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Hyundai Elite i20 Expert Review - Style Meets Substance!

Snapshot: We all live in a society where we like to throw names and the new Hyundai i20 is no different – it calls itself ‘Elite.’

We all live in a society where we like to throw names and the new Hyundai i20 is no different – it calls itself ‘Elite.’ But what exactly has it done to earn itself this moniker? Is it old wine in a new model? Or has Hyundai gone all out to develop a fresh new product from scratch which will have mass appeal? We find out.

Exteriors
If you think the new i20 is just a facelift over the older one, well you will have to do a rethink. Somehow, Hyundai has made the new i20 much sexier by changing its profile completely. The new car follows “Fluidic Styling 2.0,”which means that practically every panel has been re-engineered. For starters, gone are those bulbous bug-eyed headlamps. In their place, there are wide parabolic headlights, and the front grille and mesh have been totally redesigned with a wraparound effect to give the front a very upmarket look. The new headlamps have a “follow-me-home” function, besides having automatic sensor operation.

Interestingly, the overall design has been shortened by over 10mm, though you would never guess by looking at a rising belt-line and blacked out C-pillar. The rear too gets a smart premium European car treatment, with a sharp rear light cluster featuring premium design elements.

The reversing camera has been smartly located just below the Hyundai logo at the back, to give it a cohesive look. There is a grey strip at the bottom to break paint monotony and also helps to spruce up the car. Points worth mentioning here are that the outside rear view mirrors (ORVM) have an electrical folding function, which makes them very convenient to use and the power windows come with an “anti-pinch” function to keep the little ones safe.

Interiors


The interiors of the i20 were always quite premium, and of late Hyundai has been loading its cars with every possible gizmo one can think of. So it comes as no surprise that things like a 1GB hard drive for music is standard, along with an ioniser cluster for the air-conditioning system and the instrument panel features a multi-function LCD window, which displays current vehicle status and lets one make myriad adjustments of the various functions of the vehicle – truly a geek’s delight.

For your money, you also get niceties like a push button ‘Start-Stop’ system. This means that you get full keyless driveability and you don’t even need to remove the key from your pocket or handbag to operate the car. Thoughtful features like two 12-volt sockets ensure that you have enough ports to charge all your electronic toys like phones, tablets etc and then there is the USB port and Aux-In port for your musical needs. Whilst mentioning music, we must tell you that the music system in the car is very technologically advanced, like the aforementioned built-in 1GB hard disc. There is also full Bluetooth integration and A2DP profile capability, which means that you can stream all your music and internet radio onto the car’s sound system.

The seats are quite comfortable and offer excellent support in the back, as well as the thigh region. Non-reflective surfaces keep the front windscreen clear of reflections, and Hyundai has done a very thoughtful addition of an air-vent in the rear seat, to make cooling more effective. A puzzling omission is an armrest in the middle of the rear seat for back benchers. There is an option of a fully-automatic climate control system, and there is a ticket holder present so that you do not miss that important mall parking ticket. Oh, the glovebox is also cooled, so that your favourite beverages stay chilled.

Engine and Gearbox


There are no mechanical changes to the i20 Elite, so it is similar to drive as the older version. Hyundai engineers however have made subtle improvements to the petrol and diesel engines, giving them a better torque distribution over the rev range. This translates to better driving and fewer gearchanges. The petrol version comes with a 5-speed gearbox whilst the diesel gets a 6-speed. Very surprisingly, there is no automatic transmission variant at launch, though Hyundai has indicated that one is not far away.

Fuel efficiency in both the vehicles is surprisingly good. In the petrol car, which now churns out 83ps of power, the claimed fuel efficiency is 18.6kmpl. The diesel CRDi pushes out 90ps and a claimed 22.5kmpl, both figures very impressive. Another good point with Hyundai’s diesel engine is excellent noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics – the diesel engine is quite silent unless pushed hard and even then it is not unpleasant. The petrol engine is a sweetheart – you do not even hear a whimper out of it, till you really start pushing things.

Ride, Handling and Performance


The Elite i20 has a suspension set up that is more towards comfort and this gives a great ride in the city. At a claimed 170mm of ground clearance, it will clear even the peskiest of speedbreakers, and the car takes rough roads on with an aplomb you will not easily see with its competitors.



The handling is similar – though do not expect that this is a sports car and will handle that way. The steering response is pretty nifty and the car tracks quite true – although personally I do feel that it is a tad over-assisted…good for parking in tight spaces!



Performance is quite good – both the cars feel peppy enough and run decently, with very acceptable fuel economy figures. While we do not recommend racing in a car like this, but keep the diesel within its rev range and it will reward you with very good straight-line performance. The petrol has a similar story to tell, though it is obviously no match for the diesel in terms of performance. The petrol is a serene driver, and does not like to be hurried too much.

Safety and Equipment


The equipment list is so comprehensive, that it will probably need a couple of pages in its own right! Besides all the toys mentioned above, you get diamond-cut alloys, chrome door handles, LED taillight clusters, a luggage bay lamp, theatre-dimming lights, reversing camera with display in the internal rear-view mirror – and it goes on. Never the one to skimp on equipment, the Elite i20 actually shows the way on how to load a car with gizmos.

Safety has not been compromised either, and you do get driver and passenger airbags as standard. Side airbags, which were an option on the earlier model, has been quietly axed. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is available on all variants except the base two models. Impact sensing door locks, engine immobiliser etc. is also present to protect your precious investments as is a dead pedal and clutch lock.

Competition
The Elite i20 is up against formidable competition. Its biggest opponent is the Maruti Suzuki Swift, which is a combination of great performance and Maruti’s super reliability credibility. Maruti also has a huge after-sales service network, which is its biggest asset. Other competition comes from Volkswagen’s recently revised Polo, which now has a potent diesel engine but is expensive to maintain and dealer outreach is not very large. Then there is the new Punto from Fiat – a striking looking car with good performance but let down by service issues. Nissan’s Micra and Renault’s Pulse is also there but then these two are also struggling to make a mark. End of the day, it is the Swift which is the Elite i20’s real competitor. However if one compares equipment levels, then the Elite i20 wins hands down.

Summary

The Elite i20 is totally different from its earlier avatar. Gone are the dowdy looks and old-school interiors – the new car is upmarket, premium and has the looks to boot. There may not be much of a mechanical change, but both the interiors and the exteriors seem to be solid, well-built and has the best cabin quality in its class. Prices start at Rs. 4.89 lakh for the base petrol ‘Era’ model, with the diesel variant coming in at a starting point of Rs. 6.09 lakh. The diesel version might seem a little expensive, but then it is one of the best engines around in its category. The Elite i20 is certainly Hyundai’s trump card in the premium hatch market.

Hyundai Elite i20 Test Drive Review - Autoportal

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