Hyundai Europe has revealed its brand-new i20 city car with claimed best-in-class safety and infotainment tech, and a 48V mild-hybrid engine.
But it’s not coming to Australia, just like its predecessor. This situation feels incongruous given the first-generation model, sourced from India, was a regular top-seller here.
Apparently the cost of getting it here with current exchange rates would necessitate a high price which, combined with dwindling light-car sales, makes the prospect of a profitable business case as distant as Jupiter.
The once-again Turkish-built new i20 rocks a completely new exterior design, with a big grille, angular intakes, pinched bonnet, mean-looking headlights, and prominent shoulder lines. It’s 24mm lower and 30mm wider than the old model.
Connectivity tech includes Audi- and BMW-style wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus dual 10.25-inch display screens. You also get a wireless phone charger and rear USB point, plus an optional Bose audio system with eight speakers and a subwoofer.
Oddly, the company is yet to provide cabin images, which will be revealed ahead of its premiere at March’s Geneva motor show.
Available active safety features include active cruise control that ‘talks’ to the 3D navigation, leading-vehicle departure alert, lane-keeping aid, auto high-beam, blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking in both directions, and parking assist.
The hero engine is a 1.0-litre petrol unit making 88kW, with a 48V electrical system that powers ancillaries and which can get the car rolling to smooth out the stop/start system. It cuts claimed fuel use and emissions by about four per cent.
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or six-speed manual gearboxes are available.
So, what’s the story?
There are "no current plans to introduce i20 in Australia" according to a Hyundai spokesperson.
"i20 is produced in Europe, and with the current exchange rates we can’t make a rational business case for its introduction locally," they said.
Industry-wide sales in the so-called Light Car class plummeted 17.3 per cent in 2019, more than double the market average.
In response we have seen Mazda up the price and spec level of the 2, Ford opt out of offering all versions of the new Fiesta except the ST, Holden kill the Barina off long before exiting the market altogether, and Honda moot not importing new Europe-focused Jazz this time around.
“It’s a full business model issue, the cost of the car, where the segment’s at, where we can position the car, they’re all of the factors we’re juggling. It’s a challenge,” Honda Australia’s director Stephen Collins told this reporter.
Current top performers in the segment include the Toyota Yaris - a brand new version of which is due inside a few months - Kia Rio, MG 3, Suzuki Swift, the aforementioned Mazda 2 and Honda Jazz, and the Volkswagen Polo. Renault will launch a new Clio this year in hopes of grabbing a greater share.