Cheap to buy. Cute. Nippy. Fairly economical.
On the hunt for a cheap runabout there are many forecourts to visit; Ford, Citroen, Peugeot are all contenders, yet Hyundai is often overlooked. The i20 is one of the cheapest cars Hyundai sells and after spending some time with it, I can recommend it as a city car which won't look out of place dabbling on the odd motorway every now and again. The Ford Fiesta might be more fun, the VW Polo more premium and the Kia Rio better looking, but the i20 is a good all-round performer without ever being exceptional.
Taste is subjective, but I rather like the looks of the Hyundai i20. It's pleasant to look at without being overly bold, and it is almost the exact same size as a Ford Fiesta, if a little narrower. The Hyundai design team have done a great job with the front of this car, and the headlights are a particular highlight, sweeping back whilst the gloss black front grill edges downwards. Whereas the Ford Fiesta looks like a sporty car no matter the trim level, though, the i20 does look conservative, which is something that may or may not influence your buying decision. Sat side by side, the i20 holds its own versus a Fiesta, but sadly it lacks the same level of personality and fun that will make you want to jump in to the driver's seat.
The Hyundai i20 has two front seats, space for three passengers at the back and a steering wheel. That's good news and all I usually expect from a budget car. Surprisingly, however, I found that the i20 puts a smile on your face every time you sit in it, because the car drives with real charm.
Okay, so the 1.2-litre engine isn't particularly powerful and 0 - 60 mph takes 12.7 seconds, but around town, the engine is fairly quiet and there is good throttle response too. It's safe to say that this lowest specification i20 is more than capable of keeping up with town traffic. At speed, there is some wind and road noise transferred in to the cabin, but it's limited and so long as you stay at or below 70 mph, the noise never becomes a nuisance. I have a young daughter who never falls asleep in cars, yet in the Hyundai i20, she did. If children falling asleep in a car on the motorway is a test for refinement, the i20 passes with 5 stars.
The steering wheel is also light and the clutch is not too heavy, which merged with the perky engine, makes for a relaxing drive.
Inside, the Hyundai i20 has a spacious and well thought out cabin, with all driver and multimedia controls close at hand. It is of the same quality as a Ford Fiesta, which means that there are plenty of low quality, hard plastics throughout the cabin. Thankfully, however, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob come as standard on the lowest Classic trim, which helps to add a premium feel to the interior. Upon sitting down in the i20 the first thing that you notice is how firm the seats are; they are VERY firm, but equally supportive, with good side bolstering to ensure that you don't go flying when you take a corner slightly too fast. They are also of a good design and are tastefully patterned. Aside from the center console which is silver, the whole interior is black and grey. This is undoubtedly very VW but Hyundai haven't managed to pull off this sophisticated look with quality. Rear accommodation is excellent, though, and the boot is of a generous size for shopping.
Our pick of the Hyundai i20 range, the i20 1.2 Classic, will return a combined fuel economy of 57.6 mpg, and around town you can expect mid-40's. This is very good with the petrol engine offering no turbo-lag due to being naturally aspirated. The most fuel efficient i20 available is the 1.1-litre CRDi Blue diesel, which returns 88.3mpg and emits only 84g/km. This makes it road tax free so if you're a real bargain hunter and don't care at all about speed, that car could be for you.
Trim and equipment
Classic trim is the lowest specification that the Hyundai i20 is available in. Even so, standard equipment is good with everything you will need for a comfortable journey. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, electric windows, CD and MP3 player, split / fold seats, passenger and side air bags, remote locking and an immobilizer. The full cost for a standard Hyundai i20 1.2 Classic 5dr is £10,695. The three door is available for £600 less. The next step up in trim level is Active, followed by Style and Blue Drive respectively. The most expensive i20 you can buy costs £14,445.
The Hyundai i20 is cheap to buy, cheap to run, yet it offers a driving experience that's deceptively premium. The 1.2-litre engine offers some verve around town and the modern styling helps the i20 to blend in seamlessly at the local supermarket. For the price asked of it, there's little to fault with this car, although the interior cabin isn't going to blow your mind. Also, it isn't as much fun to drive as, say, a Ford Fiesta, but we recommend the i20 for women who want something a little bit different as from my experience at least, every single young mum and teenager / student has a Fiesta. The Hyundai badge might lack prestige but for the sake of saving a thousand or so pounds, this is a good price to pay.
Frugal motorists might be better off with the 1.1-litre CRDi Blue diesel, which returns 88.3mpg and emits only 84g/km when bought with a six-speed manual gearbox, making it road tax exempt.