The latest Hyundai i10 launched in Europe late last year as the company’s smallest offering, but Australia is currently a 50:50 chance of getting it.
A true Getz successor in terms of its size, the Hyundai i10 is very different to Hyundai Australia’s current entry-level model, the larger, Indian-made i20. The i10 was designed and engineered at Hyundai’s technical centre in Russelsheim, Germany, and is produced in Turkey, with its primary purpose to cater for European tastes and preferences. The result? It’s monumentally better than the older i20 we currently get here.
From the outside, the i10 arguably does the best job yet of applying Hyundai’s design language to a compact model, appearing sophisticated without looking over the top.
The interior is also relatively lively, with splashes of colour on the seats, doors and dashboard. It’s a big improvement over the bland interiors of some of its rivals (think Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Alto), though there are still plenty of hard plastics to be found.
And you can indeed fit four adults in the i10, as we did when we used it as our transport car to watch the Monte Carlo Rally in France and Monaco recently.
There’s plenty of head- and legroom, though the boot suffers as a result, with enough space to fit an overnight bag or two but not much else. At 252 litres, it’s big enough for the week’s groceries but will be a hassle if you try to fill it with a big pram or larger bags.
Fold down the second-row seats and you’ll have 1046L to play with – more than enough for a trip to Ikea, but still not as cavernous as the Honda Jazz and its unbeatable ‘magic seat’ system.
In Europe the Hyundai i10 is available with a choice of two petrol engines: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder or a 1.2-litre four-cylinder. Our test vehicle was equipped with the older 1.2-litre from the previous generation i10, but by all reports the newer smaller unit is the better option.
With 64kW and 120Nm the 1.2-litre sounds uninspiring on paper, but it’s important to note the i20 weighs just 941kg, allowing its tiny engine to get up and go without much fuss.
Coupled to a five-speed manual transmission, the 1.2-litre will hit 100km/h from standstill in around 12.3 seconds. Add 1.5 seconds for the five-speed automatic version, or 2.6-2.8sec for the 1.0-litre manual and stop-start-equipped ‘Blue Drive’ variants respectively.
Hyundai claims the i10 uses between 4.3 litres per 100km (1.0-litre Blue Drive) and 6.2L/100km (1.2-litre auto) on the combined cycle. That figure was closer to 8L/100km on our test, though our average speed across Europe’s highways was about 150km/h with three adults on board – not exactly standard testing conditions…
Impressively, the i10 all but matches the class-leading Volkswagen Up! in terms of ride quality, cabin refinement and comfort, and comes with more features, including side curtain airbags protecting rear-seat passengers. Unlike the VW, the Hyundai is available with a proper automatic transmission.
The i10 is capable and easy to drive. Our 1.2-litre five-speed manual test car only felt out of breath going up a hill at 190km/h with three adults on board. Visibility front and rear is excellent, helping lessen the need for our test car’s non-existent parking sensors, which are available as an inexpensive option.
We drove a stage of the Monte Carlo rally in the i10 with Australian WRC driver Chris Atkinson in the lead and can confidently say its small proportions are matched with agile handling and a tendency to be playful. In that sense it’s everything the i20 isn’t.
It’s unlike the Korean-built Hyundais we get in Australia, where the balance between ride dynamics and comfort rarely meets in the middle.
The car features some smart packaging, like the removable satellite navigation system that anchors to the top of the dashboard. It’s similar to that of the Up! but faster and with a higher-resolution screen.
Safety is uncompromised across the range with six airbags, stability control and a tyre pressure monitor all standard.
In Europe the base Hyundai i10 starts around $400 below the Volkswagen Up! and comes with daytime running lights, electric front windows and a USB port – not all that flash, but enough to entice a first-time car buyer, plus the variety of low-cost options make customisation a easy task.
The mid-range SE adds remote central locking, electric rear windows, electric heated door mirrors and body coloured door handles and mirrors, while Premium variants gain Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and steering wheel-mounted controls.
It’s hard to say whether the Hyundai i10 is a better car than the Volkswagen Up! without driving the two side by side. Nonetheless, its six airbags trump the Up!’s four, and as far the Euro-spec model goes, the i10 rides and drives almost as confidently as its German rival.
The Hyundai i10 is one of the most complete cars the Korean company has built, but will it come to Australia? Hyundai says that decision is yet to be made. We certainly hope so, though we suspect, given the falling value of the Australian dollar, importing an extremely price sensitive vehicle from Europe and pricing it below $15,000 may prove a challenge.