2018 Hyundai Elite i20 First Drive Review

11 days ago | Sagar Bhanushali

What is it?

Why would I buy it?

Great all-rounder, Well put together cabin with plenty of features 

Why would I avoid it?

Steering lacks feedback, Suspension is still a little too soft for spirited driving

Seeing the 2018 Hyundai Elite i20 under the new car reviews section, you might think, “Wait, that doesn’t look like a new car”. Sure enough, and we somewhat agree as this facelifted version doesn’t look very different from the old Elite i20. In fact, you need to have a very keen eye to spot all the minor changes on the outside. However, as you get closer and step inside the cabin, it becomes easier to notice the tiny yet significant upgrades that have been introduced with this facelift. 

Let’s see whether Hyundai has made an already good package even better or if there is still some room for improvement. 

Midlife facelifts are not meant to radically change the appearance, but subtly update the look of a car. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the 2018 Elite i20 has been updated with a very mild makeover. It’s still got that wide, assertive stance and a well-balanced design that helps it attract buyers who want to be seen with their cars. In terms of changes, up front, the hexagonal grille is slightly wavier and the triangular shaped fog lamps are completely new. Move onto the sides and you will notice the same laser cut treatment for the 16-inch alloys, however, the design is all new.

The latter, in fact, is the most distinguished update on the whole car. As for the rest, Hyundai has added gloss finish for the C-pillar and revised the tailgate design. Lastly, the taillights now feature completely new graphics which make them look more upmarket. 

How is it on the inside?

Traditionally, Hyundais always managed to impress with its cabin design and more importantly, the plastic quality, and the 2018 Elite i20 is no different. The entire dashboard layout and quality levels remain unchanged which means you still get a clean albeit slightly dull looking dash that’s put together with quality plastics. The only visible update in terms of controls come in the form of some new buttons on the steering wheel and that’s about it. 

Speaking of updates, the seat fabric is new and although it may not look as plush as a full leather treatment, the seats themselves are adequately soft and comfortable. The rear isn’t short on space or comfort either – there is more than enough legroom and headroom and the low beltline means the visibility all around is good, too. There’s nothing really to fault in here except for some hard plastics on the door pads. 

On the plus side, the Elite i20 remains feature packed with standard equipment on our top-spec diesel trim including rear AC vents, keyless entry, push button start, climate control, rear view camera with guide lines and a full suite of safety features including six airbags and ABS. We have always been fans of the i20’s touchscreen infotainment system for its silky smooth UI and clean transitions. The OEM six-speaker audio system is similar to what we have in our long term Verna but somehow in this car, the audio output is even better. The boot, meanwhile, remains the same at 285 litres, expanding to 1,042 litres when the rear seats are folded flat.


How does it drive?

Hyundai hasn’t tinkered with the powertrain options for the new Elite i20, however, come May 2018 there will be an all-new petrol-CVT option added to the range. Until then, the i20 can be had with either a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.4-litre diesel motor with a five and six speed manual respectively. For this test we have the more popular 1.4-litre diesel with 90bhp of power and 220Nm of torque. 

According to Hyundai, this diesel engine has seen an improvement in low end response and fuel efficiency (up by 9 per cent). Truth be told, we didn’t find any noticeable improvement in low end response but the engine remains highly refined as ever. Sure, it isn’t the punchiest performer out there but when you need to reel in that gap in traffic, it delivers torque with little hesitation and pulls the car in a linear manner. A special mention here goes to the six-speed manual which is incredibly precise, easy to use and supplements the linear torque delivery. That said, we do feel the clutch pedal could be less springy so as to make driving in the city a little bit easier. 

The new Elite i20 has had its rear suspension tweaked. By that we mean the damping has been changed to make the rear less bouncy at speed. Unlike the engine, you can actually feel the upgraded rear-end improving the car’s high speed manners, with less of the up-and-down movement. That said, if you decide to chuck the i20 through some corners, it's not going to set your world on fire – the steering feel is still inconsistent off centre and there is more body roll than what you would expect. On the plus side, the i20 retains its class leading refinement over bad roads – road noise is minimal and the suspension remains rather quiet over jittery surfaces.

Should I buy one?

Launched in 2014, the old Elite i20 was already a good all-rounder, with a well-balanced design, tons of features and a spacious cabin. But since then, a lot has changed in the premium hatchback segment, especially after the Maruti Suzuki Baleno came into the picture. On the whole, this midlife facelift is a minor yet significant improvement over the old car – it does look more upmarket on the outside and the revised upholstery and updated infotainment system adds some zest to the interior as well. Add the improved high speed ride into the mix and you have a spacious and upmarket hatch that’s more than capable of venturing out of the city and covering long distances with ease. 

Where does it fit in?

The 2018 Elite i20 is currently sold at an introductory price of Rs 5.34 lakhs for the entry-level petrol, going all the way upto Rs 9.15 lakhs for the top-spec diesel. This puts it in line with other premium hatchbacks including the Honda Jazz, Maruti Baleno and the VW Polo. We look forward to seeing how the 2018 Elite i20 stacks up against its competitors soon.


Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi

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