Review of the New Generation Hyundai i20

In Car Reviews, Hyundai by Neil Lyndon

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The new Hyundai i20 at the recent press launch in Spain.

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“This could be a serious rival for the Ford Focus,” I said to my driving companion while we were on the road in the new Hyundai i20.

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A puzzled silence descended on the cabin for a second.

“But this car isn’t up against the Focus,” he eventually said. “It’s in the Fiesta segment.”

“In that case,” I answered, “it’s serious competition for the Fiesta.”

 

Tony Whitehorn, Hyundai UK’s mercurially brilliant Managing Director, was delighted to hear about this exchange. He felt it perfectly encapsulated the character of the i20, as a car that straddles conventional categories and blurs formal classifications. “Nobody in the market for a car ever says to themselves ‘What I need is a B segment car or a C segment car’,“ Whitehorn laughed. “What they want to know is ‘Can I afford it?’ ‘How long is the warranty?’ ‘Has it got enough space for the family?’ ‘Can I get the dog in the back?’

The Hyundai i20 ticks all those boxes. At the bottom end of its pricing, the cheapest 1.2 75PS version is, at £10695 , less than top-spec Fiestas; while, at the other end, the £16725 which is asked for the most expensive 1.4 CRDi version with Premium SE trim puts that i20 right in the meat of the Focus range.

The warranty is Hyundai’s standard five-year offer (beaten only by the seven year warranty from Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia). And, as for the questions, about space for the family and the dog, the answers are “If those are the issues uppermost in your mind, you’d find it hard to beat this car.” Bigger in every dimension than its predecessor – with wheelbase extended by 45mm and 1892mm of front and rear legroom combined – the i20 genuinely feels more like a Focus than a Fiesta inside and that impression is strengthened by it 326 litres of boot capacity.

So far so good. The only drawback with the new i20, however, is that it doesn’t only straddle those arbitrary industry segments: it also looks like a halfway house between old and new Hyundai.

Everybody who knows anything about cars understands that the revolution in the Hyundai-Kia chaebol (Korean for congolomerate) has been one of the outstanding stories of the automotive world in this century.  From producing dreary, tinny cars in which you wouldn’t want to keep a paper-clip, they have progressed with dazzling speed to making some of the best engineered and most dependable cars with a great sales and service back-up. Kia/Hyundai are now securely in the frame with VW and Toyota as cars that customers love and keep buying again and again because they never let them down.

When Kia hired Peter Schreyer as head of design, they also lifted themselves into Europe’s top flight for design innovation and the products that have borne Schreyer’s signature have been among the most stylish mass-produced cars on the market.

Schreyer arrived too late to have much of a hand in the design of the new i20 but his influence can be seen in the “floating” panoramic sunroof – like one of those swimming pools where you can’t tell the edge from the horizon – complemented by gloss-finished wraparound C-pillars. Otherwise, alas, the i20 is a dumpy pudding of a car that most resembles a Toyota Corolla of about 25 years ago. Compared with the i10 city car which we have named Car of the Year for 2014, the i20 looks like the work not just of another age but of another company.

It rides beautifully, with a suspension set-up specially tuned for European roads; and its engines are frugal if far from zesty. In the three-cylinder, 75 bhp 1.1 CRDi version, you have to keep your foot flat to the floor on the accelerator pedal so much of the time on open roads that its claimed 70.6 mpg drops to little more than 50 mpg; but this is essentially a car for urban use, where its 0-62 mph acceleration in in 16 seconds would not get you down. The 90 bhp 1.4 litre CRDi is a bit nippier at 12.1 seconds for 0-62 mph and gets closer to its claimed average of 68.9 mpg; but in terms of driver involvement and pleasure none of the cars in the new Hyundai i20 comes close even to a Fiesta, still less a Focus.


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About the Author
Neil Lyndon

Neil Lyndon

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Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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Watch the short video of the New Generation Hyundai i20 on the road

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Specs of models driven

New Generation Hyundai i20 SE 1.1 CRDi Manual

On the Road Price: £14225.00
Engine: 1120cc, 4 cylinder DOGC, Euro-6
Power: 74bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 133lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
0-62mph: 16 seconds
Top speed: 99mph
Fuel economy urban/x-urban/commuting: 57.6/83.1/70.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 103g/km
VED Band: B

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Share the New 2015 Hyundai i20

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