Hyundai i20

Debut: 2008
Maker: Hyundai
Predecessor: Getz

Hyundai wants to challenge European superminis with its European-designed and engineered new contender...

We have seen Kia Soul. Now here comes its sister car Hyundai i20. While the Kia is a tall-body and fashion-driven hatchback, its Hyundai sister is a conventional supermini aiming at Mr. Average who lives in Western Europe. It replaces the outgoing Getz and, as its name suggested, ranks between the A-segment i10 and C-segment i30. It is produced in Hyundai's factory in India thus has a strong advantage in costs to its European rivals like Ford Fiesta, Fiat Grande Punto, Renault Clio, Peugeot 107, Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza or its Japanese rivals like Honda Jazz, Mazda 2 and Toyota Yaris. If it is adequately designed and engineered, it just might be a strong contender in the class.

The i20 was styled and developed in Hyundai's European headquarters at Russelsheim, Germany (near Opel). Its exterior design looks well done and inoffensive, although you may criticize it as lacking character. These days all car makers care about styling very much, so just well done is not enough. You need some striking features to get attention from the buying public. Unfortunately, Hyundai is playing safe in its design direction. In contrast, its "younger brand", Kia, is doing much more radical designs under the leadership of Peter Schreyer.

Well done is no longer enough when everybody designs stylish cars these days...

The interior of i20 is similar. It's simple, clear and well layout, but you hardly feel it special. Black is its main theme. Alloy-style plastics cannot improve quality feel much. As limited by its Indian suppliers, all plastics used in the cabin are hard ones. Switch gears do not have the smooth operation as most European superminis. As a result, the Hyundai never feels upmarket. What saves the game is again cabin space, as Hyundai once again managed to give its car generous dimensions out of less money. Wheelbase is a near class-leading 2525 mm, giving good legroom at the back.

Specification-wise, there is little to distinguish the chassis of this car from European superminis. It also drives similarly on the road, because it is tuned by mostly German engineers who used to work for Opel. The car handles with little body roll and shows good stability at high speed. The steering is accurate. However, its cheap tires transmit a lot of harshness into the cabin over small irregularities. This ruins its driving refinement.

Limited by its Indian suppliers, its cabin is full of hard plastics...
The Hyundai group offers quite a lot of choices of engines to i20. Petrol engines include a new 1.25-liter 16V with 78hp, 1.4-liter 16V CVVT with 100hp and 1.6-liter 16V CVVT with 126hp, all of them employ lightweight aluminum head and block construction. The smallest petrol might be slow, but not so as the 1.2-liter 8V engine of Fiat Punto. Both 1.4 and 1.6 are proved to be quite smooth and eager in other cars. Diesel engines include 1.4-liter 16V common-rail injection turbo with 75hp or 90hp and 1.6-liter 16V common-rail injection turbo with 115hp or 128hp. The 90hp 1.4 turbo diesel is known to be unrefined, i.e., strong vibration at idle and coarse at high rev, unlike the smooth and punchy 1.6 turbo diesel.

Overall speaking, i20 is a stronger contender to the supermini class than its predecessor Getz, but it won't stand out from the crowd unless you look at its low price and long list of equipment. However, those who purchase it should prepare to put up with its harsh ride (at least before Hyundai sort out with new tires or suspension tweaks), lack of driving fun, character and quality feel.
The above report was last updated on 27 Oct 2008. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

i20 1.4
i20 1.6
i20 1.6CRDi
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel Mainly steel
Length / width / height 3940 / 1710 / 1490 mm 3940 / 1710 / 1490 mm 3940 / 1710 / 1490 mm
Wheelbase 2525 mm 2525 mm 2525 mm
Inline-4 Inline-4, diesel
1396 cc
1591 cc 1582 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
DOHC 16 valves, VVT DOHC 16 valves
- VTG turbo
Other engine features
Max power
100 hp / 5500 rpm
126 hp / 6300 rpm
128 hp / 4000 rpm
Max torque
101 lbft / 4200 rpm
116 lbft / 4200 rpm
192 lbft / 1900-2750 rpm
5-speed manual
5-speed manual 6-speed manual
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
Suspension features
- -
Tyres front/rear
Kerb weight
1035 kg
1052 kg
1156 kg
Top speed
112 mph (c)
118 mph (c)
118 mph (c)
0-60 mph (sec)
10.9 (c)
8.9 (c)
8.8 (c)
0-100 mph (sec)
Performance tested by: -

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