New Hyundai i20 first drive

Hyundai i20 Whilst the global motor industry is currently showing off their future new models and flights-of-fancy concept cars at the Geneva Motor Show,

at the coal face in UK dealer showrooms their sales teams are busy moving the metal for the new registration month of March.

Hyundai has a strong range to offer for the new 15 plate month with their all-new i20 five door ‘supermini’ sized hatchback range plus the relatively new i10 city car, the popular but older i30 C-segment family sized hatchbacks and tourer estate, the larger i40 saloon and tourer models, the ix35 SUV/crossover and the large seven-seat Santa Fe 4×4. All are covered by a five years unlimited mileage warranty package.

Last year Hyundai sold over 82,000 new cars in the year, an all-time record. The original i20 was introduced into the UK in 2002 and over 150,000 of them have been sold here to date. Hyundai, the South Korean manufacturer started selling cars in the UK in 1982 and employs over 3,000 people through its UK operations and dealer network.

The all-new i20 five door hatchback range is designed in Germany and built in Turkey. It was introduced at the end of January with prices starting from £10,695 with the choice of S, SE, Premium and SE Premium core specification levels. At the end of March the range will be expanded with the addition of the three-door i20 Coupe with prices starting from £12,725 and with the choice of SE, Sport and Sport Nav spec levels but with a restricted choice of engines – the 1.2-litre 84PS petrol and the 90PS 1.4-litre turbodiesel. An ix20 MPV has just made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show and sales will start later this year. The i20 WRC is also Hyundai’s World Rally Championship contender currently lying in second place in both the manufacturers and driver’s championships.

The more popular i20 five door versions have a wider engine choice with the 1.2 petrol either with 75 or 84PS, the 1.4 petrol with 100PS, the 1.1 turbodiesel with 75PS and the 1.4 turbodiesel with 90PS power output. Later this year a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder T-GDI turbo direct injection petrol engine will join the line-up with the choice of 100 and 120PS power outputs.

I have just had a test drive period with the new i20 five door hatchback with SE Premium specification powered by the 1.2-litre 84PS petrol engine mated with a five speed manual gearbox. This version costs an attractive £14,725, I say attractive because the spec is very comprehensive. To sweeten the deal even more, like most manufacturers, Hyundai are offering very competitive PCP rates for retail customers ranging from £152 per month and with Hyundai deposit contributions ranging from £500 to £1,000 depending on the model chosen. For business customers contract hire rates start from £138 per month.

The all-new i20 is roomier than the previous generation models with a 45mm increase to its wheelbase for more passenger room. Being longer, wider and lower than before it looks more athletic and feels like a car from the C-segment. It longer in fact that its main ‘supermini’ competitors such as the best selling Ford Fiesta, the Vauxhall Corsa, VW Polo and the new and highly rated Skoda Fabia. With its wide tailgate and low height rear sill there is easy access to the 326-litres boot which also has a split-level floor. With the three rear seats folded the boot capacity goes up to an impressive 1,042-litres.

Hyundai i20 Hyundai i20 Hyundai i20 Exterior styling is very European in taste with a distinctive front grille, sleek elongated headlights and lower mounted fog lights. To the side is a rising waistline with sculptured styling lines and the aerodynamic roof shape is finished off at the rear with a spoiler.

Inside there is a lot of hard plastic trim used for panels but they are nicely moulded and fit well. It is just a shame there is a lack of soft-touch plastics and fabric trim for the door inserts. But that said it will prove to be durable, it might be plastic but it doesn’t look cheap especially if you take the high specification into account. The most popular SE level has 16-inch alloy wheels, all round electrically operated windows, air conditioning, Bluetooth and cruise control. My Premium SE test car spec level had the addition of privacy glass, automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, heated and folding door mirrors, six airbags, lane departure warning, remote central locking, space-saver spare wheel and a panoramic glass sunroof but this item does restrict headroom. It also had a fascia panel mounted docking station for a Smartphone but this seems out of step with the more common use of touchscreens these days. A 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and reversing camera is an option for around £350 but it should be standard fit on this top-of-the-range model.

Hyundai i20 Hyundai i20 The major letdown for some drivers will be the use of non-turbocharged petrol engines. Turbo power is commonplace these days in this sector and the Hyundai 1.2 and 1.4-litre units, although still fit for purpose, are simply outperformed in real-life driving conditions in terms of responsiveness by delivering maximum torque at low down engine speeds. This makes them more flexible accelerating from low speeds and requires less gearchanging on winding country roads and driving up hills. These non-turbocharged Hyundai petrol engines just cannot live with the zip and performance offered by new generation units from the likes of Ford and the VW Group. If the i20 is going to be used mainly for local travel commuting or for shopping trips and the occasional long run it will suffice. But with more people on-board and on longer runs the 1.2-litre engine in particular feels a bit feeble. It develops just 84PS with 122Nm (90lbs ft) from 4,000rpm and drive to the front wheels is through a five-speed gearbox.

Top speed is not a major consideration these days in family car sectors but this version of the i20 tops out at 106mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is a lengthy 13.1-seconds. On the plus side this Euro-6 engine officially returns 55.4mpg in the Combined Cycle and my week long test driving returned an overall average of 47.8mpg which is impressive for a petrol engine. The CO2 emissions are 119g/km so currently VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £30 per annum thereafter. In the unlikely event that company car drivers would choose this 1.2-litre petrol engine over the 1.4-litre turbodiesel option, then Benefit-in-Kind tax is a low 18% from April onwards and 16% now. Insurance costs are low as well with a group 7E rating.

In the ride and handling departments the i20 doesn’t set any new high standards, its more acceptable than ground-breaking. The Ford Fiesta remains the master of this supermini class. The i20 is comfortable which goes well with its roominess. The handling is predictable and this 1.2-litre engine is never going to extend the vehicle’s roadholding capabilities. There is little cornering body roll but the short travel suspension does not always cope with absorbing shocks and impact noise caused by potholed poor roads surfaces.

Overall the new Hyundai i20 is a thoroughly modern, well packaged, very well equipped and well priced roomy family hatchback with a long warranty. In short those are the things that today impress most buyers most of all.

MILESTONES: Hyundai i20 Premium SE 1.2 5-Door Supermini Hatchback. Price: £14,725. Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 4-cylindrer Euro-6, normally aspirated petrol, 84PS, 122Nm of torque from 4,000rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 106mph, 0-62mph 13.1-seconds, 55.4mpg Combined Cycle (47.8mpg on test), CO2 119g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year then £30 Year Two onwards, BIK company car tax 18% from April. Insurance: Group: 7E. Warranty: 5-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,035mm, W 1,734mm, H 1,474mm, boot/load space 326 to 1,042-litres. For: Spacious, well equipped, low running costs, affordable price and good finance options, easy to drive. Against: Underpowered, too much hard-plastic interior trim, no touchscreen, thumps and bumps from potholes not absorbed well enough by the suspension system.  Miles Better News Agency

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