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First Drive: Hyundai i20

Sharp looks, a keen drive, plenty of standard kit and mild hybrid technology mark out the i20 in the supermini class, Martyn Collins finds.

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SECTOR Supermini   PRICE £18,595-£23,345   FUEL 53.3-55.4mpg  (WLTP)  CO2 115-121g/km (WLTP)

Remember the last Hyundai i20? Possibly not, as whilst models at the top of the supermini class have sold on their sense of style and being fun to drive, the Hyundai was perhaps more focused on reliability and value for money.

Now in its third generation, the latest i20 shows Hyundai’s sense of style.

On the outside and inside, this means a sharp new look. The i20 is the first model to benefit from the Korean company’s new ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design language, also being used for the bold new Tucson.

This i20’s design is all about the angles, and this translates at the front into slim headlights, a wide grille and distinctive front air dam. The waistline arcs upwards at the side and the rear light clusters eat sharply into the quarters. Finally, the way those distinctive rear lights blend into the rear window line mark out this Hyundai from the back.

The curvy dashboard, 10.25-inch infotainment display, standard TFT instruments and heavily stylised door cards are distinguishing features of the i20’s interior. Then there is the space; the new car is 30mm wider, with a wheelbase that has been stretched 10mm, so there’s much more room! It is most noticeable in the back, where despite a lower roof line, there’s almost i30-levels of legroom –  putting the i20 a sector above, even for the tallest adults. Biggest disappointment are the hard, scratchy plastics.

There is just the one engine available in the UK, a 100hp, 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder, combined with a 48V hybrid system. WLTP combined consumption is between 53.3-55.4mpg with CO2 emissions between 115 and 121g/km, dependent on the trim chosen.

Once you get past the complicated starting procedure, it is an impressive engine. The hybrid system makes it feel punchy from start off, accelerating smoothly and cleanly through the rev range, with 0-62mph acceleration in 10.4 seconds. There is a sporty ‘N’ version of the new i20 incoming, but the standard car is at its best when not being pushed too hard.

What’s cleverer is the slightly notchy, standard six-speed manual transmission (a seven-speed Dual Clutch Automatic is available as an option), which is fitted with a drive-by-wire electronically controlled clutch. It’s called eClutch and it is impossible to tell the difference between this and standard, but this one can disconnect the engine automatically, for better efficiency on the motorway, either with the engine at idle or completely switched off.

On the road, the i20’s firm ride is most noticeable, although it does get better with speed, but rivals such as the Fiesta are more comfortable. Bigger 17-inch wheels make things worse. Get past the ride, and the new i20 is decent to drive, the steering is precise, there is not too much body roll in corners and grip is good – on this early evidence, the sportiest ‘N’ model will be quite a car to drive.

Premium and ultimate trims are available, but it’s the entry-level SE Connect priced at £18,595 that’s expected to be the key fleet trim. It includes 16-inch alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control and rear parking sensors, all as standard.

Sharp-looking, spacious and with plenty of standard kit, the new Hyundai i20 deserves to do well.

The Verdict:
There is no doubt the new i20 is up against tough opposition in the supermini class, but the car is talented enough to stand out.

The Lowdown
Key Fleet Model: i20 SE Connect
Strengths: Keen drive, clever manual eClutch, equipment
Weaknesses: Hard ride won’t suit all, cheap-feeling interior plastics, keen pricing

Fleet World Star Rating
4

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.