2011 Hyundai i20 Review

Hyundai NZ launched its i20 light hatch into the kiwi market at a press event in Auckland last week with sales to commence from Monday the 1st of May. Car and SUV was there to get some driving seat time with the i20 and see exactly what this lively little machine is all about.

The i20 is new for NZ but has been offered in some markets since 2009, while not an official replacement for the Getz it’s set to become the new entry point vehicle for the Hyundai range. Priced at $25,990 for the manual and $26,990 for the auto it comes at a $3k – $4k premium over the Getz but offers greater refinement and a higher level of specification. At this price point Hyundai is putting its i20 into the ring with some serious opponents like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Nissan Micra and Mazda2. To catch buyers’ attention Hyundai is marketing the i20 as receiving the distilled best qualities from a few of the successful vehicles in Hyundai’s current range.

In terms of standard specification the i20 does very well and both variants include some generous kit. Central locking with keyless entry, CD stereo with iPod integration, steering wheel audio controls, trip computer, cooled glove box, tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel, power windows and filtered air-conditioning are all included. When it comes to safety the i20’s credentials also check out very well with a full six airbag package, ABS brakes and an electronic stability program watching over driver and passengers.

The i20 cabin is a nice space and with correct seat adjustment there is plenty of head and legroom even for taller drivers. The dashboard is thoughtfully designed with a high mounted LCD display for the trip computer and audio read-outs. Instrumentation is large and easy to read, while the cabin doesn’t feel as cosseting and inviting as the VW Polo its easy to get in and out of the four-door body and its a comfortable space. The plastics are of a mixed quality with some feeling tactile and of a good grade but others feeling hard and shiny like the contrasting silver trim. That said, the build quality is excellent, the i20 feels very well built and this continues to be a Hyundai strength.

Under the bonnet the i20 comes packing a single engine option in a 1.4l four-cylinder that produces 73kW of power and 136Nm of torque. Fuel economy is quoted at 6l/100km for the manual and 6.4l/100km for the auto. The i20 is certainly no dragster but its acceleration is linear and surprisingly lively once it climbs high in the rev range. The i20 is available with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed auto with our test vehicle for the day a manual model. It was easy from the offset to make smooth changes with a light clutch pedal that engages predictably, the gearstick is also well placed for both short- and long-armed drivers.

On road, the i20 handles itself nicely with light, precise steering and a good level of grip through the 15-inch alloy wheels. It may not be able to match the Fiesta dynamically but it doesn’t fall too far short and has greater ability than the Nissan March and Holden Barina Spark. Ride quality is on the firm side and may be a notch jarring on broken or gravel roads, but that’s not what the i20 is about, and around town would prove compliant and comfortable. During motorway cruising the i20 was nicely settled and very quiet with Hyundai putting extra work into preventing road and wind noise from entering the cabin.

The i20 exterior design is smart and modern, it doesn’t break any new ground but it’s contemporary and won’t offend. Door handles and wing mirrors are colour coded and head and tail lights are suitably large and graduated – as is the current fashion. It looks wide thanks to a broadened shoulder line and the window line raises to give the i20 a sporty-look stance. The hatch opens wide and with a 295-litre loading capacity there’s room for a couple of suitcases, if more room is required the 60:40 split backseat will fold forwards.

All up, the i20 is an impressive entry into NZ’s light hatch segment and it successfully brings Hyundai into line with key competitors. It’s more expensive than the outgoing Getz but is still keenly priced and has all the bells and whistles customers look for. It’s a fairly refined steer for the segment and while the i20 isn’t a fast car the experience definitely isn’t numb, there’s some character here and that goes a long way.

Check back shortly for a full Car and SUV road test of the 2011 Hyundai i20.

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