The Hyundai i20 1.1 CRDi Blue, with combined economy of 88.3mpg, is the most economical car on sale in the UK, but the Active version, with 74.3mpg, isn’t far off this figure.
It’s now a few years since Hyundai and Kia started to be taken seriously in the UK. Anyone who still has badge snobbery about the Korean car makers really needs to drive one of their latest offerings.
The Hyundai i20 is a sister car to the Kia Rio. Both can return up to 88.3mpg, but somehow the i20 Blue has an official emissions figure of 84g/km CO2, whereas the Kia Rio EcoDynamics emits 85g/km CO2. Even more bizarrely, the new Renault Clio again features the same 88.3mpg but has emissions that are 1g/km CO2 lower at 83g/km. The i20 Active as tested comes close with 74.3mpg and 99g/km CO2.
Externally, the Hyundai i20 looks more curvy than the Kia Rio; this design approach applies to all Hyundai and Kia models. Although we generally like curves, Kia seems to have the edge in the external styling stakes, and we certainly prefer the looks of the Rio to the i20. The styling of the new i20 shows progress over the previous model and there’s not much wrong with the front of the i20 (although it’s rather forgettable), but Ц and this may well be a personal, subjective thing Ц we’re not fans of the way that the line that runs down the side of the bodywork droops down behind the rear wheel arch.
Things get better in the interior. It looks and feels like a reasonable quality dashboard, especially for a £12,795 car. The steering wheel features a collection of buttons, the heater and stereo controls are both positioned high enough to be able to reach easily, and the dash has large and clear switches Ц very different to the fiddly buttons on the centre console of a Fiesta. It also has excellent storage space between the two front seats, for drinks, mobile phones and various other items – both in front of and behind the gear lever.
One thing that we couldn’t quite get right was the seating position; we would have preferred the seat to go lower, and the seat base didn’t feel as though it was angled back far enough – as a result the driving position never felt perfect.
Under the bonnet sits a three-cylinder, 1.1-litre diesel engine which is the main reason for the high economy figures.
For most people the first drive of an i20 will be a surprisingly pleasant experience. The three-cylinder diesel is fairly quiet and doesn’t feel as diesel-like as some rivals. Most controls are well-weighted, the steering has a reasonable amount of feel, the handling is good for its class, and the ride is comfortable, even over bumps. It seems to feel quieter and more refined than the Kia Rio.
If you drive it like most owners are likely to drive it, the i20 will be perfectly acceptable. You’re only likely to have a problem if you ask too much of the car. Snow and ice, which was present throughout our week with the car, didn’t provide as much of a problem as expected, but motorways did pose a challenge. Flat motorways at a constant speed weren’t an issue, but just don’t try and accelerate up a hill at motorway speeds, as nothing really happens. You’ll be searching through as many gears in the six-speed gearbox as you can find to give you more response when overtaking, but at higher speeds there’s not likely to be much difference in any of the gears. Being a supermini, it doesn’t feel as planted at motorway speeds as larger cars. And if you want a car in this category that’s also one of the best in class to drive, you probably need to look at a Fiesta.
One issue that we experienced with the i20 was that if you wear relatively large shoes, when decelerating your right foot can get caught on a piece of trim and so your foot can become stuck on the accelerator Ц rather annoying and potentially not particularly safe.
Overall we liked the i20. It’s a competent, affordable means of transport for drivers who don’t do much motorway mileage. And of course it averages 74.3mpg. Or does itЕ? Admittedly, we probably did more than our fair share of motorway driving in the i20, and we ended up with an average of just 53.3mpg. The i20 has a small, efficient engine, which means that it will perform well in the official NEDC test, but as soon as you drive it outside of the very low load NEDC cycle, such as on a motorway, the engine is out of its optimum operating zone and the fuel economy really suffers. If you buy this car and make a special effort to drive it very carefully, we’re sure you’ll enjoy 60mpg+ economy. However we’d be surprised if the average owner sees more than 70mpg on a regular basis.
The СBlue’ version which features Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) and low rolling resistance tyres, but no air conditioning compared to the Classic trim, averages 88.3mpg with emissions of just 84g/km CO2. Intelligent Stop & Go can make a significant difference to economy and emissions figures on the NEDC test, but it tends to make less difference in real life.
The i20 is available with a range of engine and trims. In Classic trim, there’s a 1.2-litre petrol three-door, which is the cheapest in the range, at £9,995. There’s also a five-door with the same engine, and a 1.1 CRDi 75PS five-door. Blue spec covers just the 1.1 CRDi 75PS five-door. Active trim gives a choice of 1.2 or 1.4-litre petrol engines, or 1.1 or 1.4-litre (90PS) diesels Ц the latter being available as СBlue Drive’. Top of the range is Style, with 1.2 or 1.4-litre petrol engines, or the 1.4-litre (90PS) diesel, which is the most expensive model, at £14,295. With the Style trim level your list of addional equipment includes items such as a reversing camera.
One significant difference between the i20 and the Kia Rio is the warranties: the Hyundai gets a 5 year unlimited mileage warranty whilst the Kia gets a 7 year 100,000 mile warranty.
The Hyundai i20 is a likeable car. It’s competent to drive, the interior is pleasant enough, and at £12,795, it represents good value. If you drive it carefully you may be tantalised by the theoretical prospect of 74.3mpg. On the downside, the exterior styling, although representing progress over the previous model, isn’t going to set the world on fire, and you may be frustrated by the lack of performance if you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry. Overall it gets our thumbs up, and a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.