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Hyundai i20
4/10

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Hyundai i20 1.2 Classic 5dr

Driven January 2009

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I was rather looking forward to the i20. What better for these constricted days than a new supermini from Hyundai, new entrants to the respectable mainstream and maker of the i30? Hyundai owns Kia, after all, and I raved about the Soul last month. Nothing embarrassing about Korean cars any more. So the i20 had to be a canny way to cut our cloth to suit the times.

But the path from preconceptions to first impressions is a rocky one. Parked on my street, where the new Fiesta and Ka looked alluring, the i20's styling falls a long way short. And inside, this base model is a mildly depressing place to be.

OK, it's got aircon, but the plastics are cheap and drab - the Classic trim isn't even blessed with the red stitching or silver paint on the centre console. Is red thread more expensive than black? Oh no, such delights are reserved for the hoity-toity Style trim level, £2k further up the tree. Unsurprisingly, that's the one that Hyundai chooses to use for its publicity photos, seen here.

I'm motivated by a 1.2 engine. But about that, I am actually not complaining. Despite the small capacity, it's a relatively spunky thing, kicking out a creditable 77bhp. It sounds a bit gruff, and the one I had (still a bit sticky from its newness I suspect) didn't like being revved too much, but it does the job.

The i20 is all-new and made of good stuff: high-strength steel gives the bodyshell rigidity, and the maker tells us it'll do nicely in Euro NCAP. All versions get six airbags and ESP too. And a five-year warranty.

The good steel means it's light, explaining the decent balance between acceleration and consumption, as well as the fleet-footed cornering, though it's never the kind of a fun a Fiesta is. But it feels a bit babyish too: over big bumps and in motorway crosswinds, it gets knocked off course. The suspension is firm but unsorted. The i20 feels a bit too much like the biscuit tin it slightly resembles.

I'm driving the bog-base version, and the five-door is £8,645. OK, it's safe and has a seven-year warranty, but you want some good cheer as standard too. If you so much as glance in the direction of a Fiat dealer, the pounds melt off a Punto like April snow, and I reckon for the same kind of outlay, you'd end up with a bigger, better-specified and more stylish car than this little Hyundai.

I can hardly believe I'm writing these words, but this new Korean supermini is overpriced.

Paul Horrell

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