While it is true that the Hyundai i20 has never been a headline-grabbing car, it has quietly carved itself a very sizeable niche in the South African market. In fact, it is one of the top selling B-segment hatchbacks, mostly due to its appealing combination of features, warranty and no-nonsense simplicity. But the game in this segment has moved on significantly in recent months, with new arrivals such as the revised VW Polo, new Opel Corsa, Mazda2 and Honda Jazz vying for attention. Where does the new Hyundai fit in the pecking order?
Spacious and practicalDesigned in Germany and boasting much sharper, crisper lines, the new i20 is a rather more up to date take on the compact five-door hatchback genre than its curvy, bland predecessor. It even boasts a few stand-out design features, including a blacked-out C-pillar and rather stylish rear light detailing. This base model can be easily identified by its 14-inch steel wheels (with plastic covers).
More important in this segment than flashy design, however, is practicality. The new i20 is slightly longer and wider than its predecessor and affords its occupants more space all-round, while the boot is commendably large at 294 litres and also well shaped to accommodate a variety of objects. The rear seats can be split and folded for the transportation of even larger items. A full-size spare wheel is located underneath the boot floor.
Despite its entry level positioning, the interior of the i20 Motion manages not to feel low-rent. In fact, the light inserts in the upholstery add a dash of cheerfulness to the otherwise dark cabin. Build quality is predictably very good, with excellent fit and finish evident throughout the interior.
Well-balanced standard specificationA secret to the Hyundai i20’s success has always been its carefully considered specification. The remote audio controls-equipped steering wheel is both rake and reach adjustable and the driver’s seat can also be lifted or lowered as per the driver’s requirements. A comfortable driving position is therefore easy to find.
For the money, you get air-conditioning, a radio/CD system with aux/USB support, Bluetooth, a trip computer and electric front windows. The safety package consists of dual front airbags and ABS with EBD. Oversights? Well, parents may be dismayed to find that there are no Isofix child seat anchors at the rear. And for some the manual rear windows will be an irritation.
Improved refinementUnlike many other newcomers in the segment of the market, Hyundai has not followed in the engine downsizing/turbocharging trend that has seen the likes of the new Corsa, Fiesta and Polo offering such strong performance without too much of a fuel economy penalty. Of course, the advantage of keeping it simple is the promise of greater reliability – there is no turbocharger to go wrong in the long run.
Still, the 1.2-litre engine under i20’s bonnet is hardly big, so it has its work cut out – it delivers 61 kW and a relatively meagre 115 Nm of torque. Even so, the i20 feels rather perky around town, with good responsiveness provided you stir the slick five-speed gearbox. Most testers felt that the power was perfectly sufficient for town use, with the lack of urge only really becoming prevalent at higher (overtaking) speeds close to the national speed limit.
Hyundai claims a consumption figure of 5.9 L/100 km, but you’re more likely to achieve a figure of closer to 7 L/100 km.
One of the criticisms that could be leveled at the previous i20 (and there weren’t many), was relatively poor NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) control and a somewhat unrefined ride quality. These concerns have certainly been addressed with the newcomer – it boasts a body that is 64 % more torsionally rigid than before. The cabin is now a much more isolated place, and the i20 now suppresses road imperfections with greater composure. Coupled with very light steering, the little Hyundai is therefore an impressively comfortable city runner that can now more confidently head out of town, too.
Conclusion and SummaryBy offering a strong combination of standard features, space and a good warranty, the entry level version of the new Hyundai i20 is well-positioned for success at the bottom of the B-segment hatchback market. It may offer neither the panache of a Kia Rio or Renault Clio, nor the performance of a Toyota Yaris or the new Opel Corsa, but you do get the promise of comfortable, no-surprises motoring for years.
Hyundai i20 Price in South AfricaThe Hyundai i20 1.2 Motion costs R184 900 and comes with a five-year/150 000 km warranty and two-year/30 000 km service plan.
Second OpinionThe new Hyundai i20 may not look as pleasant as the outgoing model, but that's irrelevant as what's under the skin is far more important. Build quality and refinement are in abundance, and you'd be hard-pressed to fault this little Korean as it comes with plenty of tech and safety features. However, the 1.2 may not be enough grunt for those living at Gauteng altitudes however.
We Like: Practicality, Comfort, Quality, Warranty
We don’t Like: Overtaking power
Also consider: Opel Corsa, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta
See a comparison between the Hyundai i20, Opel Corsa and Volkswagen Polo here.