Packed with standard kit, the Hyundai i20 Turbo Edition is great value, but the driving experience still leaves us cold

What is it?

There once was a time where the word ‘Turbo’ indicated that you owned something truly special, a word reserved for machines that occupied the upper echelons of the performance car spectrum. To drive something like a Renault 5 Turbo or Ford Sierra RS Cosworth suggested to the outside world that you weren’t afraid of unpredictable bouts of oversteer, spiky turbo lag and poor fuel economy; turbos were cool.

Unfortunately, those days are well and truly numbered, and this latest offering from Hyundai proves it. Despite its sporty nomenclature, the i20 Turbo Edition, with its eco-focused 1.0-litre 99bhp three-cylinder engine, is far from being a genuine performance car. Instead, its appeal is based on value and generous equipment levels, rather than outright pace.

Hyundai i20 turbo gdi 414

Based on the mid-range SE that we tested earlier this year, the Turbo  Edition comes packed with an impressive range of standard kit that includes Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. However, to set this special edition apart as its own 'distinctive' model, Hyundai has also treated the Turbo Edition to automatic lights, a rear-view camera, satellite navigation and 16-inch alloy wheels. Oh, and owners also get and a free seven-year TomTom Live Services subscription, too.  

Considering that an equivalent SE is a whopping £1050 more expensive, the £12,975 Turbo certainly looks like good value – even if it doesn’t have the performance to back up its rather boastful name. 

What's it like?

Disappointingly, the Turbo  Edition is more or less mechanically identical to the standard i20 SE, and as a result it feels very similar to drive. Twist the key and the small 1.0-litre engine bursts into life with a distinctive offbeat three-cylinder thrum. It’s noticeably louder than the triple found in the new Fiesta ST-Line, and although it’s a rather endearing soundtrack, it immediately feels less refined than the competition.

Pulling away, that lack of refinement becomes even more glaring. Depress the accelerator and there’s a significant pause before the turbo limbers up. It’s a characteristic that’s common in small capacity turbocharged motors, but one that seems to be particularly noticeable in the little Hyundai. Thankfully, once the motor gets going – at around 2000rpm - power delivery is smooth and progressive, but that initial lack of response could be a deal breaker for some.

Hyundai i20 turbo gdi 415

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Handling wise, the i20 has never been top of the class, and unfortunately the same applies here. The steering is well weighted and progressive but it never provides you with any real sense of what the front end is actually doing. And although body roll is well controlled, there’s no particular sense of agility.

However, where the Hyundai gets one up on the competition is on price and practicality. Essential kit such as cruise control, Bluetooth and DAB all comes as standard, as well as a 7.0-inch TomTom sat-nav. It’s a fast and responsive unit that works better than most in-house navigation systems we’ve tried. When you consider that it would cost around £3000 more to buy an equivalent 1.0-litre Ecoboost Ford Fiesta with comparable tech, the £13,000 Turbo Edition makes sound financial sense. 

Ergonomically, the Turbo Edition is no different from a standard i20, but that’s no bad thing. It offers one of the roomiest cabins in the class, with enough leg and head room to accommodate all but the tallest of drivers, and thanks to its high roof line, access to the rear takes minimal effort; essential for families with young children. 

Should I buy one?

As long as outright performance isn’t your number one priority, the i20 Turbo Edition is a surprisingly appealing prospect. It offers more interior space than the competition, comes packed with standard kit and should be cheap to buy and run (it returned 58mpg on our varied test route).

Ultimately, like the standard model, it’s a practical and durable machine. Just don’t expect it to put a smile on your face.

Hyundai i20 turbo gdi 416

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2016 Hyundai i20 Turbo Edition

Location North Wales; On sale Now; Price £12,975; Engine 3 cyls, 998cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 99bhp at 4500rpm; Torque 127lb ft at 1500-4000rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight tbc; 0-62mph 10.7sec; Top speed 116mph; Economy 72.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating/tax band 104g/km, 20% Rivals Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Volkswagen Polo 

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Add a comment…
stumpys182 11 October 2016

Ha Ha Hah!!

@bowsersheepdog I think I may have just wet myself!!
Glad I'm not the only one who thought that when I read it! Well said!!
bowsersheepdog 8 October 2016

What a difference six weeks can make

26 August 2016.
Ford Fiesta
3 cylinder 999cc turbocharged petrol engine
99 brake horse power @6000rpm
124 lb ft torque @1400-6000rpm
Co2: 99 g/km
Tax band: 16%
0-62: 11.2 seconds
Top speed: 112 miles per hour
Combined miles per gallon: 65.7
Price: £15,645
Parkers tax calculator for basic rate:
car benefit tax £45 per month
car fuel benefit tax £58 per month
Autocar: four stars

6 October 2016.
Hyundai i20
3 cylinder 998cc turbocharged petrol engine
99 brake horse power @4500rpm
127 lb ft torque @1500-4000rpm
Co2: 104 g/km
Tax band: 20%
0-62: 10.7 seconds
Top speed: 116 miles per hour
Combined miles per gallon: 72.4
Price: £12,975
Parkers tax calculator for basic rate:
car benefit tax £37 per month
car fuel benefit tax £62 per month
Autocar: three and a half stars

Now. We have two superminis, designed to look a bit more sporty than the basic cars in the range while being easier on the pocket. Both just about manage to look different enough. They have similar sized engines and equal power though the Hyundai shades it on torque, and while both deliver their torque low down the Ford needs revving harder to get maximum power. You know, the way cost conscious motorists like to.

The Hyundai is quicker off the mark and has a slightly higher (but mostly irrelevant) top speed, and uses less fuel. The Ford emits a little less carbon dioxide, and so falls into a lower tax band and also attracts a lower rate of company car tax (which is obviously only a factor for company car owners).

For clarity I would point out that the Parkers calculator uses slightly different prices to those shown on this site: Hyundai £12.920, Ford £16,740, both for five-door models. The actual tax due is little different between them.

There are only two real differences shown up in the figures. One is somewhere between £2,670 and £3,820 cheaper, and Autocar is enthusiastic about one and lukewarm about the other. And, strangely, they're lukewarm about the one which meets the target of being sportier looking but easy on the pocket.

A month and a half ago the Ford's (slower) performance was peppy and fun, yet now the Hyundai's (quicker) performance is failing to live up to its boastful Turbo name. You know, the one also found on front of lorries. Funny that the Ford isn't castigated for failing to live up to the boastful name (ST-line) derived from the allegedly marvellous hot hatchback with which Autocar are so obsessed.

It can only mean that 5% of extra Co2 has become the most critical factor during those few weeks.

Truth is the only mistake Hyundai have made with the car they sent for review is that they forgot to change the badge, because if it had Ford written on its grille Autocar would be slobbering wildly over it.

xxxx 7 October 2016

To sum up

Looks good inside and out, cheap'ish, Petrol with diesel consumption figures. It fulfils it's brief but I can't think why anyone would get a diesel version which is a £1000 more.