel, but diesels are seldom on offer in this class.

The i10 comes with Hyundai's five-year, 100,000-mile warranty - great peace of mind

As is par for the course, there’s a sub-100g/km model in the range, the 1.0 Blue model qualifying for zero road tax and an exemption from London’s congestion charging zone should you spend a lot of you time in the capital. The 1.2’s CO2 rating of 108g/km is also highly commendable.

Insurance wise, the i10 ranges from group 9 upwards. That’s disappointing versus most key rivals, when you can insure a Volkswagen Up with a group 1 rating, and a Fiat Panda from group 4. And on depreciation, the i10 compares favourably enough.


The i10 is a very impressive offering from Hyundai. It’s a mature and well rounded, intelligently designed and thoroughly engineered city car, and a shining example of just how far Hyundai, and sister brand Kia, have come over the last decade.

While the scrappage scheme of 2009 was undoubtedly a boost for Hyundai in helping put the firm on the map, it’s now a consistently strong performer in the UK, and certainly deserves a leading position in the European 'A' segment with this car.

It's good value, practical and dynamically polished, but the i10 lacks simple desirability

Hyundai's buyers are beginning to see products such as the i10 for what they are: excellent value for money, with a five-year warranty and the sort of luxuries that are rare in this class as standard. The car's performance is strong, and its handling is composed, safe and sometimes even fun. If only the interior and exterior design was a touch more exciting, the i10 would have few equals. As it is, however, the i10 slots in just below the Fiat Panda and Volkswagen Up in the city car stakes.

If you simply must have a green supermini, the i10 Blue is a high-value proposition. But in the realm of i10s, we’d save a few quid on the list price and stick with the 1.2.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Hyundai i10 2008-2013 First drives