Jaco Van Der Merwe
Hyundai has thrown down the gauntlet in the hotly contested midsize hatchback segment with the all-new i20.
Having enjoyed huge local success with the i20 since its local introduction in 2009, the Korean carmaker is geared to grab some precious market share from its close competitors with the comprehensively revised third generation of the popular hatch.
The Hyundai i20 has been improved on all fronts. On the outside it has adopted a more chiseled sporty look, the body structure has been reinforced and now features 36% advanced high-strength steel, the cabin is more spacious than before, technology has been spruced up and the line-up has been expanded with the inclusion of a turbo engine.
Rear view shows the new sporty lines.
Specification-wise, the i20 packs a punch when compared to its main rivals, the Volkswagen Polo, the Ford Fiesta, the Kia Rio, the Mazda 2, the Opel Corsa and Suzuki Swift Sport. The i20 is particularly aggressively positioned against the segment leader, the Polo. In a direct comparison throughout the two line-ups, the Hyundai manages a lower base price point on each derivative with plenty of standard features, which fitted as optional extras will drive up the VW’s price even further.
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The Hyundai i20 is once again offered in two trim options, Motion and Fluid. In Motion trim, standard features now include rear parking sensors and reverse camera, front fog lamps, automatic headlamps and ISOFIX child seat attachments.
The new three-cylinder, 1.0-litre T-GDI turbo petrol engine sends 90kW/172Nm to the front wheels via six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
Hyundai says the turbo derivative can achieve a fuel consumption figure of 6.5L/100km in and reach a top speed of 190km/h in manual guise, while the dual-clutch derivate will consume 6.9L/100km with a top speed of 187km/h.
Both naturally aspirated powertrains from the second generation, the 1.2-litre Kappa and 1.4-litre MPI engines, have been retained. The 1.2-litre engine produces 61kW/115Nm and is mated exclusively to a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 74kW/133Nm 1.4-litre is only available in six-speed auto guise.
Hyundai claims the 1.2 can achieve fuel consumption of 5.9L/100km and reach a top speed of 169km/h and that the 1.4 has a top whack of 173km/h while sipping 6.9L/100km.
Interior view with two-tone artificial leather seats on display.
The new i20’s overall length has grown by 10mm to 3 950mm, it’s width by 41mm to 1 775mm, while the ground clearance is up 20mm to 170mm.
Inside the cabin, the second row has gained a healthy 88mm of legroom for a total of 938mm, while shoulder room in the second row is 40mm more at 1 390mm and 30mm up in the first row for a total of 1 395mm.
The highlight of the new interior is the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, which is standard across than range. Other creature comforts include a standard 8-inch infotainment system with smartphone connectivity, while Fluid variants feature wireless smartphone charging, a choice of single or two-tone imitation leather and blue LED ambient light technology.
The i20’s exterior design has been inspired by what Hyundai call “Sensuous Sportiness” identity. It features new front and rear bumpers and newly-styled front grille. Top-spec variants feature 16-inche alloys wheel with the choice of a black roof when opting for the Polar White or Fiery Red body colour options.
During the Hyundai i20’s launch last week, we only got to sample the 1.0T in both transmission options. The launch drive from Bedfordview to Bronkhorstspruit and back wasn’t the most challenging of routes, but it was enough to get a good feel of the powerplant.
Click here to see more of the all-new Hyundai i20’s specifications.
Cruising at civilised speeds is done at very comfortable rpms, with ample power on tap for overtaking on the open road. The smooth auto box was a pleasure to drive, while we also enjoyed the manual version when the need arises for more sportier manoeuvres.
The digital instrument cluster is the highlight inside the cabin.
Handling is as easy as you’d expect from a medium-sized hatch and is aided by a sure-footedness around corners. It is a well-balanced ride and comfortable and spacious enough for not only a very solid option for daily commuting, but also hit the open road for a holiday.
What we did not like is the use of hard plastics in the cabin which does make it feel cheaper than the Polo’s softer touches, as well as the fact that the digital instrument cluster doesn’t offer changeable views. But those are small compromises in an overall attractive package.
With heaps of value and excellent after-sales backup on offer, the Hyundai i20 should continue as a local Hyundai success story.