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5 / 10

2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
by Karl Peskett

Model Tested: Hyundai i20 Elite; 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol, four-speed automatic, five door hatch: $20,490

Late last year, Hyundai updated its small car, the i20, for 2011 with simple but effective upgrades. The addition of side and curtain airbags to its entry-level variant, the Active, meant that all i20s are now five-star safety rated – critics pointed out that the Hyundai i20 should have been launched like this to begin with.

All models now come with Bluetooth as standard, as well as ESC (which includes traction control), ABS and brake-force distribution (EBD). If it’s a safe small car you’re after, then you can hardly do better than the i20.

The other change from last years model? Blue instrument lighting rather than red. But unlike the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Hyundai i45, it’s not a burning blue that envelopes the entire cabin; it’s subtle and a little bit more calming than the previous red tone.

As far as the drivetrain goes, everything is unchanged. On test is the 1.6-litre Elite model, and with its engine producing a healthy 91kW and 156Nm, the i20 has plenty of pep in its step. That said, it’s supposed to only consume 6.5 litres/100km. Unfortunately, we didn’t come anywhere near that. At 9.2 litres/100km, it was well above even the city ADR figure which is 8.4L/100km.

2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review

Seeing as there’s no diesel i20 on the horizon, an extra ratio or two in the gearbox would probably help in extending fuel economy. And you’d think that having a four-speed automatic would be a hindrance for day-to-day driving, but in practice, it’s not. The auto will kick down when called for (a generous prod of the accelerator helps here) when climbing hills, but it never seems to run out of puff, unlike its 1.4-litre sibling, the Active. It’s in hilly terrain that the 1.6-litre comes into its own, using that broad spectrum of torque to its advantage.

In fact, if you compare the i20 with its direct rivals, you’ll see that almost none of them match the power and torque that this little car has. The Suzuki Swift has 75kW and 133Nm, the Toyota Yaris makes 80kW and 140Nm, the Ford Fiesta comes closes with 89kW and 151Nm, and the Volkswagen Polo produces 77kW but has more torque at 175Nm, courtesy of a turbocharger.

That said, some of the above are a bit more refined when you put your foot down – the i20 can be coarse at the top end while it buzzes away – but that extra grunt is certainly apparent in the i20. And yes, the manual is better, however for those looking for an auto that will still get away from the lights in a reasonable time, the i20 is good.

2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review

As is its handling. It’s surprising how nimble this little car is. Threading through chicanes or small roundabouts, quick directional changes don’t unsettle the i20 and there’s a noticable absence of body roll. There’s also a notably firm ride, but it’s not too fidgety or crashy. Instead it feels very European in its behaviour, though it doesn’t have the finesse of Volkswagen’s Polo.

The steering is quick and very direct, though it does lack feel, and that probably suits the target market of this car, as it’s easy to wheel around the place, especially in parking situations. And it brakes pretty well, too. Dynamically, the i20 is up there with the best in this segment.

Inside, the space is pretty good, with back seats that most adults would be fine with, and front seats offering plenty of freedom for movement. The cloth trim is plain, but looks nice, and the seats themselves are adequately comfortable, both front and back. The boot sneaks in at just under 300 litres, giving it room for a few shopping bags, but that’s about it.

The dashtop has a nice grain to its plastic, despite being quite hard to touch, and the silver on the centre stack doesn’t look like it’s come out of a spraycan. The swoopy design of the dash layout suits the i20’s modern but conservative styling, and against its competition, the i20 sits about middle-of-the-road in terms of flair.

2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review
2011 Hyundai i20 Review

Equipment levels are good on the i20 Elite, with an MP3/WMA CD through six speakers, plus stereo controls, full iPod connectivity using your white iPod or iPhone cable, as well as USB, heater ducting to the rear passenger footwells, leather wrapped steering wheel, a cooled glovebox, electric mirrors, power windows, and trip computer with distance-to-empty, fuel consumption and other info all displayed.

The i20’s build seems pretty solid, but on our test car we had a screw cover inside the driver’s door handle which would pop out each time you shut the door. A small thing, but at least it’s covered by Hyundai’s warranty, which is five years and unlimited kilometres – not bad for peace-of-mind. Another tick for Hyundai is the free roadside assistance included for the first year of your ownership.

And that may well be the i20’s best selling point. Hyundai’s warranty and roadside assist certainly makes the i20’s case a bit stronger against its competitors. But consider this: for an extra $1860, you can have the Volkswagen Polo 77TSI.

The Polo’s quality is light-years ahead of the Hyundai, you get a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox which means your fuel consumption is better. For example, the i20’s ADR figure is 6.5 litres/100km, while the Polo’s comes in at 5.5 litres/100km, and the margin gets greater for urban use, at 8.4L/100km versus 7.2L/100km respectively.

