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Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review

Hyundai i20 Review

It’s not perfect but Hyundai’s i20 will sell like hot cakes

What’s small, cute, cool, and is built in Chennai, India? Answer: The Hyundai i20.

Korean automotive juggernaut Hyundai, have just launched their third new car in Australia this year and like its big brother the Hyundai i30, they almost certainly have another winner on their hands.

Sales of the little hatch have gone gangbusters in Europe (over 209,000 produced as of June 2010), where it was launched in February 2008. So much so, they’ve had to open another factory in Izmet, Turkey, just to handle the demand for left hand drive five-door versions of the car.

That said Australia is a tough market and the light car segment, which the Hyundai i20 will compete in, has become the most competitive segment in the country with no less than 17 brands and way too many models and variants to list here.

There are some real winners in this bunch, volume mid-range sellers like the Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift, Honda Jazz, Mazda 2, have all proven to be the popular choice of Aussie buyers looking for big car features in a small and affordable package.

The premium end of the segment is occupied by the likes of Volkswagen’s Polo and Ford’s stylish Fiesta model, and it’s these two cars as well as those mentioned above, that the i20 was benchmarked against.

Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review

It might be built in India (nothing wrong with that) but the i20 was conceived and styled in Hyundai’s design studio in Russellsheim, Germany.

While it preceded the company’s latest ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design philosophy, which gave us the ix35 compact SUV and i45 sedan, i20 is nonetheless decidedly Euro in its look, with strong character lines through the bonnet and down the side of the car, providing a dollop of contemporary ‘cool’.

The front grille and black air dam treatment also looks considerably fresher than the i30 styling, which is of course understandable, given its 2007 release.

There are three model specs on offer; Active, Elite and Premium, and all are packed to rafters with features.

Standard kit includes and air-conditioned glove box (cooling drinks or chocolates), keyless remote entry with central locking and alarm, Electric Folding side mirrors and windows, USB and full iPod compatibility (you just need to buy the special lead) and full size spare wheel.

There’s even speed sensing automatic door locking which Hyundai calls HALO (Hyundai Active Locking Operation) and the moment you remove the key fob from the ignition barrel, the doors automatically unlock. Not bad for a car with a recommended retail price of $14,990.

When it comes to safety, it’s the same story. Don’t think for one minute that because you’re buying a small car that safety has taken a back seat. Not as far as Hyundai is concerned, at least.

Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review

Standard specs include ABS brakes and EBD, ESC Stability Control with TCS (Traction Control System) across the range with Driver and Front passenger airbags on the entry level Active variant, while the Elite and Premium come fitted with additional Front side (thorax) and curtain airbags.

Hyundai were keen to have all six airbags as standard spec on the entire i20 model line-up, but a ‘factory constraint’ had made the job impossible to achieve by the launch date. However, ‘Active’ spec cars rolling off the ship from September will be fitted with all six albeit at a slightly higher price.

The interior trim and switchgear is nicely styled and well positioned.  The part leather seats in the ‘Premium’ car are particularly well sculptured and complete with a driver’s side leather armrest. I can’t say the same about the fabric pews in entry level ‘Active’ variant, which don’t hold you quite so snugly.

While there is plenty to sing and dance about with the i20, I’m not a fan of the hard plastics that make up the dashboard and much of the door trim. Blame that on the cost of slush molding as opposed to the less expensive injection molding.

Features and looks might do it for many buyers, but how does the i20 perform as a driver’s car?

I posed that same question to Hyundai’s senior manager product planning, Roland Rivero, who I know to be a bit of a petrol head, and he explained to me, that the company went to great efforts to ensure that the car’s suspension was tuned specifically for Australian roads.

Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review

There are two powertrains on offer, a 1.4-litre petrol engine and a 1.6-litre petrol engine. The 1.4-litre powers all ‘Active’ spec cars and with just 73.5 kW and 136Nm of torque, you’re not about to get anywhere in a hurry. That’s irrespective of  whether you choose the four-speed auto or five-speed manual gearbox.

That said initial acceleration from a standing start is fine, but with so little mid-range torque to call upon (135Nm @ 4200rmp) you really need to stomp on the accelerator pedal and leave it there, if you wan to achieve even a moderate pace.

