26.4.2016Hyundai i20 1.0 T-GDi review
The i20 is Hyundai's entrant into the supermini stakes, with a range of three and five-door models and a good line-up of engines. Priced to compete with the likes of bestsellers, the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, the Hyundai has a tough task on its hands to gain sales from one of the most congested markets around. We test the Hyundai i20 to see how it does.
Review by Chris Lilly
Hyundai has recently added its 1.0 litre T-GDi petrol engine to the i20 range, and in doing so bring a lot of pressure on to the model's shoulders. There are some fantastic turbo-charged 1.0 litre petrol engines around, with Ford's EcoBoost in particular proving one of the best. The good news for Hyundai is, although the new unit doesn't quite match the Ecoboost for all-round ability, it does prove to be more than capable at dealing with what the majority of drivers will need from it. The test car used the lower of the two power options available from the 1.0 T-GDi, making the most of 100hp and 171 Nm of torque under the right foot. In return, the i20 returns performance figures of a leisurely 10.9 second 0-62mph time - a smidgen faster than the Ford - and a top speed of 109mph. In truth though, the i20 feels faster than that in the real world. It proved eager to pull away thanks to low-down torque from the turbo, and was only the drop of a cog away from being able to gather speed quickly. Power goes through a five-speed manual gearbox - which perhaps could do with an extra gear for those travelling longer distances at higher speeds - to the front wheels with a free-revving nature to the engine. On the whole then, not the most characterful unit in its class, but Hyundai's engine is a good one nonetheless and complements the car.
Set-up with a focus on refinement, the i20 proves surprisingly fun to drive. Very much in the 'old-school' style, you need to make the most of the engine's rev-happy nature and simple manual gearbox to also maximise fun from the handling set-up. The Hyundai's steering is well weighted, offers a sure-footed driving experience, and has enough about the suspension to make a drive down a quiet B-road fun. Don't expect hot-hatch thrills and spills though as you will be disappointed, but that's not what the Hyundai is all about to be fair - the fun element is just a bonus. Around town the ride is on the stiff side, but not so much so as to make things uncomfortable over speed bumps etc. The steering helps make tackling car parks easy too, and the i20 generally offers a well-rounded ride. Not too soft, not too stiff, it's a good compromise between comfort and outright grip, and is an easy car to drive.
Tested in five-door form, the i20 also comes as a three-door version which is the nicer to look at. That said, the five-door i20 is not a bad looking car at all and goes about its business quietly and with an air of refinement. It's more interesting than a VW Polo, but more grown up than a Peugeot 208 and, on the whole, I like it. The best bit is that the i20 remains a practical offering, proving to be a car with style and substance. It's one of the most spacious cars in its class - up front and in the back - while the boot is of a good size too. Access to the cabin is easy thanks to wide opeinig doors and a lack of overly styled bodywork cutting in to openings. The same is true of the boot lid too, but the lip is quite high compared to the boot floor, which might prove awkward for some.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Considering its looks, the Hyundai i20 sets up an expectation of a refined interior that it simply can't match unfortunately. Climbing aboard, and the overwhelming impression is of a fairly bland cabin with large swathes of grey plastic that don't match that offered by the best in its class. Perhaps a few tweaks on the specification when buying will improve the lack of colour in the test car at least. It must be remembered that the i20 does not come in at the top end of the supermini sector in terms of price so buyers shouldn't be expecting Polo-levels of plushness. Even so, the dashboard is a bit of a let down. It does feel well made though, something supported by Hyundai's generally rock solid reliability record. It's a case of substance over style in this regard then. The rest of the cabin, as mentionned, is a spacious affair with four adults easily able to fit in the i20 and no complaints in terms of shoulder or leg room. Head room might be a bit of a squash for those taller passengers, though carrying four six-foot plus adults is not what superminis are really designed for. A family will be pleasently surprised by the Hyundai's practicality, while the seats are nice and supportive, and all-round visibility is good.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
After speaking of the 100hp 1.0 T-GDi's performance as good, it is perhaps satisfying to know that its economy figures can be described as even better. The Hyundai officially returns 66 MPG, and figures in the 50s are easily achievable in normal driving conditions. These range from around 57 MPG after mure frugal trips, to around 51 MPG when the driver wants to get a bit of a wiggle on. Even thrashing the little engine doesn't see the fuel economy drop into the 30s MPG, which is pretty good considering its free-revving nature and relative lack of power. The model sits in VED Band A which means it costs nothing to tax, either in its first or subsequent years. The i20 also comes with Hyundai's excellent five year, unlimited mileage warranty which should add a little piece of mind for owners.
The 1.0 litre T-GDI turbo charged petrol engine at the heart of this i20 is one of the most efficient in its class. A 998cc, three cylinder unit, the i20's engine uses direct petrol injection and turbocharging to offer the performance of a much larger engine, but with the emissions of a small capacity powerplant. Clever technology including an electronically controlled waste-gate on the turbo aims to improve low-end torque and throttle response, while the fuel injection system is pressurised far higher than normal for a cleaner burn. This improves both CO2 emissions and fuel economy. Finally, the use of split cooling allows temeperatures to be more accurately controlled in different parts of the engine, and low-friction materials have been used to improve efficiency. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 33.
Standard equipment on all models ranges from decent on the entry level S to excellent on the flagship Premium SE - though there is the down side that only top end models get a colour screen and DAB radio. Entry level S trim sees features such as electric front windows, heated door mirrors, radio with USB and AUX, and remote central locking - the bare basics for new cars these days really, but then the price reflects that. S Air and S Blue add air conditioning, and engine stop/start & low rolling resistance tyres respectively. SE trim is a good sweet spot for value for money. 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth media player, front fog lights, lane departure warning system, electric windows all round, steering wheel mounted controls, leather trim, and rear parking sensors prove useful features on the SE's equipment list. Plus, it is the first trim level where integrated sat-nav with rear camera, smartphone dock, and LED lights are options. The further up the range buyers go, the better the value for money though. But SE would probably be my pick as a good balance between cost and kit.
The i20 is fighting in a tough sector but it stands its ground well. There isn't the pure driving engagement of a Ford Fiesta, or high-end fit and finish of a VW Polo - but the Hyundai is a good all-round supermini. Running costs are low with zero road tax and good fuel economy figures, while the i20 can offer a bit of driving fun when the opportunity presents iteslf if you take it by the scruff of the neck. Equipment levels are good when compared to cost, and the reliability of Hyundai's products will tempt buyers when conisdering lon-term prospects. It sounds like criticism - though it isn't intended to be - that a lot of people that aren't particularly interested in cars, those that see cars just as a way to get from A-B, will do really well to pick the i20. It's not going to set the soul alight, but it does everything well, is stylish, and will prove an excellent little workhorse. And there are far more of those buyers out there than car fans that will look for something quirky, fast, or different. A good pick overall then.
Model tested: Hyundai i20 SE 1.0 T-GDI
Body-style: Five-door supermini
Engine / CO2:1.0 T-GDI petrol engine / 99 g/km
On-road price: From £10,995. Price as tested £14,025
Warranty: Five years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 stars