The fluidic design philosophy has worked wonders for Hyundai! Cars like the Verna and the Sonata – which you wouldn't have even considered owning four years back – are suddenly now the most desirable and good looking cars in their respective arenas. However, the car that gave us the first foretaste of things to come at Hyundai was the i20 that came out in 2008. It was not only a worthy replacement for the Getz, but also established the fact that Hyundai wasn’t about straight lines anymore. The Koreans had learnt how to sculpt an arc in sheet-metal.
With its European styling, the i20 was a good balance between conservative design and new-age elements like curved body lines and flame surfacing. With that decent design a kit brimming with features, the i20 soon became one of the best premium hatchbacks that one could buy under Rs 10-lakh.
However, to make sure that i20 withstands the test of time, Hyundai has given it a mid-life makeover and to do that they have given it more elements from the Fluidic sculpture philosophy. Let’s find out then if it’s just another facelift, or has Hyundai managed to make the proposition even better.
What differentiates the new i20 from the older model is the completely new front end that takes heavy inspiration from the 2012 Hyundai i30. The older i20’s elegant, eye-shaped headlights have been replaced with new double-barrel units which have a detailing that's similar to the i10 or Verna's design. In fact the i20 is the only Hyundai car under the Sonata now to have separate bulbs for upper and dipper beams. This arrangement provides better illumination than the earlier i20’s headlights.
The bonnet has traded in the F1- inspired ‘nose’ creases for more conventional, subtle lines that fade into the grille. The grille itself has moved down by a few inches and has grown slimmer. Hyundai has given it a gloss-black treatment with a chrome-plated ‘H’ emblem in the centre. The front bumper has been redesigned to incorporate a slimmer air dam and the new fog lamps. These too are inspired from the i30.
The side profile remains more or less similar with no changes to the creases or flame surfacing. The only addition it the VTVT badging and the new chrome plated door handles. The top-end variants continue to get mirror-mounted turn blinkers which now becoming standard on premium hatchbacks. The new alloy wheels have a design similar to what you see on the new Verna, albeit these are smaller in size.
The tail too has minimal changes. The taillights have been given a revised detailing and the reverse-lamp and turn blinkers now move to the extreme bottom on the taillight units. The bumper retains its angular sculpting but does not look empty like the one on the previous model – thanks to the inclusion of independent reflectors. You also get a little reversing camera as standard equipment on the top end model.
Overall, the new i20 looks very aggressive as compared to the older model and the revised face also gives it a sporty, low-slung stance. It undoubtedly looks much better in metal as compared to what you see in the photos – or even this video for that matter. However, the shift from an elegant design to an aggressive one could polarize the kind of buyers that the i20 is targeting.
User Experience Review
The i20 is a driver-centric car. Like the Micra, the i20 too features a keyless entry and go – so all you need to do is keep the key in your pocket, press the little switch on the handle and viola, the car will unlock itself! The moment you get inside, the first thing you notice is the premium look and feel of the interiors – in spite of making minimal use of beige. The dashboard is largely black with beige on the lower part and on the door pads. The fit and finish is top notch and you won't find any panel gaps. I would have loved to see soft plastics instead on the scratchy ones though to make the dashboard feel as perfect as it looks.
The centre console has the same audio system that the older i20 came with. However the metallic surrounds for the system and for the A/C vents are now darker as compared to the plain aluminium finish on the older model. The audio system sounds very good with its six-speaker setup and is easily one of the best OE systems that you can find in this range of cars. It is compatible with auxiliary and USB inputs as well. However, our test cars wouldn’t accept the iPhone. There is Bluetooth pairing too for the phone as well as for audio streaming, however, the track selection functions are not compatible with the Bluetooth audio. Voice transmission is top notch on the hands-free mode as the system efficiently eradicates the echo.
You get the familiar Hyundai switches on the steering wheel for audio and telephony controls. There are placed relatively inward to prevent them from getting pressed during the steering operation. However, that has also made the horn pad smaller and will need you to stretch out your thumb to operate it. The steering wheel is slim and there is absolutely no bolstering on it. While this design may not go down well with the enthusiast driver, it will be appreciated by the fairer sex.
The backlighting for the audio system and the instrumentation is the same blue that you find in all new Hyundai cars. Like the Verna though, it doesn’t feel out of place and gels very well with the relatively sporty interiors of the i20. Speaking of the instrumentation, speedometers these days indicate the optimum speed band you should be in to get good fuel economy. While the 30-50 km/h indication on the petrol i20’s speedometer sounds fair enough, the same band on the diesel’s i20’s speedometer sounds unrealistic. To stay in that band in top gear, you need less than 1,500 revs from the diesel engine and that leads to the engine knocking. Looks like Hyundai did not customize the speedometer graphics for the diesel version then.