The upside to this rather lacklustre powertrain is its relatively low fuel consumption, just 6.0-litres/100km for the manual transmission, while the automatic sips slightly more, at 6.4-litres (combined).

The four-speed auto has well placed ratios and does the best it can, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want another gear for a more efficient use of the available power. The five-speed unit is certainly the better drive, but not by any great margin. You can take the revs up a little higher in the lower gears, and that at least gets things moving a tad more urgently.

Step up into an Elite or Premium i20 and engine displacement increases to 1.6-litres. Things are also decidedly better in the performance stakes, with power and torque rising to 91.1 kW and 156Nm respectively. The result is stronger in-gear acceleration and less need for ‘pedal to the metal’ style driving and the resulting harsh engine note, when doing so.

Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review

The transmissions don’t change though, still the same five-speed manual and four-speed auto boxes as in the lower spec ‘Active’ car, but you’re grateful for the extra grunt.

Hyundai Automotive Group do in fact build an i20 CRDi powered by a 1.4-litre diesel, producing 67kW and 224Nm of torque and I can’t help but think that it would be a great addition to the model range.

Where the i20 really shines is in the handling department. You can put the car into a corner at speed, and there’s absolutely no body roll to speak of. The car corners flat and is ‘hot hatch’ agile through the tight bendy sections.

It helps when the steering is accurate and there’s plenty of weight in the steering wheel from dead-centre.  The i20 is one of the best examples of how it should all work and without looking at the specifications, I would have sworn it was an electro-hydraulic steering set up, so natural was the level of power assistance. I was wrong, it’s a fully electric power steering system and it works a treat.

As far as ride quality goes, I was hoping for a little more compliance in the suspension, as it’s quite firm, but never harsh.

On the other hand, the i30 has one of the best small car suspension set-ups in its class and frankly, I was expecting more of the same in i20. At 1147 kilograms, it’s a much lighter car than its larger sibling, but there’s no doubt that the i20’s exceptional handling has meant a degree of compromise in overall ride comfort.

Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review
Hyundai i20 Review

With good looks, excellent handling and class leading levels of kit, the i20 will have no trouble finding plenty of willing buyers.

New i20 range – Manufacturer’s List Price:

  • i20 Active 1.4-litre petrol manual 3-door                   $14,990
  • i20 Active 1.4-litre petrol automatic 3-door               $16,990
  • i20 Active 1.4-litre petrol manual 5-door                   $15,990
  • i20 Active 1.4-litre petrol automatic 3-door              $17,990
  • i20 Elite 1.6-litre petrol manual 5-door                      $18,490
  • i20 Elite 1.6-litre petrol automatic 5-door                  $20,490
  • i20 Premium 1.6-litre petrol manual 5-door              $21,490
  • i20 Premium 1.6-litre petrol automatic 5-door         $23,490
  • Optional metallic/mica paint                                        $320.00


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HYUNDAI I20 BREAKDOWN

Hyundai i20 Review
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Hyundai i20 Specs

ACTIVE : PB MY11 : 1.4L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 4 SP AUTOMATIC - UNLEADED PETROL - 3D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
HYUNDAI
Model
i20
Variant
ACTIVE
Series
PB MY11
Year
2010
Body Type
3D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$6,930 - $7,880
Dealer Retail
$8,230 - $9,790
Dealer Trade
$5,200 - $6,300
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
1.4L
Max. Torque
136Nm @  4200rpm
Max. Power
74kW @  5500rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
67.3W/kg
Bore & Stroke
77x74.99mm
Compression Ratio
10.5
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
4 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
0
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
45Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.4L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1100
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1490mm
Length
3940mm
Width
1710mm
Ground Clearance
150mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1000  Unbrake:450
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.4
Front Rim Size
5.5x15
Rear Rim Size
5.5x15
Front Tyres
185/60 R15
Rear Tyres
185/60 R15
Wheel Base
2525
Front Track
1493
Rear Track
1491
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
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
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System
Driver
Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering
Entertainment
Radio CD with 4 Speakers
Exterior
Power Mirrors
Interior
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft, Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
60 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Pass Side Under Front Seat
Country of Origin
India