It is pretty much a given automakers will increase the size of new versions of existing models and, while making a big car or SUV bigger sometimes seems a tad gratuitous, increasing the dimensions of an urban crawler while keeping it in the ‘small’ car category takes somewhat more ingenuity.
Hyundai has achieved this with the new i20. Now, I’m no giant but my partner on the launch drive was sufficiently taller and broader in the shoulder than me to be put to good use checking out the leg and head room in the rear – with the front seat left in his ‘comfortable’ place.
The improved shoulder room in the front was also noticeable as we barrelled amiably along some of KwaZulu-Natal’s twisty back roads – and spritely cornering not producing shoulder or head banging meetings.
The enlarged wheelbase provides increased seating space for passengers in the rear, with rear passengers able to enjoy 88 mm more leg room and 40 mm more shoulder room than in the previous generation. The new car gains a wider body (+41 mm) and increased length (+10 mm), while the wheelbase has also been increased by 10 mm. Ground clearance is 170 mm – an increase of 20 mm compared to the previous model.
Boot space has been increased (311 litres) while a decreased beltline and a small, quarter-fixed glass window behind the rear door provide drivers’ with improved visibility.
Hyundai has adopted a new design direction it is calling ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ and this rather aptly describes the new i20 – my test unit being the top of the range turbo powered 1,0-litre Fluid manual.
The turbo-charged 3-cylinder petrol power plant offers a maximum power output of 90 kW at 6 000 r/min and generates 172 Nm from 1 500 r/min. Acceleration from rest to 100 km/h takes 9,9 seconds and will top out around 186 km/h.
Average fuel consumption on the test cycle was 6,6 l/100 km and this gives the car a tank range around 550 kilometres.
There is a nice balance with the chosen gear ratios so the i20 is responsive from early on and willing to rev to the limit when required – getting quite energetic in the process. The turbo also helps limit the amount of gearshift rowing required in traffic as well as out on the highway.
While designed as a city car, the i20 is no slouch on longer journeys and will cruise quite effortlessly in the process, the little engine a lot quieter than some of its similarly specced opposition.
Given the full wellie, the i20 is quite fun to throw at corners and handles directional changes with panache, the front McPherson struts with dampers and coil springs and coupled torsion beam axle with dampers and coil springs at the rear working well with the Motor Driven Power Assisted Steering (MDPS) to deliver accurate lines through corners and adding stability to the i20’s road manners.
As for the looks of the new car, at the side, a bold side character line and unique C-pillar design create an appealing look. Meanwhile, the interior space achieves an airy feeling inside the cockpit, while appearing sculptured and appealing. One design highlight is the horizontal blades that cover the high and prominent dashboard. Dynamic proportions also improve roominess and visibility.
The Fluid derivatives ride on 195/55 R16 wheels and rubber.
Exterior colour choices range from Titan Grey to Polar White, Starry Night, Fiery Red, Typhoon Silver and Phantom Black, complemented by two 2-tone colour schemes: Fiery Red with a black roof, and Polar White with a black roof.
Convenience items inclue powe folding mirrors for the Fluid variants, a rear-view monitor with guidelines displayed on the infotainment system’s screen, air-vents for rear passengers in the Fluid variants, a USB charging socket and cell phone storage space for rear passengers, a multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone control buttons and a cruise-control function on the steering wheel for Fluid variants.
The new 10,25-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver and high-resolution 8-inch centre touchscreen for the infotainment system have been visually combined and there is a wireless charging pad in the centre console with two front USB charging ports in all variants – one for connectivity and one for charging in the middle console, while another charging port is available for rear passengers in the Fluid variants.
Passive safety systems in the new i20 include six crash bags (driver, front passenger and two curtain bags) in the Fluid variants, and driver and front passenger crash bags in the Motion derivatives.
An anti-lock braking system and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) are standard features in the whole range.
It comes with a 7-year/200 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, a 4-year / 60 000 km service plan and 7-year / 150 000 km roadside assistance.