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Hyundai i20 Review
This is the new 2010 five-door Hyundai i20. The i20 is made in India and it's fast-becoming one of Australia's most popular small cars. According to Vfacts, 522 i20s were sold in October 2010 – outselling the Ford Fiesta (490) and the Volkswagen Polo (224). If you’re thinking of buying a small, relatively cheap, five-door hatch, then the Hyundai i20 is definitely a car you should be considering.
Here are the main details you want to know: The car comes with air conditioning, six airbags, a five-star ANCAP safety rating, electronic stability control and an iPod/MP3 compatible audio system – all standard. The i20 is supported by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and features a 1.6-litre, twin cam engine offering 91kW and 156Nm of torque.
It's packed full of equipment and offers as much as, if not more than, any other car in its class. If you’re in the market for an i20, what model do you consider? We recommend the variant we've tested here. It's the middle-of-the-range Elite priced at $20,490, as tested (fitted with a four speed automatic). The i20 range starts with ‘Active’, passing through ‘Elite’ on its way to ‘Premium’.
One of the main reasons to step up from Active to Elite is the superior performance of its 1.6-litre engine. Active models get a 1.4 with 73.5kW and 136Nm, and the 18 additional kilowatts and 20 more Newton-metres is simply a much more palatable long-term proposition. Frankly, the 1.4 is an under-achiever if you want to keep up in traffic or overtake on the highway.
Another reason the 1.6 is the pick: It's actually more powerful than any other car in its class - the Ford Feista 1.6 offers 88kW and 152Nm; the Mazda2 Maxx 1.5 offers 76kW and 137Nm; the Toyota Yaris 1.5-litre offers 80kW and 141Nm; and the Volkswagen Polo 1.2 turbo offers 77kW and 175Nm.
The i20’s 1.6-litre engine does gives out a fairly unpleasant racket though. It’s so loud that it’s only just within the bounds of acceptability. It’s not a throaty or especially sweet engine noise either. It sounds almost like an annoying computer game. However, none of the other cars in this market segment sound all that refined anyway - except the more expensive turbocharged Volkswagen Polo. Other than the sound, the engine provides reasonable acceleration and uphill capability when its legs are stretched. Certainly it’s a better than acceptable performer for this class.
Inside the i20 Elite you’re surrounded by an airy environment with plenty of exterior vision; this is not a claustrophobic car at all. The only potential downside to your somewhat lofty perch is that you don’t sit in the car as much as you sit ‘on’ it. It almost feels as if you're driving a van. This isn’t such a bad thing because it leaves you feeling in full control - something the majority of customers will appreciate.
It's the same sitting in the back, too. There’s enough rear headroom and reasonable legroom and, again, plenty of exterior vision; you don’t feel like you’re sitting deep down in a dungeon, isolated from in-cabin conversation, audio and air-conditioning comforts. All seats (except the middle rear) are comfortable during a decent drive, especially those up front, which also offer ample cornering support.
If you’re threading the i20 Elite through a series of bends the chassis and suspension responds very well. Actually, it doesn’t ‘respond’, it’s merely passive. It’ll just take anything you throw at it. Bumps included. It’s quite surprising how well the i20 absorbs bumps and still manages to negotiate bends at the same time. It doesn't seem bothered by mid-corner undulations, which is not usually the case for a car like this with small dimensions and a short wheelbase. There’s also minimal body roll.
One criticism is the steering. The car turns well, but the mechanical connection between the wheels and your hands feels numb and soft, almost like the tyres are constantly a little bit flat. Optioning up wheel and tyre size (to a lower profile) may provide more communication, but the i20 is never going to qualify as an engaging, dynamic driver’s car. It’s designed to be (and is) benign.
The four-wheel disc brakes feel very capable. Even during harder-than-normal driving they didn’t show any signs of fading or slacking of the pedal; the car at all times remained safe and surefooted. The brakes are supported by electronic brake force distribution, which sends varying force to each separate wheel for smooth and stable deceleration. They’re also backed by anti-lock braking (ABS) technology, like almost every other car on the market.
The i20 offers a versatile range of cargo carrying capability for a car with such compact dimensions. The 60/40 rear seats do fold down allowing access through to the boot. The access port is relatively unobstructed, meaning you can easily poke sporting equipment and such through to the cabin once the seats are folded down. The seats don’t fold completely flat, but they can be pressed nearly-flat if need be.
Shoving stuff in the boot is a breeze because the tail gate is wide, low and provides a wide aperture. Boot space is large compared to the rivals as well at 295 litres (this is the same as a Fiesta’s, and slightly more than both the Polo at 280L and the Swift at 213L). It also features a handy strap-down net on the floor, which is great for securing small objects.
So what were the niggles? Using the iPod/MP3 compatible stereo is quite easy and it provides decent quality sound (you do need to buy the $75 iPod cable for iPod integration). On our test car though, turning the volume up to a respectable level provoked a buzzing rattle in the passenger door trim. That’s almost certainly just a one-off thing that could’ve been fixed simply by taking the car back to the dealer for a quick inspection.
The only other drawbacks are the steering, as mentioned, and the fact that the i20 Active with the 1.4-litre engine probably doesn’t perform well enough for many buyers. That’s the main reason we’d recommend stumping up the additional $3500 for the 1.6-litre Elite model if you can afford to. It’s a smart spend, if somewhat noisy.
So, do you go ahead and buy an i20? It's a car that's sure to offer thousands of kilometres of trouble-free motoring backed by an industry-leading five-year warranty. It's safe, powerful enough, and offers plenty of handy comforts. If you don’t care as much about minor fit and finish issues, such as the buzzy door trim that would doubtless be covered under warranty anyway, then the i20 is a highly recommended car for this class.