► Lively new petrol engine gives the i20 Coupe some character
► Faces stiff competition from Ford's EcoBoost-engined Fiesta
► Coupe by name, spacious and cheap-to-run hatchback by nature
It’s fair to say that the Hyundai i20 is one of the more sensible, ‘mature’ choices of the B-segment hatch world. It’s a perfectly decent car, just a bit… beige. However, with the introduction of a brand-new three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in 2016, it looks like a bit of spark could be back on the agenda.
We tried the new T-GDi engine in the three-door i20 Coupe, arguably the best looking of the i20 family, to find out how it stacks up against rivals like the Ford Fiesta, SEAT Ibiza SC and Vauxhall Corsa.
Is it as good as the Fiesta’s excellent EcoBoost?
Not quite. It’s got a playful engine that loves to rev and it consequently feels surprisingly quick on its feet, and the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 10.2 seconds.
There's some sparkle on the handling front, too; the i20’s surprisingly agile and reassuringly stable in faster corners. The steering is well weighted, with enough feedback to make a deserted country lane fun. It’s not quite on a par with a Fiesta, predictably, but it's still a cut above the class average.
The new ‘Kappa’ T-GDi engine replaces the 1.4-litre option in the line-up. You’ve got two power outputs to choose from: 98bhp or 118bhp. We’ve driven both and although we liked the rev-happy character of the lower-powered option, the 118bhp engine is more tolerable if you travel on the motorway often. It’s a little smoother and quieter when building speed and you also get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard instead of a five-speed.
As you'd hope, the i20 is easy to drive around town, while the ride quality is impressively unruffled. With a combined fuel economy of 59mpg and CO2 emissions of 112g/km, running costs are also usefully low.
What’s it like inside?
You may be initially be disappointed by a cabin that doesn’t match the i20's relatively elegant exterior. In fact we think it’s downright drab in comparison. Still, Hyundai has a justifiably solid reputation for reliability and durability, so while it’s unlikely to win any style awards the interior quality’s hard to knock. A couple of dated features aside (vintage trip computer, we’re looking at you), it’s a comfortable and smartly finished cabin.
If you pick higher-spec cars, like the Sport Nav trim tested here, you’ll get plenty of standard kit, including a DAB radio, climate control, Bluetooth, a reversing camera, cruise control and – as the name suggests – a 7in touchscreen sat-nav system. Justifying the ‘Sport’ bit in the name is a set of 17in alloys, tinted windows and a subtle boot spoiler.
Is it really tight on space?
Despite its swooping lines and three-door make-up, the i20 Coupe is actually more practical than you’d think. The doors open wide to help make getting in and out of the rear seats a more graceful affair and legroom in the back, even for six-footers, should be sufficient. Headroom will be an issue for some, though.
Up front there’s plenty of room to stretch out. There are also plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin and the boot is bigger than most three-door hatches at 311 litres. Fold the rear seats down (after a little awkward scrambling in the back) and space expands to 1011 litres – nearly 60 more than a five-door VW Polo.
The new T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine has breathed life into the i20 Coupe and made it a much more interesting proposition than it was before.
While the 98bhp version makes sense on paper, we’d recommend spending the extra £500 on the higher-powered 118bhp option – it’s easier to live with, for one thing, yet still seriously cheap to run.
Go for the top SportNav trim too. Despite it being the most expensive it actually offers the better value for money. It’s just the drab interior that otherwise dents its appeal.