By: Damian Adams
Despite the indomitable rise of the compact crossover, the B-segment hatchback segment remains as one of the most popular today, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the market.
This segment, however, is ruled by the Volkswagen Polo and soon after arriving at the waterlogged car park for the local launch of the all-new i20, Hyundai South Africa management made it very clear that their new offering has been introduced with the sole purpose of giving the SA-built Polo a proper fight for top honors.
Riding on an all-new platform, the Hyundai i20 is larger and lower than before and has undergone a complete design overhaul, utilising the brand’s latest design language. Even with the single-tone aesthetic, it’s one bold looking hatchback and is a far departure from the one it replaces. With a chiselled front-end design and intricate grille it shares strong design elements with the all-new Tucson. The new look may be a bit fussy for some, with arguably too many lines and creases, but it certainly has an assertive presence. The rear-end on the other hand is a little more conventional and the dual-tone 16-inch alloy wheels do a good job of filling the wheel arches. There are six colour options: Titan Grey, Polar White Starry Night, Fiery Red, Typhoon Silver and Phantom Black. While for some added visual appeal for an additional R5 000 the Polar White and Fiery Red can be had with a black roof.
Step inside and you’ll notice a clear family resemblance between this and the Grand i10, Venue and even the larger Creta. On this Fluid model you’ll find a new leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, faux-leather seats, a digital driver’s instrument cluster and an eight-inch infotainment system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Up front is a wireless charging pad, a 12 volt socket and two USB ports while rear passengers receive air vents and an additional USB charging port. There are some hard and scratchy plastics to be found in the cabin but the overall fit is solid.
On the road for the launch we drove on some of the Cape’s finest roads, albeit during a typical winter cold front. The drive included the serpentine stretch of Clarence Drive from Gordon’s Bay to Betty’s Bay, as well as the Houw Hoek Pass and Sir Lowry’s Pass before following the N2 back to Somerset West. In the strong wind and torrential rain, the Hyundai i20 felt secure and sure footed while the suspension did well to soak up the bumps of rougher sections.
It’s not pin-sharp dynamically as in the tighter bends the vehicle did exhibit some noticeable body roll and the steering is unfortunately numb but there is a reasonable amount of heft to assist proceedings. For what it is, the i20 feels suitably grown up and considering the conditions in which we drove for the launch it impressed with how well it managed over the cold and slippery roads.
In terms of safety specification this Fluid model ships standard with six airbags, ABS with EBD. Interestingly this model is not available with electronic stability control (ESC) or a hill hold assist function. For less experienced drivers these features could prove very helpful.
In terms of performance, not very long ago a little car that was capable of running from 0-100 km/h from standstill in less than 10 seconds would have been considered a reasonably fast machine and thanks to the 1,0T engine here the i20 is said to manage the obligatory sprint in a claimed 9,7 seconds. This may not seem very impressive by today’s standards but the turbo-triple translates its performance convincingly to the road. With 90 kW and 172 N.m on hand, this force fed i20 is no slouch with the latter figure available from as low as 1 500 rpm. In combination with a light and smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission the 1,0-litre TGDI engine is arguably the one to have.
Although not perfect the all-new Hyundai i20 has taken a serious step ahead over the outgoing model, mostly thanks to its improved onboard tech, practicality and peppy 90 kW engine. It now has what it takes to genuinely take on its domineering rival the VW Polo and we’d like to pit the two against each other in the near future. The variety of trim levels, engines and transmission choices has certainly broadened its appeal as the i20 provides decent value for money, comprehensive specification across the range and is well priced compared with its competitors.
In the past, buying a Hyundai was the conservative, dare I say it, boring choice and now with the i20’s new bold design both inside and out it seems set to grab the attention it deserves.
Hyundai i20 prices range from R289 900 to R355 900. Click here to view the full pricing and standard features.
Model: Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid
Price: R330 900
Engine: 1,0-litre, 3-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 90 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 172 N.m @ 1 500-4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 9,7 seconds
Top Speed: 190 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,5 L/100 km
CO2: 124 g/km
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Service Plan: 4-year/60 000 km