A Hyundai i20 is a very cheap car. Precisely $13,990 for a 1.4 three door with five-speed manual. That's pretty good for a car with five-star ANCAP rating, six airbags and stability control, an incredibly loud stereo with Bluetooth and Aux and IPod input. Even power windows and power folding mirrors.
I experienced two months of i20 ownership (which I call i20 pride!) while staying in Brisbane for uni. As a rental, the Hyundai no doubt received torturous treatment over its 40,000km existence and I too gave it no mercy. Yet the Hyundai showed no signs of ageing and probably remains in service today, being jumped over speed bumps and driven only in second gear because, hey, it's a rental.
In daily use, all controls are ergonomic with the stereo and ventilation immediately intuitive. You'll find decent storage around the dashboard and console. Seats are well trimmed and pretty. Oversights include a cheap steering wheel which scorches in the sun, tiny door pockets and scratchy heavy duty seat cloth.
Initially the i20 feels brilliantly adequate to drive. Driven softly, suspension is mostly well controlled in an over-dampened way, which gives a solid road feel matched to a solid body. It's a laugh throwing this lightweight around corners because such tiny tyres hold decent grip. And throw it you do, because the 1.4 delivers an instant of torque around 4000rpm which encourages you to work the decent spread of gears on a well gated manual. I couldn't fade the bitey brakes on a swift downhill drive.
Later it doesn't feel so adequate. That swift downhill drive turned into an uphill struggle. On steep inclines you have a choice: go painfully slow or thrash the redline. I couldn't get past 30kph on one hill. Going at all quickly, the Hyundai very quickly develops a nose heavy attitude, continuously scrubbing into understeer.
But this is a $13000 car and cheapness has to come from somewhere. Because the i20 is well built, Hyundai uses a low technical specification to save money. It's cheap because the basic suspension has minute travel and a tendency to skip sideways over even moderate road ripples. The tyres are tiny. Both gearboxes are one ratio behind the benchmark. The small capacity aircon struggles in 25 degrees. And the stereo wants for reception.
And some parts are crap where there is no excuse. The driver's seat is set in a weird shape such that it curves toward the shoulders and away from the base of the spine, forcing the driver to painfully hunch over on long drives. And it's strange Hyundai saved money with barley adequate high beams but fitted a third supplementary tail light.
An i20 is endearing because it's cheap and durable. It can be thrashed and jumped over speed bumps. There are plenty of gadgets and safety features which is surely what people want. And the whole thing is built with accuracy. These are impressive traits for any car. The seats are a pain but if the aircon and suspension were revised this would be a great little car – not bad for the cheapest car out there.