Hyundai i20

Stylish & smart in so many ways, Hyundais downsized turbo baby i20 impresses

The first time you look at this car, you may think it’s something else. European, perhaps? The new i20’s Sensuous Sportiness design philosophy carries the Korean carmaker’s quality, reliable and practical pillars into a new realm. And it adds a whole loaf of all-new dynamic style, too.


They tell us that this new i20 best melds proportion, style and technology. To create an emotional and distinctive new look. We love it. The new i20 is edgy, exciting and dynamic; emphasised by a broad and aggressive stance. It cuts through the wind 6 percent better at a 0.33 drag coefficient. Our polar white specimen looks even better with its black roof. And cool new 16-inch alloys and darkened power folding wing mirrors for effect.

Swing the door open and you soon understand Hyundai’s boast of an airy, roomier, more sculptured and more appealing cabin. Slip into the comfy red-trimmed artificial leather clad chair and you’re faced by a refined multifunction steering wheel. Ahead of cool digital dials. The wheel’s neat toggles are colour matched to several aspects throughout the interior. There’s subtle blue LED mood lighting by night too.

The digital dash goes with i20’s bright 8-inch centre touchscreen infotainment display. It has wireless link Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a premium quality sound system. The system lacks a little compared to some of its sharpest rivals. But it does double as a guide-lined rear-view monitor too. There’s a wireless smartphone charging pad and front and rear USB charging ports. Rear passengers also get their own air vents and a cell phone storage spot.


But the biggest i20 news is actually under the bonnet. We’ve often muttered that the Koreans (and the Japanese) have been slow on the modern downsized turbo bandwagon. In fact we have emphasised that on the previous Hyundai we tested a month or do ago. Now i20 also changes all of that, too. Powered by the 90 kW 172 Nm turbo 3-cylinder litre T-GDi petrol that’s already proven itself in more premium local Hyundai models, i20 is now posed to match any class rival.

The engine has Continuously Variable Valve Duration tech to optimise performance, efficiency and eco-friendliness. It uniquely regulates valve lift on the fly, according to prevailing driving conditions. This Hyundai drives its front wheels via a manual 6-speed manual gearbox in the test car. It may not deliver groundbreaking performance, but the new engine is punchy, and smooth, even entertaining at times. Especially considerings its three-pot thrum.

The new i20 easily beats ten seconds to 100 km/h. Hyundai claims a 190 km/h top end and 6.5 litres/100 km. So all good, as our test figures were actually even a little better than that.


Sporty and firm, yet comfortable, i20 impressed us on the road. Its reinforced chassis rides on class default coil sprung McPherson strut dampers up front. And coupled twist beam rear suspension with motor assisted power steering. Steering feel is good and the car tells you what it is doing when driving gets more spirited.

That tougher body shell also comes to the fore in safety further enhanced by surefooted ABS and EBD braking. Passive systems also include six driver, front passenger and curtain airbags and Isofix child seat latches. Billed as a five-seater five-door hatchback, this longer wheelbase car is said significantly increase seating space for rear passengers. Boot space is up too, while outward visibility is good.

All in all, we came away pleasantly impressed by Hyundai’s latest challenger in the super-competitive South African entry hatchback segment. It must still deal with VW’s locally built Polo and Vivo, Toyota Yaris and its in-house Kia rival. Among so many more wannabe rivals. And it has always shone in that company


It’s now equipped with a modern downsized turbo engine, packing the glitz and panache to make you look again. And the i20 is also very good to drive. As good as anything else out there. A Polo beater? Perhaps. But then that car also steps its game up very soon. — Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Engine: 90 kW 172 Nm 1-litre turbo petrol I3
Drive: 6-speed manual FWD
0-60km/h:         4.17 sec
0-100km/h:        9.49 sec
0-160km/h:        26.37 sec
400m:             16.7 sec @ 135 km/h
80-120km/h:       7.08 sec
120-160km/h:      13.87 sec
VMax:             190 km/h
Fuel:             6.5 l/100km
CO2:              124 g/km
Warranty/Service: 7y 200K/4y 60K km
LIST PRICE:       R330K
RATED:            8
Tagged with: