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Reader test: Hyundai i20

2010-03-18 19:13

Cypro Mailula

The mission was to search for a subcompact car as a first for my fiancée.

The criteria was simple: a comfortable small hatchback that’s good on the eye and has a fair level of specification i.e. nice solid interior with a/c, p/s, e/w, mp3 radio etc.

The contenders were short-listed to the Fiesta as a frontrunner, followed by the Mazda2 and the Corsa. However these cars asked nothing less than R175 000 for the desired specification level and that’s with a 71kw 1.4 engine at best.

Perfectly fit to the requirement was a wildcard in the form of a Hyundai i20 that came out just in time to save the day. At first the 1.4 (74 kW/136 Nm at R150 000) was seen as an obvious choice, but a closer look at the model range made the 1.6 priced at R159 900 a better bang-for-buck choice, knocking the competition out of the ball park.

Standard specification (not that there is much in optional extras), included the desired features and threw in electric folding side mirrors, USB/aux connectivity and a three-year/60 000km service plan. The one disappointment was the unavailability of alloy rims, not even as an option, barring the TWT-sourced mags.

Driving it

Day-to-day driving is pleasurable and build quality is better than some more expensive cars I know. That extra ten thousand for the 1.6 is justified every time you summon the 91 kW/156 Nm to overtake or simply accelerate from standstill. This car is no pocket rocket (it wasn’t meant to be one) but despite that I sometimes thrash it like I would my turbocharged German hot hatch. Nevertheless it is more than able to fulfil its role as a small car that is not so slow to drive around and is keen to take the journey when called to.

A bit of wind noise (whistle to be exact) blows between 80 and 100km/h but the car will silently reach the Hyundai claimed summit speed with ease before running out of breath.

With only 530km on the odometer the fuel system malfunctioned after filling up the tank to the brim. The gauge stopped on the half-tank mark and the trip computer indicated that the fuel was only good for 253km.

Hyundai technicians pondered hopelessly before disconnecting the gauge. Luckily, it worked when reconnected. The distance to empty always calculates a maximum range of 493km when filled up, whether average consumption is 5 l/100km or a maniac-induced 11 l/100km. Subsequently, it never recalculates the distance when consumption changes for the better. I’m convinced this is related to the earlier gauge fiasco.


Needless to say, I often opt for the i20 to take on the heavy Pretoria to Johannesburg traffic. For this price the i20 is unrivaled. With very good reason, too - it is one of this year's Car of the Year finalists, and by the way, my fiancée loves the car.

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