Take it seriously

Hyundai is quickly catching up with Kia when it comes to attractive Korean cars. The new i20 is definitely the best-looking B-segment hatchback ever to come out of South Korea

The new Hyundai i20 is a serious car. Serious because it is an important car for Hyundai in a segment where they want to be taken, well…seriously; and serious as in not very playful. The i20 is not a lot of fun to drive. In fact, fun and i20 are not words that should appear in the same sentence.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the Hyundai is a bad car and it surely doesn’t mean it isn’t built for purpose. As always, I will now elaborate.

The B-segment is a very tough market. I think it is scarier than it has ever been actually. Let’s see: we have the perennial VW Polo, the dynamic Fiesta, the revitalised Skoda Fabia, the newly-arrived Opel Corsa or the facelifted Seat Ibiza. I almost forgot the i20’s cousin, the Kia Rio, and the excellent Mazda 2.

There is not a bad car in there. So, not being very fun to drive, like, for instance, the Fiesta, what can the new i20 have going for it? Well, I think this week’s review must be a bit more rational than usual, a bit more analytic, because that is what this car calls for.

So let’s begin with the exterior. The old i20 was not looking dated yet, but this new one moves the game forward considerably. It is much wider than before, more square and overall a more appealing car, even managing to look like a C-segment hatch sometimes (for the record, I think it looks better than the i30).

The C-pillar detail in high-gloss black is a sign this is a car made for the Europeans – we love those things. The body shell is built out of high-strength steels and this extra rigidity shows when the car starts moving its weight around, especially on tighter corners.

Overall, the i20 is a very attractive car in my eyes, but needs a bold colour to shine, so please let go of the greys and silvers and browns and look towards the reds, whites and blues.

Being light, at just over a tonne, the i20 also shows Hyundai is moving in the right direction and worrying about the right elements, namely weight reduction.

Moving to the inside of the car, one of the first and greatest improvements I felt aboard was related to the outside sound – or lack of it thereof. It’s really quite quiet for a car costing under €15,000.

I know you are expecting me to talk about build quality and if the materials are good, so here I go: yes and yes, for the most of it.

The i20 is another step in showing the Koreans are learning fast how to build quality interiors, but also that their cars will always have to be sold at a certain price to be successful, so there is no point is investing too much in some material you could find in a Mercedes, because a Hyundai client is not willing to pay for it.

Anyway, there are no complaints regarding the cabin. The layout works well, the ergonomics are mainly correct and it even looks good from where I sat to drive. The space in the back is good and the boot is bigger than most of its competitors.

The car I drove came with a 1.2 litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 84 horse power. Not very fast I have to say, but I did averaged 6.7 litres, which was very positive.

The six-speed manual gearbox is the only option, but it is actually rather good: slick and precise, it is a real improvement over the last model’s.

The range also comprises another 1.4 litre 100 hp petrol engine and a 1.1 litre diesel powered unit, with 75 Korean horses.

The basic petrol i20 with 75 horse power from the same 1.2 version I drove costs as little as €11,900, which is just unbelievable for such a quality car.
And that is all there is to it. Not much fun, but totally fit for purpose.

Those competitors I mentioned? They have another contender to worry about.

The new i20 costs from €11,900. A small price tag for a whole lot of car.

By Guilherme Marques