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Hyundai's i20 here - driven

2009-07-07 12:27

Wilmer Muller

The Hyundai Getz has been a runaway success for the Korean importer locally, thanks to its value for money appeal, decent build quality and reliability. But now it’s time to send the Getz off to retirement and welcome its Getz’s successor – the i20.

So, it’s now the i20’s turn to fight the big guns, and it probably arrived just in time as the aeging Getz (no matter its appeal to cash-strapped car buyers) has lost its wooma to take on popular newcomers such as the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift. And the good news is that the i20 has what it takes to continue the Getz’s legacy, which boosted Hyundai’s brand perception in South Africa significantly.

Like other Hyundai products the line-up is straight-forward with two models, a 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol, packed with all the bells and whistles, will be available.
Though its design isn’t as exciting as that of the class-leading Fiesta, the i20 has a more “European” design than its predecessor. Overall Hyundai didn’t take any risks with the i20’s design but the end result is a functional but stylish hatchback.

Whereas the Getz’s design was sort of forgettable the i20 shows off its curves in a slightly more stylish fashion... Like its smaller i10 sibling Hyundai’s European design centre shaped the i20 with obvious design hints taken from rivals such as the Opel Corsa, Suzuki Swift and Renault Clio.

With a longer wheelbase it s lower and wider than the Getz too, while Hyundai paid a lot of attention to detail such as a chrome-finished grille, big teardrop headlights and distinctive lines complimenting the sides and hatch.


On the inside this five-door offers acceptable space, including boot capacity of 295 litres, which is more than that of the Fiesta. Overall Hyundai didn’t take any risks with the i20’s design but the end result is a functional but stylish hatchback.

Space for rear passengers is impressive with enough room for taller occupants. Though the rear seats don’t offer the same “magic” versatility as the Honda Jazz’s, they do split and fold flat for optimised loading capacity.  Taller rear passengers will benefit from generous leg and headroom space, while a plus for six-foot drivers is that the steering wheel is height and tilt adjustable. 

In typical Hyundai tradition there is generous standard kit, which includes features such as all-round electric windows, air-con, power steering, trip computer, multi-function steering wheel and a 6-speaker audio system with an iPod jack. The i20 also received a 5-star safety rating in the Europ N-Cap crash tests and safety equipment consists of dual front airbags and ABS brakes with EBD.

The dashboard design is also modern but straightforward with good ergonomics. The i20’s fit and finish is also an improvement and will probably be sufficient for small car buyers, however, some of the plastics still look on the budget side.

The Hyundai i20's standard kit is impressive when compared to rivals.

New engines

South African buyers can choose from 1.4 and 1.6-litre multivalve engines which Hyundai claims offer better performance than its key rivals. The smaller bigger unit develops 91 kW and 156 Nm, while the 1.4’s output is s 74 kW and 136 Nm. Both models come with a 5-speed manual transmission.

The new i20’s chassis has also been significantly improved when compared to the Getz’s driving dynamics. Here is a small Hyundai that actually now offers an exciting drive keeping its pose around corners with enough grip, while the electric power steering is accurate and responsive. Though the driving experience isn’t as involved or entertaining as the Fiesta’s, the i20 does a good job.

We didn’t get to sample the 1.4-litre engine but the 1.6-litre unit is an excellent performer. It’s a lively powertrain with enough oomph to make the i20 a relaxed cruiser. One can’t help but to be impressed with the engine’s refinement too adding to the i20’s appeal as a comfortable hatchback. Top speed is 190km/h and it will take the i20 9.8 seconds to reach the 100km/h mark. Hyundai’s claimed average fuel consumption for the 1.6 is an acceptable 5.9 litres.

Overall the i20 is another showcase that Hyundai is on track to overtake the bigger brands. In fact this is a car that again proves that Hyundai doesn’t have to stand back for any other car brand.

Though not as exciting as certain competitors, the i20’s winning ingredient is value for money – it’s a decent car with lots to offer. Pricing is R149 900 for the 1.4-litre model and R159 900 for the 1.6-litre. What’s more is that you get Hyundai’s five-year warranty and a three-year/60 000 km/ service plan. 


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