Hyundai i20 1.4 (2009) review

Published:21 January 2009

Hyundai i20 first drive
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

The Hyundai i20 is the latest little car from the reinvigorated Korean company, following in the footsteps of the i10 and i30. It’s still built abroad (India, to be precise) but the i20 has been designed and engineered in Europe, offers such a decent level of standard kit that you’ll cough up thousands more on rivals, and it comes with a five-year warranty. But does it have the sparkle to make us forget the lukewarm Getz?

Why should I take notice of the new Hyundai i20 (2009)?

Hyundai has been winning over hearts and minds in Europe. Trouble is, with its cars boasting extensive standard equipment and a five-year warranty, it’s been winning over a lot more minds than hearts – the only Hyundai that makes our heart flutter is the Genesis Coupe, and that isn’t currently coming to Europe.

The i20 probably won’t change those impressions. It looks like a bad copy of a Vauxhall Corsa, and unfortunately the badge still doesn’t really have much kudos in Britain 2009. That said, the i20 is much better looking than the old Getz.

So what does the i20 offer for the money?

The i20 is stuffed with all sorts of goodies you have to pay extra for on other cars. So every i20 (and the range starts at just £8195) has a CD player and aux-in socket, air-con and electric front windows. That’s the Classic trim level, only available on the 1.2.

Go for the mid-range Comfort spec (as half of buyers will) and you’ll add electric rear windows, a USB port, steering wheel-mounted stereo controls, a trip computer, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors and a trip computer. You’ll find all this in an interior that’s well made, if not especially exciting, but far from dire either. Plus there’s a reasonably sized boot and room for one six-footer to sit behind another.

Not bad, eh? Try and spec a Fiesta to the same level and it’ll cost you around £2k more. And because Hyundai wants the i20 to have a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the i20 comes with ESP as standard, plus lots of airbags.

>> Click ‘Next’ to read the rest of CAR’s first drive review of the new Hyundai i20

Okay, so the Hyundai i20’s kit count is high, but is the driving dull?

Not at all, though now the Fiesta is so good the i20 struggles to keep up. Yet it’s actually good fun to punt along. The controls are light yet no overly assisted, there’s an inherent rightness to the pedal weightings and the gearbox is pretty slick.

The other bonuses are the tiny thin-rimmed steering wheel, which is a pleasure to hold, and the very supportive seats. Unfortunately, the ride deteriorates over the rougher roads and grip from the Hankook tyres isn’t great.

And the engines?

There’s a choice of three: a diesel that no one in the UK is expected to buy, an all-new 1.2 77bhp/87lb ft engine designated Kappa, and a 1.4. The smaller of the two petrols is just about punchy enough, delivers 54.3mpg and just misses the sub-120g/km mark with 124 grammes of CO2. It does, however, get thrashy near the top end.

Much better to stick with the 1.4, which costs a mere £500 extra, for which you gain an extra 148cc, 22bhp and 14lb ft. It makes a difference on the road; not only is the 1.4 noticeably faster, but also smoother, quieter and still returns 50.4mpg. If you really want you can even spec it with a four-speed automatic.

Verdict

The i20 is a big step forward for Hyundai. No, it won’t match a Fiesta or Corsa, but the gap between Europe and the Korean is now much smaller. What’s more, with a recession looming, if you’re after a new car then one that’s loaded up with options and still pretty cheap makes sense. It’s still a car for the head though, not the heart.

Specs

Price when new: £9,945
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1396cc 16v 4-cyl, 99bhp @ 5500rpm, 101lb ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 11.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 50.4mpg, 133g/km
Weight / material: 1127kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3940/1710/1490

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Hyundai i20 first drive
  • Hyundai i20 first drive
  • Hyundai i20 first drive
  • Hyundai i20 first drive
  • Hyundai i20 first drive

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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