Hyundai’s small cars haven’t always been known for their stylish looks, but with this version of the i20, the company has made a real effort to liven things up a bit. It’s been largely successful, too. With three layers of grille and intricately shaped headlamps, the front end has lots going on. Meanwhile, the steep angle of the windscreen, the sweeping roofline and the black-clad rear pillars that give the roof a ‘floating’ effect all help contribute to a sporty and stylish appearance. Entry-level S trim misses out on the alloy wheels and front foglamps that SE trim gives you, and if you want your i20 to look even swankier, upgrading further to Premium trim gives you LED daytime running lights. The Active model comes with a more rugged look, too, with the same chunky bumpers, roof rails and jacked-up suspension that you’d find on a SUV.
Unfortunately, the inside of the i20 doesn’t have the same level of style as the outside. Sure, the cabin feels very solidly built and should be pretty hard-wearing, but the materials used are by no means the last word in quality and tactility. Many supermini rivals do a lot better on that score. You can mix up the colour scheme with a choice of interior finishes, but the choices available aren’t all that exciting, and they’re governed pretty strictly by the paint colour you choose. All versions have plenty of adjustment for the driving position and a decent view out, but otherwise, the ergonomics aren’t ideal. That’s mainly because the finer points of the infotainment system are controlled through a tiny display screen, but the tiny buttons smattered all over the steering wheel don’t help, either.
This is an area in which the i20 really impresses. The rear seats have more headroom and legroom than you get in most supermini rivals, and because there’s barely any transmission tunnel and a wide middle seat, sitting three people back here isn’t out of the question. The boot is big and has a nice, square shape, and there’s a false floor that flattens out the step in the load area when you fold the rear seats down. However, they don’t quite lie flat and there’s a substantial load lip to negotiate when you’re loading heavy items.
Ride and handling
The i20’s main strength in this area is that it’s a very easy-going and relaxed car to pootle around in. The pedals and gearshift have a slick, precise action, and while the steering is light enough to make the car easy to park, it’s still hefty enough to inspire confidence in a set of bends. The handling impresses in other ways, too, because the car feels grippy and secure, and body lean is pretty well suppressed. That said, it doesn’t have the agility or engagement that you get from a Ford Fiesta, and it’s not as smooth-riding, either. There’s a slightly unsettled feel over the rippled surfaces that cover much of the UK’s road network, but it never gets to the point of being uncomfortable. Neither does the Active model – which has a jacked-up but stiffened suspension setup – but it does feel a fraction knobblier than other i20s.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo is a cracking engine, with impressive flexibility and refinement
There are two 1.2-litre petrol engines with 74bhp and 83bhp, and we’ve only tried the more powerful version. It’s the version we think will make sense for most people because it makes the i20 very affordable to buy. Sure, the acceleration is lacklustre and it’s a shade noisy on the motorway, but most supermini buyers would favour thriftiness over performance any day. A pair of turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines are also available, one with 99bhp and the other with 118bhp. The former is a cracking little engine, with impressive flexibility and seriously impressive refinement for a three-cylinder. It’s quite a bit more expensive to buy than the 1.2s, but definitely worth the upgrade if you can afford it. The more powerful version isn’t worth bothering with, though, because it costs more still to buy and hardly feels any quicker. Petrol buyers also have the choice of a 99bhp 1.4 paired with an automatic gearbox, but we haven’t tried this version yet. Diesel choices include a 1.1-litre with 74bhp and a 1.4-litre with 89bhp. The 1.1 is extremely efficient, but it’s also woefully slow and inflexible, and it makes a heck of a racket at all times. The 1.4 is much better, with strong performance and good refinement. It just makes the i20 a little too expensive to buy.
The i20 undercuts mainstream rivals like the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta by quite a bit on purchase price, and it’s even a little bit cheaper than more direct rivals like the Skoda Fabia. This becomes even more impressive when you realise the amount of standard equipment you’re getting for your money, which is considerable. Resale values won’t be up there with the class leaders’, but they’re solid enough that you shouldn’t be out-of-pocket long-term. Most of the engines are fairly competitive for fuel economy and CO2 emissions, but while the diesels are the cleanest versions, we reckon the petrols will prove the most cost-effective choices for the majority of drivers. Our favourite version for example – the 99bhp engine in SE trim – gives CO2 emissions of 99g/km and fuel economy of almost 66mpg.
Like all Hyundais, the i20 comes with a generous five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index doesn’t currently have enough data on the i20 itself to bestow the model with a rating, but as a brand, Hyundai is sitting pretty in the upper echelons of the manufacturer standings. The owner reviews on our site paint a fairly mixed picture of the car’s reliability. That said, like all Hyundais, the i20 comes with a generous five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
The i20 comes with all the safety measures you expect in a car like this, things like stability control and six airbags, but it also comes with a few things you might not. Tyre pressure monitoring and a hill-start assistant are provided throughout the range, and the top half of the range (SE trim and upwards) also gets a lane departure warning system. This version of the i20 scored four stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
All versions of the i20 come with bags of standard equipment, especially considering their price. The bargain-basement S model has things like remote locking, a USB port and electric front windows and mirror adjustment, while upgrading to S A/C trim also earns you air-conditioning. SE trim adds DAB, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear parking sensors and powered rear windows, while Premium trim comes with niceties like climate control, automatic lights and wipers and a smartphone docking station. Premium SE chucks in an electric sunroof, heated front seats and front parking sensors, and there’s no prize for guessing what the upgrade to SE Premium Nav trim earns you. As well as all those styling goodies, the standalone Active model gives you what SE spec gives you, but with a LED daytime running lights and a smartphone dock thrown in.
Because you want as much space – and as much equipment – as you can get for as little money as possible. On that score the, the Hyundai i20 really fits the bill, and it has plenty of other attributes besides. Well worthy of any supermini buyer’s consideration.