Hyundai i20: Good's got better

2012-08-15 06:44

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

  • alu.ntsandeni - 2012-08-15 08:59

    This Hyundai cars are value for money, I think I will trade in my Polo for an Elentra or something, after all, they are almost same price...

  • tatsee - 2012-08-15 09:21

    Hyundai is really giving the 'big guys' a run!The other day I viewed the new i30 and its exceptional,the styling,the interior,the equipment-all neatly and well laid out.I intend to trade in my Vivo for a Jetta but after viewing the Elantra and the 130,my mind is messed up.

  • ronald.ragadza - 2012-08-15 09:32

    Nice updates. I guess the engine change is to open way to power hungry to consider the i30 since the i20 with the same engine as the i30 will outperform the new kid on the block (i30) due to weight difference.

  • vickers.vermeulen - 2012-08-15 10:06

    If they are basically the same car I would rather have the Rio

      jarques.cloete - 2012-08-16 11:11

      You will have to wait MONTHS for your Kia as they have a very bad supply chain..

  • patrick.buckley.712 - 2012-08-15 10:30

    Have had my i20 since May 2010. Brilliant, just brilliant!

  • riotousr - 2012-08-15 11:26

    Chev’s Sonic and Aveo? I do not know much about the Sonic but I have just had a new delivery of the last batches of Aveo. Going through your article I am alreday suspicios that the car is half-way better than the Aveo 1.6 Five Speed. The fuel consumption on the vehicle is in the 5 year old 2l. I am 'strangely' expecting some improvement as the milieage piles on. I am addicted to anything with 6 foward cogs. I, am however, interested in reading a long-term unbiased review of a Hyundai owner that has travelled more than 100K. Am I wrong to suspect that the designer of these current range Hyundais (Accent, Elantra & iX30) comes from the same design house as the Ford (Focus, Figo, Kuga & Fiesta) drawings. Onces you have seen one exterior you have seen them all.

  • jarques.cloete - 2012-08-16 11:09

    Over the last year I rented three i20 cars while on business and with each of them the clutch was sticky or the steering was 'funny' and weird to drive. I rented an i10 for four months and the little car was a joy every time I drove it. I now bought a new Polo 1.6 tiptronic sedan but I should have rather bought tan i10... The Polo has A LOT of body flex and sounds like an old house in a strong wind when in situations when the body is under strain. The suspension is also very noise and it makes itself heard very often when going over irregularities on the road. Both these issue was never a problem in the i10. If Hyundai ever allow me to have my car with a sunroof I will DEFINATELY be buying one as my next car! VW's are often overrated (I have driven over 20 VW models over the years...)

      thando.gqabaza - 2012-08-16 17:08

      Agree on the funny steering - Hyundai over-boosts their power steering. But apart from that great car

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