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.
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.
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.
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