We’re not expecting to see Hyundai’s i10 in the UK for a month or two, so CAR Online went all the way to India to test drive Korea’s latest progeny. ‘Best place for them,’ I hear many of you cry – but for once, you’ll be surprised to hear, you’re wrong.
Things appear to be changing for the better in Korea, and I’m not just talking diplomatic thaws. My father-in-law’s reliable four-year-old Hyundai Tragic, sorry Trajet, features plastics that Fisher Price would spurn with a sneer; and when you open the tailgate, a carefully concealed metal edge almost severs your fingers – it’s the antithesis of good design. But, much like its big brother, the i30, the cutesy i10 has enough going for it to surprise even the harshest sceptic.
i10 - a new Hyundai design
Externally, everything looks in proportion (except perhaps the titchy 13in wheels). The chunky front end features modern ‘snake-eye’ headlamp units, big-mouth front grille and subtle chrome-effect badging. It’s all pleasingly new-millennium. The back end is less cutting edge, but doesn’t spoil the overall effect.
Inside, the quality of plastics, fit and finish is very good. The seats are firm but comfortable and there is plenty of headroom for my 6ft 2in frame in the front. The only real issue in the back is that the headrests protrude into taller passengers' shoulder blades.
On the road, the driving position and visibility are immediately impressive, while steering-wheel ‘girth’ and power-steering feedback add to the quality, big-car feel.
Ride comfort is surprisingly good, too – even on India’s challenging road surfaces – thanks to one of the longest wheelbases in its class and effective spring-assisted McPherson strut (front) and torsion-beam (rear) suspension. Steering response and handling won’t blow you away, but they aren’t bad either. On a twisty mountain pass, the i10 went where it was pointed, and cornered confidently on the bumpy stuff with minimal understeer, unless really pushed.
The performance from the 66bhp, 1086cc, SOHC, 3-valves-per-cylinder engine will hardly get your adrenaline coursing, but it’s well matched to the car’s size and chassis. The power is delivered smoothly to the front wheels via a precise and fluent five-speed manual ‘box, though a four-speed auto is also available.
In a world of über-cool iPods, iPhones and iDrive technologies, Hyundai might be considered slightly deluded for prefixing their new range with an ‘i’. However, the accomplished i10 and i30 cars prove that Japan, Europe and the US ignore the Korean car maker at their peril.
This is a fine supermini - and great value to boot. We'll be driving it in Europe soon.