Talk about a tough gig. The Hyundai i20 faces a two-faced challenge from the Maruti Swift and the Baleno hatchbacks. Both rivals are fresher compared to the i20 in design and tech. Throw in the versatile Honda Jazz into the equation along with the new Maruti Dzire(which sells for the same price) and it all starts to look like mission impossible.
Hyundai hasn’t shrunk from the task though – in reply, it has added some new kit, modified the looks and ensured that the new i20 has the ingredients that are important to succeed in the highly competitive premium hatchback space.
The i20 looks like a car that has a pleasing personality. The front gets a new bumper along with sharper looking LED-fog lamps. More importantly, it also has better aerodynamics with new air curtains running around from the front fog lamps to the wheel arches. Moving onto the sides you get shapelier alloy wheels. Changes at the back are more prominent and immediately visible. The rear lamps will remind you of the bigger Creta SUV now, while the bumper with its plastic inserts give it a muscular look at the back too. Overall, Hyundai has played it safe but most buyers will find the looks of the car appealing.
Safety is key priority on the new i20. Hyundai will offer six airbags as an option on the top version. The base versions come with two airbags as well. Whichever trim level you pick, the cabin materials are plush and fit and finish all across is top notch. The steering wheel is good to grip and all the control fall easily to hand. Hyundai has introduced an infotainment system that offers Apple Carplay and Android auto. It’s the same system as found on the bigger Verna and looks nice. It is intuitive to operate as well,
Front passengers should be comfortable for most part of their journey; however support for the lower back could have been better. The rear seat occupants will appreciate the rear AC vents. Leg and shoulder room is decent too, but clearly below the Baleno. The 285-litre boot is both deep and wide.
Buyers will appreciate the fact that Hyundai now offers a distance to empty gauge as well as a live fuel economy meter as part of the equipment.
Engine, performance and gearbox
No changes have been made under the skin, so you get the same 1.2-litre petrol with 82-bhp and 1.4-diesel with 89-bhp engines. Overall, performance is acceptable. The diesel engine has visible lag below 2000rpm, while the petrol runs out of breath by 4,500rpm.
Engine refinement of both engines is good too, even when revving hard the engines remain largely muted. The 1.2-litre should deliver between 11-12kpl in the city while the diesel will deliver 14-15kpl.
The i20 has never been the keenest car in its class and it’s no different with the new one. Focus is clearly on the side of comfort. The gearbox is nice and easy to use with a short throw action on both versions. The diesel gets a 6-speed unit while the petrol offers a 5-speed one.
Ride and handling
The i20’s ride smothers potholes and bumps at slower city speeds in a refined way. The ultra-light steering wheel will be much loved by buyers driving in the city because it won’t tire you out at all. At faster highway speeds the suspension remains plaint enough within speed limits of 90-100kph, anything more and the steering starts feeling a bit nervous because of its light nature. We’d have preferred more feedback at faster speeds but most buyers won’t complain.
The i20 is the quintessential premium hatchback. It offers a pleasing personality, stylish exteriors and is an easy going small car. It should be on your shortlist if you are planning a premium hatchback, it’s one of the best out there.
Photography: Mohd. Nasir