“Sensuous Sportiness” design gives the new i20 more street presence. Picture: SUPPLIED
“Sensuous Sportiness” design gives the new i20 more street presence. Picture: SUPPLIED

Hyundai’s new-generation i20 has touched down in SA, boasting improved power, sassier styling and the newest technology to challenge the Volkswagen Polo’s hegemony in a small-hatchback market that accounts for four out of every 10 new cars sold in SA.

A striking new design sees the five-door Korean car adopting Hyundai’s new “Sensuous Sportiness” styling identity, with a more sculptured and geometric look and the now-compulsory gnashing grille. The higher-specced Fluid versions offer optional dual-tone paintwork to make the styling pop even more.

It stands 41mm wider and 10mm longer than its predecessor, with a 10mm longer wheelbase to improve interior space. The car also gets an extra 20mm of ground clearance to 170mm.

The i20 is the brand’s second most popular vehicle in SA after the Grand i10, and the new range brings some extra performance to the party to broaden its appeal. In addition to the carryover 61kW 1.2l and 74kW 1.4l normally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engines, the new i20 is offered with a perky 1.0l three-cylinder TGDI turbo with outputs of 90kW and 172Nm — the same engine used in the Hyundai Venue crossover.

The latter is the version I drove at the i20’s launch last week, and this 'lil turbo unit puts a newfound spring in the i20’s step. Hyundai claims a 0-100km/h of 9.7 seconds and a 190km/h top speed — not bad for a little runt — and the car felt peppy on Gauteng’s urban and open roads, scooting around with easy-going verve.

An enlarged cabin with all the modcons, and leather-look seats in the top version. Picture: SUPPLIED
An enlarged cabin with all the modcons, and leather-look seats in the top version. Picture: SUPPLIED

The TGDI engine’s paired with a choice of a manual six-speed gearbox, or a seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic that is one of the best autos in the segment for its smooth-shifting finesse. The latter word describes the general driving experience in the i20, which feels impressively refined and solid for a B-segment hatch, and rides the bumps with decent comfort.

The enlarged cabin boasts added leg- and shoulder room to make it more family friendly, and though the 311l boot is small by segment standards, it contains a full-sized spare wheel.

The hard dashboard lacks the classy soft-touch plastics of the market-leading Polo, but the cabin’s a pleasantly-styled affair and the range-topping Fluid models lay on charm with mood lighting and dual-tone artificial leather seats (the other versions have cloth). In both its Motion and Fluid grades the i20 also comes loaded with technological jewellery like a digital instrument cluster and all the necessary infotainment via an eight-inch touchscreen.

The Fluid variants ramp up the convenience with items such as rear air vents, a cooled glovebox, cruise control and a wireless smartphone charger. However, even the cheaper i20 Motion derivatives come fairly well equipped with standard features such as daytime running lights, rear parking camera, USB charging ports and a steering column adjustable for both height and reach.

Safety-wise the airbag count ranges from two (Motion) to six (Fluid) and both grades have ABS brakes, but the i20 doesn’t offer stability control — an area where the Hyundai loses out to rivals like the Polo, Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 208 and Suzuki Swift.

Pricing

1.2 Motion manual: R275,900

1.4 Motion automatic: R305,900

1.2 Fluid manual: R289,900

1.2 Fluid manual — 2-Tone: R294,900

1.0 TGDI Fluid manual: R330,900

1.0 TGDI Fluid manual — 2-Tone: R335,900

1.0 TGDI Fluid DCT: R355,900

1.0 TGDI Fluid DCT — 2-Tone: R360,900

Prices include a seven-year/200,000km warranty, seven-year/150,000km roadside assistance and a four-year/60,000km service plan.

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