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Hyundai i20 hatchback (2009 – ) expert review

By Ivan Aistrop, 10th April 2014

The verdict

The Hyundai i20 is aggressively priced and packed with safety kit. It’s a competent hatchback that delivers fantastic value for money.

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Expert rating:

3.7

Pros

  • Very affordable to buy
  • Impressive equipment level
  • Great warranty

Cons

  • Rather plain styling
  • Awkward seat mechanism
  • Diesels are noisy

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Hyundai i20 may not be the sexiest-looking supermini on sale, but it’s a very smart-looking little car nonetheless. The angular headlamps sit either side of a narrow, angled grille, and there’s another deeper air intake below for a bit more visual impact. There’s a strong crease that runs down the side of the car, and the crease that runs along the tailgate between the two rear light clusters is a nice touch. Entry-level Classic trim comes with a set of steelies, but from Active trim upwards, you get a set of alloys and smart front foglamps. Range-topping Style cars also have LED daytime running lights.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior

If you’re expecting a cheap-and-nasty interior you’re in for a (mostly) pleasant surprise. The build quality feels very sturdy and the materials look and feel reasonably dense, even if they can’t match those of the classiest superminis for outright quality. A few carefully-chosen silver highlights break up what would otherwise be an uninteresting slab of plastic, too. The centre console is well laid out with clearly-labelled buttons in easy reach of driver and passenger, so the various functions are easy to use. All versions have a height-adjustable driver’s seat, plus rake and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, so finding a comfortable driving position is a doddle.
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

The i20 isn’t the roomiest car in the supermini class, but neither is it the smallest. Importantly, there’s adequate space for four adults to sit comfortably. The boot offers 295 litres of storage space with the seats upright, which is about par for the course in the supermini class. And, once you’ve folded the rear seats, you get a generous 1,060 litres of cargo space. Folding them flat is a somewhat onerous task, though, one that involves wrenching the headrests free of their bases and tugging a pair of stiff catches to unlock the seats.
Our rating: 3

4. Ride and handling

The i20 majors on comfort, and that’s a job it does well. It filters out all but the worst lumps and bumps, keeping things nice and serene in the cabin. It’s not quite as impressive in the corners, though. The handling is secure and thoroughly predictable, but there’s quite a bit of body lean, and the steering feels artificial and disconcertingly light at high speeds.
Our rating: 3

5. Performance

The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine will be the pick for most buyers. It only has 83bhp, but it still feels peppy and flexible. There is a more powerful 1.4 petrol as well, but it doesn’t really give you any great advantage for pace in the real world. Two diesel engines are also on offer, a 1.1-litre with 74bhp and a 1.4 with 89bhp. The smaller one is a bit sluggish while the bigger one is much peppier, but neither engine is all that smooth or refined. We’d avoid the diesels unless you’re doing massive annual mileages.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

The running costs on the petrol models are reasonable without really dazzling, but the diesels do really rather well. The cleanest of them, the 1.1 Blue Drive, emits CO2 at a rate of just 84g/km, and returns an official average of more than 88mpg. One of the strongest parts of Hyundai’s offering is its long warranties – the i20 comes with a five-year, unlimited-mileage guarantee. Its car repair rates are also among the most competitive.
Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Some Hyundai buyers have reported problems with leaky tyre valves, and a few early models were recalled due to a fault which allowed water to get into the footwell area – but that problem now appears to have been sorted. Should anything else go wrong, there’s that generous warranty to fall back on. You can also take comfort from the fact that Hyundai currently sits near the top of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

All i20s come with active head restraints to minimise whiplash in an accident, and a total of six airbags. The model achieved an impressive full five-star score in Euro NCAP crash tests, with 88% scored for adult occupant protection and 83% for child occupant protection.
Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Entry-level Classic trim comes with most of what you need including air-con, electric front windows, remote locking and USB and aux-in sockets, but we reckon it’s worth upgrading to mid-spec Active trim for its Bluetooth phone connection, six-speaker stereo, powered rear windows, alloy wheels and a leather steering wheel and gearknob. Style trim adds niceties such as automatic lights and wipers, climate control and reversing sensors, but these versions cost a little too much.
Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

Although the i20 isn’t exactly a budget choice these days, it still carries a price tag which represents excellent value. It may lack that driving magic, and it’s nothing special to look at, but it’s decently equipped, pleasant to drive, roomy and cheap to run.
Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.7stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:
1.2 Active 5dr
Most sensible engine choice and all the kit you need.
Most economical:
1.1 CRDi Blue
You can’t really argue with 88mpg can you?
Best avoided:
1.4 Active Auto
Going for the automatic gearbox crucifies your economy.

The i20 carries a price tag which represents excellent value