► New for 2020 i20
► Big screens and advanced safety tech
► Mild-hybrid petrol only engine choice
When was the last time you saw an i20? Ages ago we bet. This is probably down to one of two reasons. Hyundai didn’t shift loads of them, or the i20 is so boring your brain just didn’t register it.
This latest i20 is hoping to address both of these issues in a bid to get people out of Ford Fiestas and Vauxhall Corsas.
It’s pretty much all new then?
Yeah it’s definitely an evolutionary step rather than a revolutionary one. For starters it’s lower (24mm), wider (30mm) and the wheelbase is longer (10mm) than the previous-gen car.
Under the bonnet there’s a 48-volt mild-hybrid 1.0-litre available with Hyundai’s fancy iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) or seven-speed auto.
Elsewhere, there’s now a 10.25-inch central touchscreen available, and Hyundai also reckons it’s the safest in class thanks to its suite of safety tech, most of which you’d normally find sitting in much more expensive cars.
Shrinking model range
Did you know that more than 50% of i30s sold in the UK are the hot-hatch N? Hyundai reckons most of its range is like this and hardly anyone is buying its boggo cars.
Which explains why there are now just three models to choose from – SE Connect, Premium, and Ultimate. You know the drill, each trim level unlocks a bit more kit for a bit more coin.
Hyundai reckons customers who choose Ultimate spec i20s can afford a midsize SUV and like the tech that comes with them, but don’t want something so large and unwieldy.
Enough about trim levels already. What’s the i20 like?
Really good. Ford should be worried. First of all, the looks. The old one was about as rousing as a rice sandwich but this new one is all sorts of interesting. The rear is especially intriguing, with great surface detailing and thick, sharp, contrasting lines. The front is also much better than the old car, and showcases Hyundai’s new ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design ethos.
Inside, things continue to look good. Bottom spec cars get an 8.0-inch infotainment screen but everything else gets a 10.25-inch one, plus a 10.25-inch digital cluster. It all works smoothly and as you’d expect from an up-to-date system. It certainly makes the Fiesta’s seem small and outdated.
All models have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. However… SE Connect (basic) cars come with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – but the other specs don’t.
This is because Premium and Ultimate cars have sat-nav inbuilt. And there’s some kind of disagreement between the sat-nav provider and Apple and Google. Hyundai is still figuring this one out.
The screens then, deliver a wow factor as you enter the car. But as soon as you look further down, it feels very, very cheap. The door handle and the door bins are particularly scratchy. And while the rear seats are comfortable for two full-sized adults, it is very dark in the back.
As detailed above, the i20 is larger than the old one. This means front seat passengers have a lot of elbow room, while the boot measures in at 352 litres. The Fiesta, for instance, is a mere 292 litres. No spare tyre mind you – underneath the boot floor lies the 48-volt battery for the mild-hybrid assistance.
And how does it drive?
Let’s start with propulsion. There’s only a 1.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol to choose from (hotter versions are coming, more on that below) at the moment. It has 100hp and 127lb ft of torque.
Compared with the old 1.2-litre from the old i20 it’s about 3-4% more efficient, in terms of both CO2 and MPG. That means 53.3-54.4mpg are the quoted figures, and in our testing we hovered around the 45 mark. Early 50s seem achievable if you’re light footed around town.
Annoyingly, to get it started (in manual versions) you need to put your feet on the brake and clutch and the ‘box should be in neutral. But if you can get past that #firstworldproblem you’re treated to a boosty little engine that feels quicker than its 10.4 second 0-62mph (11.4 second for auto) would suggest.
The six-speed manual is direct and easy to slot into its destination. In Kia/Hyundai speak it’s an iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission), which means it can cruise in neutral with the engine off without the driver needing to do a thing. Take your foot off the accelerator for a prolonged period of time and you’ll hear the revs cut and you’ll know it’s doing its thing.
On the flip side, when you have got your right foot buried in the footwell the i20 is fun to kick around, but ultimately less engaging than the Fiesta. The i20 changes direction quickly, but there’s little feedback through the wheel. Plenty of bodyroll if you’re being a fool, but plenty of grip too – even on a sodding wet day we didn’t witness the traction control light flaring up.
Ride is harder than we’d like around town.
What about hot versions?
There’s an N Line on the way too. It’ll be available with the same 1.0-litre engine, but turned up to 120bhp. If it’s anything like the recently updated i30 Fastback N Line, expect the suspension to be unforgiving.
The real bone-rattler in the range will be the recently announced N model. Expect a 201bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder and a sub seven second 0-62mph time.
Cash prices look scary but keen finance deals and predicted rock-solid residuals mean the monthlies aren’t too bad. Add the tech experience, the best-in-class safety systems and Hyundai’s five-year warranty, and the i20 is a hugely appealing supermini for very sensible people, and for those who don’t want something as ubiquitous as a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa.
Drivers looking for the most engaging supermini best look somewhere else until the N and N Line models come along.
While those who want diesel or electric are also not catered for.