It’s not all about fuel consumption, though. The Polo feels quicker, sounds more refined, has interior presentation way above its price range, it rides better and its transmission shifts better. Interior room is almost identical between the two cars, but the Polo’s seats are more comfortable, and trimmed with nicer materials. Volkswagen’s warranty still can’t match Hyundai, though.

You’ll have to weigh up whether you’ve got the extra budget to afford the Polo, and if you can’t quite squeeze out the extra dough, the i20 is still a good car, especially considering the backup you’ll get for those five years.

While it may not quite be the best in segment, the i20 certainly has its place, and is well worth a look for light car buyers.

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2011 Hyundai i20 Review
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  • Eric

    10.7L per 100k’s over the 1st 1500ks OUCH

  • fishman

    $20k+ for a small car with a 4 speed auto – Hyundai should feel embarrassed!

    Given its high pricing, why anyone would choose this over a Fiesta or Polo both of which offer petrol & diesel options with excellent manual & auto transmissions is beyond me…

  • Qwerty

    Mmm, an Indian built i20 VS South African built Polo ?? I think reliability will be an issue with the VW going with their track record, only time will tell. Save a few more dollars and buy an i30 from Korea or Japanese built Yaris and Impreza.

    • Golfschwein

      Polos are not built in South Africa.

      • Gimp

        Er, some are.

        Polos are assembled in Spain, Mexico, India, South Africa and Russia depending on the variant.

        • Golfschwein

          Oo, er, I think I recall now. Our 1.4s come from SA and the remainder are built in Spain, no? Mi dispiace, Qwerty.

    • Don Quay

      Or you could get a Japanese built Mazda 2 or the Thai built Fiesta. Both are better alternatives and very competitive on price.

  • nickdl

    Proof that Hyundai’s plans to move upmarket aren’t really working. The Getz and i30 are still the brand’s best sellers, the former due to be phased out within months. The i30 still relies on the cheap and cheerful image as it is priced lower than the competition and isn’t as good.

    The i20 has never taken off since it was launched 9 months ago unlike some competition in that same time (Fiesta and Polo) and the reason being it brings nothing new to the light car market in terms of price or ablility, and still carries the less-sought after Hyundai badge. Why buy one of these when you can get a similarly equipped, better looking and driving Ford Fiesta LX with a dual clutch gearbox all for the same money? Same goes for the Polo and its highly sought-after badge, while also being a better car in every aspect.

    The i20 is by no means a bad car; it’s just way overpriced for what it is: an Indian-built, 2008 styled light car with nothing best-in-class about it. If Hyundai don’t drop the price by a couple of thousand, I think they’ll find a huge hole when it comes to sales; the Getz sales will all be eaten up by Micra, Spark and Chinese cars.

    • Sumpguard

      Micra and Spark yes but I don’t think the Aussie public will flock to chinese cars . Not yet. Despite the great wall ute being very cheap there are few sold and infact they even dropped the one with the navara rip off front end from importation. Australians like cheap but draw the line at poor product.

      • DGS

        The A220 (sailor) seems to have disapeared from GWM chinese website too. I could be wrong, But if they have stopped production that could also lead to them disapearing from the new car showrooms in Australia.

        As unconvinced as I am about Great Wall 4×4’s, I am seeing more of them around. I had a yarn with a bloke who had brought one of the 4×4 Wagons (240X (Y? Z?)). He said he was very happy with it and the price. Nothing has broken and it apparently drives ok.

        I still would not get one myself, but I can see there are more people taking a chance and giving them a try.

        • nickdl

          Yeah the SA220 was dropped from GW’s line up last year. It never sold well compared to the other ute which then became available in more variants. The SA220 was an older design I think and it had no airbags so it really was a death trap. Anyway I’ve heard some stories about them and it seems that the quality is atrocious. I guess some good cars will come of the plant but not worth taking any chances.

          I agree with you on Chinese cars and I wouldn’t buy one for many, many years but a lot of less-informed people can be swayed into anything. Lots of ads and features can do wonders for a car especially if it doesn’t look that bad. Let’s just hope that the Chery J1 doesn’t become this decade’s Excel, it certainly is a much worse car than the Excel was compared to its peers.

  • m2m

    A good looking car, but i just hate the dash layout! Blue lighting helps… a little.

  • Jer

    I don’t think people will buy this for 20 grand. No thanks Hyundai.


    this is the type of car teenage girls would buy after they got their Ps. then again 20k is too expensive for teenage girls so i guess no one will buy this

  • Valet Dabess

    i’d rather buy a swift sport. btw my spam word isn’t showing up

  • Shak

    I dont think the i20 contributes too much to HMCA’s bottom line anyway, so they really only have it here to fill the Getz’s spot. They have said in the past that if it’s sales dont increase, they’ll just drop it, or consider bringing in the i10, to act as a sort of base model for the i20.

