Piers Ward15 October 2013

First drive: new Hyundai i10

We drive Hyundai’s new baby: a small car completely fresh from the ground-up that's aiming big...

What is it?

Hyundai's new baby. The i10 is virtually all-new from the ground up and comes with a brief to bring bigger car quality to the city car sector.

Sounds a bit like an ad strap line to me...

True, but then Hyundai can't afford to simply offer decent value for money and little else any more. There are plenty of cheap rivals out there who offer lots of car for not much cash. Think Fiat Panda, or Skoda Citigo. What those have proved is that city cars shouldn't be just focused on the urban commute - they need to work everywhere. Refinement, interior space, decent poke. That's what it's all about these days.

Excellent - in that case I look forward to buying my i10 V8.

Er, not that much poke.

Back on Planet Sensible: there are two engines to choose from - either a new 1.0-litre 3-cylinder, or the 1.2-litre. Both are petrols (no diesel here), and whereas the 1.0-litre is a heavily revised lump, the 1.2 is a straight carryover from the previous gen i10.

As such, our money would go on the smaller unit. It produces 65bhp and 69lb ft, but it's about more than weedy-sounding numbers. It's got more ooomph than the 0-62mph time of 14.9 seconds suggests, and the soft, three-cylinder thrum you can hear adds a lovely bit of character. Not too much, and it rarely gets harsh unless you thrash it, but just enough to remind you that not all cars are built by committees.

But I thought you said city cars should also be refined?

Definitely. But our point is that it's not raucous because the engine note never gets tiresome - it's just there in the background, purring away.

And besides, the i10 is library-quiet in every other regard. Minimal road and wind noise, so it feels like an expensive, and bigger, car.

Does it drive like one?

Yes. Hyundai and Kia are currently streamlining all their platforms so the i10 is the first to use this all-new chassis, and then next-gen Kia Picanto will get the same one. The good news for both Kia and Hyundai is that it's a promising start, as the i10 is comfortable, with loads of grip. The steering is precise, the brakes are good. It doesn't even have any comedy lean in the corners. Which is all the usual journalist-speak for saying it's a very normal, and very competent, car.

But, it's almost a bit too normal. The i10 has definitely grown up, but it's lost some of the old one's cheek. There's no comedy value in barrelling into a corner anymore, with motorbike angles of lean, because this new car just points and goes.

To be fair, though, that's not really what the average pensioner wants from their i10. The vast majority of customers will prefer the new version because it's more multi-talented. You wouldn't think twice before taking this on the motorway, for instance. But here at Top Gear, we would like a city car with a touch more life.

Still, that sounds like a minor criticism.

Oh it is. On any rational level, the new i10 is a great little car. It's got plenty of room in the back (as it should, because it's much 65mm wider and 80mm longer than the old car), it's refined, and comfortable, too.

Plus, it's still good value. Prices start at £8,345 and rise to £10,495. As ever, the ones in the middle offer best value for money. If it was us, we'd get the 1.0-litre manual SE at £9,295. That way, you get remote central locking, electric windows all round, and heated door mirrors - a USB connection is standard across the range.

So we're afraid it's the usual verdict on a Hyundai or Kia first drive - Korean cars keep getting better.

7/10

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