Why would I buy one?
- Conspicuous styling
- Feature-loaded, spacious interior with safety features
- Powerful BS6-compliant diesel engine
Why would I avoid it?
- Has gotten expensive
- Material quality inside the cabin could’ve been better
- Stiff slow-speed ride
The new-gen Hyundai i20 takes the game forward in the segment which it kick-started more than a decade back. Although the styling is subjective, we love the way the new i20 looks. Meanwhile, its freshly designed cabin sets new segment-benchmarks with the equipment it brings along. Sure, with the BS6 compliant motor and new-age features, it has gotten slightly expensive. But it’s one of the few cars around – and only the second one in its segment – with a diesel engine on offer. So, the new i20 remains a well-packaged premium hatchback which not only looks good but is comfortable to drive, offers features by the bucket-load, and also scores high on being a family hatch.
Engines and Performance
Replacing the old 1.4-litre unit in the new i20 is Hyundai’s newest 1.5-litre U2 diesel, producing 99bhp at 4,000rpm. So, the power is up by 10bhp and there’s an increase of 20Nm of torque to 240Nm which is accessible from 1,500rpm. It can be had only with a six-speed manual gearbox for now, but we do expect a diesel automatic sometime in the future. Crank up the motor and it settles into a muttering clatter. There are vibes felt on the pedals and steering, and that can be seen on the ORVMs too. But these vibrations aren’t very prominent and won’t be noticeable if you aren’t paying much attention.
Slot it into the first gear and depress the clutch, and you’d notice how improved the clutch action is compared to the older ‘Elite’ i20. The new i20 diesel gets off the mark with a smooth and assuring feel but we noticed a slight lag under 1,500rpm. Go past that and the strong mid-range comes into play where the motor becomes quite tractable. That said, at city speeds you can easily get around with the available low-end grunt without any hassle. It’s only when there’s a sudden need of overtaking that the evident lag becomes apparent. So, you’d need to either shift down or step on the gas to get the motor into the sweet mid-range of 1,500-3,000rpm where the torque curve remains flat. But, there’s some amount of engine din that can be heard inside the cabin at this point.
At highway speeds, the same mid-range helps with effortless cruising as well. Maintaining triple-digit speeds won't strain the motor either. And for overtaking at highway speeds, the sharper throttle response in the mid-range eases the effort. But the power does taper off close to the 4,000rpm, so it isn’t viable to wring the engine all the way to the 5,000rpm redline. As for the gearstick, it’s well-gated with light and easy throws and has a little notchy feel to it. In terms of fuel efficiency, Hyundai claims that the new i20 is very frugal with an ARAI-claim of 25.2kmpl.
Ride and handling
At slower speeds, the i20 feels to be on the stiffer side. There are noticeable jitters even on the smallest of irregularities, and thuds from the sharp-edged potholes are sent prominently inside the cabin. However, the ride quality improves with the increase in speeds, and the road irregularities are taken astride with a rather reformed poise. Even high-speed stability is impressive and you can maintain good speeds all day. What’s more, the 170mm of ground clearance is more than ample to trudge over the biggest of potholes or unpaved roads without breaking a sweat.
As for the steering, there’s a slight vagueness around the dead centre. Move past that and it is direct and responsive. Going two and a half turns lock-to-lock the steering feels light and easy to maneuver around the city at slower speeds. And out on the highway it does weigh up nicely but lacks a connected feel which could have made it more involving. Also, you’d need to constantly correct the steering wheel at higher speeds. There’s a noticeable body roll present as well, so the i20 won’t be your ideal tool for corner carvings. On the upside, the brakes on our diesel i20 were solid and did a commendable job of bringing the hatchback to a halt, adding confidence behind the wheel.
Overall, the new i20 tries to strike a balance between a comfortable family hatch and an involving car to drive. Which we think it manages to achieve to a good extent.
Interior Space and Quality
Stepping inside the new i20 is easy, thanks to its wide-opening doors and the comfortable seat height. Once inside, there’s a new cabin layout that is thoroughly fresh by today’s standards. You are welcomed by the first-in-segment digital instrument cluster borrowed from the Verna and it looks fanciful. Then there’s the Creta-styled steering wheel which feels nice to hold. Adding to the sense of premium feel is the large 10-inch floating touchscreen integrated with the driver’s display console like you see in the more expensive cars.
Below it is the protruding panel for air-con controls and the centre console now has a ver
tical ‘Coolpad’ for wireless charging. Even if you don’t have a wireless-charging-equipped phone, just slotting your phone vertically there is much more convenient.
Space upfront is more than adequate with good visibility all around. There’s an ample amount of headroom for my height and sufficient shoulder room too. Even the seats offer the right amount of support, especially on the side bolstering, and the driver’s seat can be adjusted for height. Combine it with reach-and-rake adjustable steering, and it’s easy to find the right driving position.
Moving on to the back seats, the scooped-out roof helps with added headroom, while there are acres of knee and legroom on offer. Even seating three abreast in the back seat should be comfortable despite the rear AC vent. On the flip side, there’s no cupholder on the folding armrest and no headrest for the middle passenger. Even the seats don’t get split function, which is a missed opportunity for scoring on practicality, especially since the boot space is rather small at 311 litres. However, you can cram in sufficient weekend luggage for four.
But it needs to be pointed out that we expected better quality of materials inside the cabin. Having said that, Hyundai has spent greatly on equipment and engine options for the i20, and there had to be some way to cut corners in order to keep the prices in check. This befell on the cabin materials. But don’t get us wrong, it’s not degraded at all, just that Hyundai has simply set a bar so high we expected more from the interior too. Otherwise, the all-black cabin feels robust, and soft-touch materials on essential touchpoints or some piano-black/coloured inserts would have elevated the experience.
Features and Equipment
As with any other Hyundai, the cabin of the i20 is festooned with many features. And there’s a long list of segment-firsts too. You get the BlueLink connected car tech, wireless charger, sunroof, Oxyboost air purifier with AQI display, digital instrument cluster, TPMS, cooled glovebox, cruise control apart from auto AC with rear air vents, electric ORVMs, auto-dimming mirrors, and seven-speaker Bose sound system with sub-woofer.
There’re also some fancy features like smart entry with welcome function, puddle lamps, blue ambient lighting, cornering lamps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two Bluetooth connectivity, fast USB charging ports, and the 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels.
In terms of safety, Hyundai is offering six airbags in the top-spec version of the i20 along with ABS with EBD, ESC, and hills assist control. Moreover, it also comes with ISOFIX, height-adjustable front seatbelts with a reminder, and speed/impact sensing door locks. So, the new i20 seems tough to beat when it comes to features.
Prices for the new Hyundai i20 in the diesel guise range from Rs 8.20 lakh to 10.75 lakh (ex-showroom) for this top-spec Asta (O). That’s a lot of money for a hatchback. But for the price, you get a hatchback that looks smashing from every angle, and stands undisputed when it comes to equipment and features; some sedans don’t offer even half as much. You get a hatchback that’s spacious on the inside and quite practical too. And, you get a hatchback which has a frugal engine that’s easy to live with.
Plus, you benefit from Hyundai’s vast service network too. We think it’d easily fill the shoes of the Elite i20 which was the bestseller for Hyundai in India all these years. And there’s not much that should stop you from buying the Hyundai i20 if you are looking for a family hatchback with added razzmatazz.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi