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Hyundai turns on the style – just a little – for its third-generation Polo chaser

The Hyundai i20 has proven that, for the time being at least, a meat- and-potatoes kind of supermini can sell well even in style- savvy Europe.

Seven years ago, when we road-tested the previous version, we concluded that it was a competent, practical and versatile kind of small car, albeit a dry and anonymous one. Forgettable or not, however, it was good enough to sneak beyond 100,000 units per year in Europe in 2017 and consistently to do even better than that in India, which has become its biggest market.

Kink in the i20’s C-pillar styling is more impactful on higher-grade cars, where it’s picked out in chrome. It aligns nicely with the rear window and cleverly mirrors the shape of the tail-light

Now, as the third-generation i20 enters production in Turkey, Hyundai defines this car’s core attributes – quality, reliability and practicality – as ones that seem familiar for their worthiness of flavour. And yet the ambition and new-found confidence driving this model forwards is tentatively but plainly growing.

Having decided, nearly a decade ago, that the best way to deliver greater space was simply to build a bigger small car, Hyundai has continued in the same vein, so the new i20 is wider and longer than the car it replaces and still sizeable for its class. But it’s also the first Hyundai to come from a new styling initiative intended to make its cars more distinctive and have greater ‘emotional value’.

Aside from being a lot of car for not a lot of money, then, this new i20 has connectivity and advanced safety provisions boldly touted as best-in-class. It also has a simpler but broader derivative range than any of its predecessors, with a 48V mild hybrid joining the line-up and, more noticeably, a sportily styled and tuned N Line version on the way, as well as an i20 N hot hatchback.

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Maybe now is the time for all that World Rally Championship exposure to sell some cars for Hyundai. So just how much of the supermini-buying market’s attention does this slightly more noticeable Hyundai now deserve? Our answer starts with the new mild-hybrid version of the i20 in entry-level SE Connect trim.

First drives