If there has been a quiet achiever on the Australian automotive sales charts in recent times, it's the 2015 Hyundai i20.
The Hyundai i20 is currently sitting in third spot in the competitive light car segment, just behind the much-fancied Mazda 2 and go-to-guy Toyota Yaris. Most of this year the i20 had actually been the top-selling light car, but sales are dipping away dramatically.
Why? Well, it's because the current-generation i20 is at the end of its lifecycle. Hyundai Australia has confirmed to CarAdvice that this model is finished - the last shipment arrives in August - and the new-generation i20 won't be sold here.
That new-generation i20 which is built in two different versions – one for developing markets, which may not be safe enough for Australia; and one out of Turkey, which is too expensive to sit where the current i20 does. Then there’s the smaller i10 which is also out of Turkey, and it won't be sold here either.
Price is the reason both the European-built models won't make it here, and it is price that primarily drives the current Indian-built i20 buyer, because this is one of the most affordable vehicles you can buy — though not if you go by the list pricing.
Hyundai lists the 2015, Indian-built i20 three-door manual Active at $15,590 plus on-road costs, while the five-door manual i20 Active is propped at $16,590 plus costs. The top-end Elite manual is a $17,590 proposition, going by those manufacturer’s list prices.
We tested the i20 Active automatic, which should be an $18,590 plus costs job, but the fact of the matter is that no-one should be paying that much. A quick glance at a few dealer sites suggests there are vehicles available for about $4000 less than that. Which, as you’ll see from this review, is about where the car should be priced. Maybe even lower…
Standard equipment for the i20 includes Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity … but unlike some of its contemporaries, there’s no colour media screen, and nor is there any parking assistance in the form of sensors or a reverse-view camera (as can be found on the Yaris or Honda Jazz).
That said, the i20 gets the requisite safety gear, with electronic stability control and six airbags standard (dual front, front side and full-length curtains).
That stereo system is old-school but simple. The silver faceplate and blue-lit screen are very 2000s, but it is a cinch to use, and we connected a number of devices wirelessly without issue.
Still this is a sparse interior – you don’t get cruise control, nor are there any buttons on the steering wheel to control the four-speaker stereo’s functions. The plastic materials used are cheap feeling, and there’s hard plastic even on the main contact points such as the armrests.
However, busy types will appreciate that the headlights will automatically turn themselves off when you turn the car off.
There’s decent storage up front, with slot-style door pockets and a couple of cupholders, as well as a small shut-able holder in the centre stack and a decent centre console. However, there are no rear door pockets, and only one map holder on the back of the passenger front seat.
In terms of space for people, there is an adequate amount of room for four adults, provided there aren’t many tall people in the mix. Those of us 180 centimetres or taller will likely struggle for leg room in the back row, but head room is quite good.
The boot, too, is good for the class – 295 litres with the five seats up, and there’s a full-size spare wheel hidden below the cargo area floor where many light cars opt for a repair kit or a space-saver wheel.
Under the bonnet is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine producing 73kW of power and 136Nm of torque, which comes with a six-speed manual as standard or, in the case of our test car, an optional four-speed automatic.
This powertrain is not at the cutting edge of engine technology, but for a commuter car it could be acceptable. The initial throttle response is peppy, but there’s not a lot of extra push once things get moving. The engine can feel sluggish up hills, too, and pushing harder on the accelerator will induce a shrill tone from the engine as it gathers momentum.
The gearbox is smooth shifting, but it will err on the side of economy – selecting the highest gear possible to save fuel. That means you’ll be pushing hard on the accelerator more often.
Still, with claimed fuel consumption for the i20 automatic rated at 5.9 litres per 100km, we saw very close to that during our drive route that incorporated slow-moving traffic, twisty roads and highway driving: 6.3L/100km.
And while the engine settles in a nice sort of hum on the highway, there’s still a lot of noise in the cabin, including some drummy road roar.
The way the i20 copes with bumps is perhaps one of its biggest pluses. The car has been tuned by Hyundai Australia’s suspension and steering specialists, and there’s no denying that it manages to feel more sophisticated than some rivals.
The ride compliance is very good, with suspension recovering from potholes with ease. It also effectively deals with small lumps on the road surface.
The steering is also good – nice and light when you’re trying to park, but with a decent amount of weight at higher speeds that makes it feel quite assured on the road.
As with all Hyundai models there’s a strong ownership promise. The i20 is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and the car is also covered by a lifetime capped-price service program. Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, and the costs are reasonable, too (average: $259 per visit).
In summary the 2015 Hyundai i20 is a car that does everything a car of this size is supposed to, and if you can get it at a good price – in other words, don’t pay retail – it’d make a fine runabout. And you won't pay retail - there's a reason it has sold so well...
That said, it can’t match rivals for standard equipment and nor can it fight with the best of them in terms of its powertrain. The two vehicles that trail it in the sales race – the Mazda 2 and the Toyota Yaris – are both great options, and there’s also the Honda Jazz, Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio which are worth considering.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Hyundai i20 images by Glen Sullivan.