The new i20 'supermini range of three and five door Ford Fiesta-sized hatchbacks priced from just £8,195 might be built in India, have a Korean brand name but they are designed and developed in Europe.
The i20 replaces Hyundai's lower cost Getz 3/5-door hatchbacks range. The sales propositions to own the new i20 are many - high specification, relatively low price, latest fuel efficient low CO2 engines, good predicted residual values and of course Hyundai's well promoted five-year warranty.
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On the downside to obtain those items an owner will have to live with uninspired bland styling, some low rent interior trim and whether in terms of brand value it is better to own a slightly more expensive new Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Toyota Yaris or VW Polo.
Given the credit crunch, which is decimating retail sales and downsizing company car and fleet drivers into smaller cost effective vehicles, the i20's price, warranty and build quality has to be considered as it is around a £1,000 cheaper than its mainstream rivals and better equipped according to Hyundai.
The entry level i20 1.2-litre Classic starts at £8,195 for the three-door with a five door costing an extra £450. Hyundai expect 60% of i20 sales to be three door versions, the 1.2-litre petrol engine to be marginally the best seller following by the 1.4-litre petrol unit. The upcoming 1.4-litre diesel engine should account for 25% of registrations, mainly business users.
Despite the low price, all i20s are equipped with air-conditioning, six airbags, active head restraints, remote locking, electric front windows and an aux-in socket and of course the five year unlimited mileage warranty which is unique in this class.
The mid-range Comfort model - expected to be the best seller and starting at £8,995 - adds 15-inch alloy wheels, body colour door mirrors and handles, electric rear windows, full iPod integration, steering wheel mounted audio controls, a trip computer and a six-speaker system.
Flagship of the i20 range is the Style, equipped with 16-inch alloys, climate control, part-leather upholstery, metal-look facia and front fog lights.
Engines, performance and economy
There is plenty of new technology under the bonnet too. The i20 debuts with two new petrol and diesel engines, starting with an advanced 78PS 1.2-litre petrol unit with a CO2 rating of just 124g/km which is around 15g/km less than similarly-sized petrol engines from rivals and it returns 54.3 mpg on the combined cycle.
Next up in the range is a 1.4-litre, 100PS 1.4-litre petrol borrowed from the i30. In the i20 it returns 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and produces 133g/km - better that some rivals' 1.0-litre engines says Hyundai.
Meeting the demand for low-emission, high economy diesel power, the i20's all-new CRDi engines both have a 1.4-litre capacity and offer 75PS or 90PS power outputs. Emissions and fuel economy figures are competitive at just 116g/km and 64.2 mpg for the 75PS version and 118g/km and 62.8 mpg for the larger-wheeled 90PS model.
This places both i20 diesels in band 'B' for VED, making a tax disc charge of £35 a year. Company car drivers will find they are taxed for benefit-in-kind at just 13% - offering significant savings for those wanting to downsize.
Whether it is a main family car because it will cope with two teenagers/adults in the back, especially if it's a five-door model, or whether it is a reliable cheap to run second car or tax efficient easy to park commuter transport the i20 has lots going for it.
Yes the new Fiesta is a better car, looks great, drives well and is the market leader, but the i20 is cheaper, better equipped, roomier and has a longer warranty.
The i20's styling is bland, the interior in places is a bit low-rent with hard plastics and brightly coloured cloth seat and door inserts on some models but it drives really well. The ride is very comfortable and the handling predictable.
The steering gives no real feedback and on the 1.4-litre petrol five-door, Style, top of the range model with larger wheels it felt quite heavy at low in-town speeds. The larger wheels also compromised the ride quality on very hard surfaced frosty roads.
Pick of the bunch is the 1.2-litre petrol, five door version with Comfort specification priced at £9,445. It has a free-revving, lively power unit which is almost as strong in real life performance as the 1.4-litre engine. The published 'combined' cycle fuel consumption figure for this engine is 54.3mpg. In real-life freezing cold conditions, with two up in the car and driving quite quickly, the actual fuel return was a very good 44.3mpg.
The five-speed gearbox is very slick and the gear ratios well sorted to make the best use of the engine's power and particularly limited torque. True it gets a little 'thrashy' on motorways but for most driving conditions it fine. The Comfort specification is well thought out and having an on-board information computer for all models is a great idea.
The Hyundai i20 cannot be ignored by the cash-strapped or just plain sensible, new car buyer. It's a tough world but that makes this car an easy choice as an affordable set of wheels.
Hyundai i20 MILESTONES
Hyundai i20 Comfort 1.2-litre 5-Door manual
Engine: 1.25-litre, petrol, four-cylinder, all aluminium, 78PS and 119Nm of torque at 4,000rpm
Performance: 103mph, 0-62mph12.9 seconds, 54.3mpg (44.3mpg actual), CO2 124g/km, VED Band C £120, BIK tax 15%
Insurance group: 3E
For: Price, interior space, comprehensive equipment, strong engine, comfortable ride, positive handling, long warranty.
Against: Bland styling, some poorer quality interior fittings and finishes.