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Hyundai i20: Good's got better

2012-08-15 06:44

MIDLIFE SURGERY: Hyundai's i20 has had a comprehensive nose job (and other changes) three years after its introduction to SA - that's the original inset.

Les Stephenson

It’s three years, almost to the month, since Hyundai introduced its B-segment i20 hatchback and, right on schedule, has come a three-model mid-life facelift for the popular small family car.

Hyundai’s added a slew of new equipment, a six-speed manual gearbox, fresh styling touches, extra air bags and seat belts, ‘eagle-eye’ headlights, a new grille in the family idiom and a much-improved and less plasticky centre stack for the audio and aircon units.


The cars are the second half of a modest family avalanche; five weeks earlier the i20’s big brother, the C-segment i30, arrived here with three variants - a 1.6 manual and auto and a 1.8 manual priced from R229 900 to R249 900

The i20 fits in neatly below that level, ditching the 1.6 engine of the original 2009 models in favour of an across-the-range four-cylinder 1.4 capable of 73kW at 5500rpm and 136Nm at 4200 with a just-over-the-tax-limit emissions figure of 132g/km.

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The disappeared 1.6 was good for 93kW but frankly, after driving a couple of hundred kays in the new car, it won’t be missed – especially as the new cars have a six-speed (previously five-speed) gearbox whose top slot is regarded by Hyundai as an overdrive (3000rpm at 120km/h).

Interestingly, the 1.4’s power is only four kW below that of VW’s 1.6 Polo…


There’s an auto version too which, unfortunately, is a rather old-fashioned four-speed; a diesel engine is also available, but it’s made in India where diesel is way cheaper than petrol and consequently in great demand, leaving SA sucking the hind injector. Hyundai says it’s working on the supply problem…

Like the i30, there are three models, each sporting the in-house ‘fluidic sculpture’ styling with a strong lengthwise crease as on all Hyundai units. They are, with prices…

Hyundai i20 Fluid 6-spd manual – R164 900
Hyundai i20 Fluid 4-spd auto – R174 900
Hyundai i20 Fluid Glide 6-spd manual – R176 900

…each a considerable saving on the i30 yet still plenty comfortable for four-plus-child and, handily, each now with three three-point rear seat belts instead of two and a belly-belt. Equipment levels are a serious challenge to the many B-class competitors – think VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Chev’s Sonic and Aveo, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Micra, Honda Jazz and Suzuki Swift.

The three previous models (1.4 and 1.6) ranged from R161 900 to R171 900.


Rear parking radar, Bluetooth, one-touch three-flash indicators and (unique in the segment on the Glide), two extra air bags have been added.

Hyundai SA’s marketing director, the ever genial Stanley Anderson, says sort of modestly: “We believe it is fair value.

“The i20 has been very popular with South African buyers since it came to market in 2009, thanks to its combination of efficiency, quality, practicality and value. With its sharper styling influenced by fluidic sculpture, the new i20 will appeal to an even broader range of buyers, including younger people.”

He also pointed out that the i20 Glide’s pricing is about the middle of B segment, the other two in the lower third of the more than 60 manual variants available in the segment. And that despite the extra new equipment.

Each model’s nose has been updated with a design now standard on all Hyundai’s - a hexagonal grille. Redesigned ‘eagle-eye’ headlights have been added and the bonnet, fenders, front bumper (with fog lights) and wheel rims have been updated to match other i-cars.

The tail lights have also been restyled.


Hyundai has established an excellent reputation in South Africa – something reflected in its high standing in monthly sales figures which are, in fact, restricted by SA being rather far down on Korea HQ’s delivery pecking order.

Our drive through the burgeoning cropfields of the Cape West coast showed the smaller engine to be perfectly capable of fast cruising in the new sixth gear with ride quality excellent on the thick, comfortable seats.

The cabin ambience is a great improvement over the cars’ predecessor, the electric power steering fast and accurate – if there were a school report to write, it would probably read: “Hyundai has worked hard over the past three years and continues to improve. I expect it will do even better in the coming years.”

As with all other Hyundai cars, the i20 comes standard with a five-year or 150 000km warranty, five years’ roadside assistance, a three-year or 60 000km service plan and a five-year or 160 000km corrosion perforation warranty. Service intervals are 15 000km.

2012 Hyundai i20 specifications

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