Thanks to the component-sharing with the fluidic Verna, the list of creature comforts on the new i20 is endowed with is probably longer than Hanuman’s tail! It includes some segment firsts like automatic headlights (which work really well) and rain-sensing wipers. Then you have the automatic climate control with an air-filtration system which fills the cabin with cool and clean air in a jiffy. You also get an electro-chromic rear view mirror which automatically cuts the glare. The mirror also comes with a display from the reversing camera. The outside rear-view mirrors (ORVMs) come with a heating coil to defog the glass during rains and winters.
After you appreciate the quality of the dashboard plastics
and all the creature comforts, the next thing you will notice is the comfort of the front seats. There is good amount of side bolstering that makes the seat wrap around you. The presence of lumbar support and a driver's armrest is appreciable and comforting on a long journey. The driver’s seat also comes with height adjustment which is a necessity since the i20 is a low-slung car with a wide body – so knowing where the four corners of your car are, can be difficult.
The rear seats have a bucket design for better comfort, but that also means that seating three adults in comfort is difficult. The knee room and overall leg space too is lesser as compared to the i20's arch rival, the Swift. However is also translates to better boot space than the Suzuki hatchback. I also dislike the upright backrest of the rear seat – and makes the front seats feel way more comfortable. Nevertheless, the quality of fabric again adds to the overall premium feel of the interiors of this car. Therefore, with all these features and creature comforts, the i20 is a driver-centric car and not really for those who enjoy a backseat drive.
Yes, the i20 is a driver-centric car, but not for the enthusiast kind. To begin with, the 1.2-litre petrol engine is underpowered even with the variable valve timing. Its 84 PS power and 116 Nm torque output may sound decent and on par with its rivals, however the i20 is a heavy car and it is evident when you put the car through its paces. Step on the throttle and the engine will take ages to put the power down. What it also means is that you need to rev the engine quite a bit while overtaking or climbing slopes like flyovers, hill-climbs etc. – and that takes a toll on the fuel economy. Our test car returned us an overall fuel economy between 10 to 11 kmpl which is decent for this car but quite low as compared to the competition. Restrict the i20 petrol to city commutes and light-footed highway driving though and the fuel economy can be bumped up to 13 – 14 kmpl.
The diesel mill on the other hand feels quite lively and powerful. The engine is as powerful as the top of the line Fiat Punto 90HP and its virtue is evident when you drive the car in the city environs. The drivability is undoubtedly better than the petrol one as the engine provides a very good mid-range and top end grunt. Therefore, you don’t feel any jerks while trotting around in slow-moving traffic and you have enough power on tap when you need to pull off those quick overtaking maneuvers –without compromising fuel economy. The 1.4-litre CRDi engine comes from the Hyundai Verna (fluidic) and under the i20’s hood it produces 90PS of power and 220Nm of torque. That’s good enough to make it a hot hatch really – but the suspension setup does not support it on that front.
Speaking of which, the suspension setup on the i20 is quite soft – more so on the petrol version. Being a city car, the i20 gives prominence to ride quality over enthusiastic driving. Therefore the car feels wallowy when pushed hard around bends. That said, it does provide good ride comfort – but only for the front passengers. The rear bench feels too jumpy and on really harsh road surfaces you may get an impression that the shock-absorbers are connected directly to your spine! The rear suspension is also quite noisy. The diesel variant is slightly better though since the heavier engine demands a slightly stiffer suspension setup and is front heavy. Therefore it feels a tad better in the corners too.
However, like the engines, the other mechanicals too are tuned more towards fuel economy and comfortable driving than sprightly performance. Therefore the tyres, which aim at bettering the fuel economy, feel skittish when pushed around. Add to it the amazingly light steering wheel, which unfortunately remains light even at higher speeds – and you have a car that feels unnerving and wallowy at high speeds.
But that said and done, the i20 does every thing right when you treat it like a city car. It is easy to drive for experts and newbies alike. The drivability in urban environments is decent and the ride quality is comfortable on your regular city roads. Both the engines are amazingly refined with hardly any engine noise or vibrations creeping into the cabin. To top it all, the high-end variants of the i20 come with ABS, EBD and up to six airbags – that number is unheard of in this segment! Even if you want that level of safety in any other hatchback, you have no other option but the new i20.
There is no doubt that the all-singing, all-dancing version of the i20 demands a high sticker price. But at the same time you just cannot ignore the really long list of segment-leading creature comforts it comes with. And if you don't want them, then you have another long list of variants to choose from as per what you really need. The i20 then caters to the sort of driver who is looking for the features list, premium feel and safety aspects of a sedan with the convenience of a hatchback. With all the upgrades now, the i20 is yet again one of the best city cars that you can buy under Rs 10-lakh.