REVIEW DATE: 13 Mar 2009
Hyundai's i20 looks a strong contender in three-door form. Steve Walker takes a look.
In car terms, Korean used to be a byword for tiny prices and dreary design but that's changing. The big European marques are looking to Hyundai and its sister brand Kia with growing concern as their products mount a powerful challenge to the status quo in the European market. Cars like Hyundai's i20 supermini have shown that the Koreans can do quality almost as well as they do value and in the next stage they'll be trying to master sporty and desirable too. The 3-door version of the i20 is a useful marker of how far Hyundai and Korea have come.
A low price excuses a multitude of sins and Hyundai will vouch for that more strongly than most car manufacturers. It's not that the Korean marque's products have ever been particularly sinful, although there has been the odd stinker along the way. It's that Hyundai's concerted drive upmarket has brought its vehicles under greater scrutiny. In the past, ropey plastics, wayward handling and early learning design were overlooked because Hyundais were cheap. Today, cars like the i20 supermini can challenge the best as equals and it's meant that observers are going to greater lengths to identify chinks in its armour. It's to Hyundai's credit that significant flaws are hard to come by.
The i20 3-door is available with a 77bhp 1.2 petrol unit or a 99bhp petrol 1.4. The 1.2 isn't the punchiest engine fitted to a three-door supermini but its all-alloy construction and high-tech combustion system give a useful blend of performance and economy. In three-door form, the i20 shares the same dimensions and wheelbase as the five-door car and despite its edgier looks, customers can expect a similarly polished driving experience.
".the i20 stands up to close inspection very well"
With suspension that's on the firm side and reasonably quick steering, the i20 is fun to punt around. The ride can jiggle you about a little too much on bumpy roads but the car corners with minimal body roll and feels nimble when threading through the traffic. The gear change isn't the most precise you'll come across in a supermini but forward visibility is very good. The view out the back of the three-door car will be restricted by the thicker C-pillars resulting from the tapering side window line.
The three-door version of a supermini tends to be the sporty one and the i20 model is no different. It's the same size as the five-door and the front and rear are identical but it does feature elongated doors which aid access to the rear along with a tweaked side window line that tapers off to a point at the rear. Inside, practicality shouldn't be affected too much by the conversion. Access to the rear seats is obviously trickier but Hyundai's memory front seats slide a long way forward to allow rear seat passengers to step inside before returning to their original position.
From an interior design perspective, the i20 plays it quite safe and there's the suspicion that the people behind it paid close attention to modern Volkswagen offerings. The plastics are hard in places but overall quality is impressive and a world away from Hyundai products of a few years ago. The blue lighting for the instruments, the sharply contoured dash and the chunky steering wheel are design highlights, though the way the fabrics stretch a little too tightly over the seats is a let down.
The three-door version of the i20 is significant for more than its injection of a sportier flavour into the range. It also makes the i20 that little bit cheaper. Hyundai's pricing strategy isn't straight out of the bargain basement these days. The brand knows its latest products can sell at levels that are more in tune with the class leaders but value for money remains a central part of the marque's strategy. A five-year warranty, generous equipment provision and a price range tickled downwards by the three-door's introduction make the i20 an appealing prospect for people who make their buying decisions with a calculator close at hand.
Safety equipment is abundant on the i20, with every model getting six airbags and active head restraints. These helped the car achieve a commendable five-star rating for occupant protection in the Euro NCAP crash tests. ESP stability control doesn't make the standard specification but is a £250 option that many buyers will want to take Hyundai up on.
Hyundai's exemplary warranty package will be a major draw for buyers with their eyes on the bottom line and the engines don't let the side down when it comes to economy and emissions. The 1.2-litre petrol engine can average over 62mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 119g/km.
Hyundai subjected its products to the harshest scrutiny when it made them good enough to compete in the mainstream. At the top end of the supermini market, success and failure are decided by the finest margins but the i20 stands up to close inspection very well. In three-door form, it looks like more of the same which should be good news for Hyundai's bottom line.
The results below show the top I20 deals on buyacar
|Hyundai I20 1.2 Active 5dr hatchback|
|Price £8,855||Save £2,740|
|Hyundai I20 1.1 CRDi Blue 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £10,050||Save £1,745|
|Hyundai I20 1.2 S Limited Edition 3dr hatchback special editions|
|Hyundai I20 1.4 CRDI Comfort 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Hyundai I20 1.4 Active 5dr hatchback|
|Price £10,298||Save £1,797|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT I20 DEALS|
|For i20 3-DOOR|
|OVERALL||6.7 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|
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