  • Phil

    Why does it say it used 9.4L/100km when there\’s a picture of the trip computer reading 10.7?

    • DGS

      When you reset the trip computer it will tell you your average fuel consumption from that point onwards. So if you reset at the bottom of a hill befor setting off up the hill you will get an average of 20 litres / 100km until you level out and then the average begins to drop the further you go. When you go for a long country run the average drops again, around town it rises.

      If CA reset the trip computer at the begining of the test and read it at the end of the test, that would explain the variance.

  • Nick K

    i20 = A dud release from Hyundai. It would seem Hyundai could do no wrong… Until now. I’m sure this car is an aberration though. Still if you want an old school compact car with a long warranty, here it is.

  • Pete

    The 5door 1.6L I20 is about $21K drive away. The 5 door 1.6L I30 is about $22K drive away ….. why would you buy the I20 over the I30? Surely Hyundai will have to drop the price of the I20 if its to have any chance of success.

  • Octavian

    Rather a Polo at that price.

  • XR

    I will take a Ford Fiesta every day of the week. About the same price. Has a 6 speed dual clutch transmission. Looks 10x better. Handles 10x better.

    Hyundai have some nice exterior designs but unfortunately the place where you spend all your time with the car,the cabin, are bland

  • iWish

    Tested the manual (only option for me)

    Every time I change gears my leg hits the panel underneath the steering wheel no matter how much I try to adjust the seating to enable reaching the clutch. So dissapointing – otherwise it ticks all the other boxes for what I want in a car right now. Any similar experiences out there? iWIsh…IWish..

  • Hemmex

    Picked up my 2011 i20 on Friday,
    Got home and found the stitching on the front passanger seat coming undone already. Called the dealer and complained. They have ordered new seat base but will need the car for the whole day to replace the seat base. Also to my shock and surprise, the 2011 Elite radio is not in the user manual!!! WTF??? Asked dealer and they palmed me off to Hyundai Australia. So will have to call them tomorrow to ask them for a user manual for the radio. So the shine has some what gone from the purchase, over-all the car is above average. Happy enough with the purchase. Bought the car simply for a get around car. Sure there are better small cars out there but when you factor cost, warranty, features, the i20 Elite was the pick for me. What sold me on the Hyundai was the market leading warranty. And FYI, I paid $19K drive away for the Elite 5 door manual with all the accessories in the book fitted except roof racks.

  • Dan

    My sister took delivery of her i20 today and the first thing i noticed was that some part of the dash was rattling. My 1996 year model car doesnt rattle…

  • Dan

    Didnt mention drive away at 18grand for a active model 1.4l manual. While i was in the dealership i saw a pamphlet saying the active was 15grand drive away….

  • Jarred

    Have now had my 1.4 Active 5 Door Manual for a week now, 900kms in it has returned 7.1l per 100kms which I think is ok for a new car. It has so many features for this type of car. One thing I would like to know if anyone can help is, can I fit cruise control? Over all I am very happy with the car and despite the above comment think it was well worth the money. I paid, $14,990 with mats, tint and a tank of fuel. Bargin I think.

  • I Like Mine

    I just brought my 3rd new hyundai, 1.6 manual I20 Elite & i gotta say i am very happy with it, Went from I30 1.6 manual petrol & even though they use the same engine the 300 ish kilo difference between the i30 & i20 the i20 is a real zippy little car. I had a problem with my I30 & the after sales service from Hyundai Australia & my local Hyundai dealer Maughan Thiem Hyundai was fantastic, no i dont work there i am just a satisfied customer.

  • Victoria

    Hi Jarred
    Nice to read some positive  comments….We purchased ours at the same price as you with the extra’s…Great little run around car, and would recommend to any age group.  Had a few more extras compared to other brands for the same size…
    They say we get what we pay for! The i20 is the lower end of the price scale (size) but I am very happy with the 120, looks good, great economy and a solid feeling car…
    This is our second car, gets lent out to family members in need of another car at times, I love driving the i20..when I do get to drive it!


Hyundai i20 Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$7,590 - $8,630
Dealer Retail
$8,970 - $10,670
Dealer Trade
$5,900 - $6,900
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
136Nm @  4200rpm
Max. Power
74kW @  5500rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.4L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:1000  Unbrake:450
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
185/60 R15
Rear Tyres
185/60 R15
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System
Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering
Radio CD with 4 Speakers
Power Mirrors
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft, Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
60 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Pass Side Under Front Seat
Country of Origin