Hyundai I20 1.6T GDi N 5dr
It’s a good little engine, Hyundai’s 1.0-litre three-pot. Quiet, punchy up to about 4,000rpm and refined (even if it does transmit a few more vibrations through the driver’s seat than rivals at idle). That’s handy because as of the i20’s launch in late 2020 there is no other option. No diesel, because they’re too complicated, expensive and unpopular, nor more or less powerful petrols. The only conundrum early adopters face is whether to go for the six-speed manual or the seven-speed twin-clutch auto. The latter costs £1,250 extra.
Every new i20 comes with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that claims a three to four per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption versus a comparable non-electrified powertrain. Generally in cars with automatic gearboxes, this kind of system decouples the engine from the transmission when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator pedal, so the engine can shut down when the car is coasting to save fuel. Hyundai’s very clever “Intelligent Manual Gearbox” tech brings this fuel-saving functionality to a slick six-speed self-shifter.
So in Eco mode, to which the i20 defaults (there are Sport and Comfort modes too, but not much distance between them), when you lift off the accelerator to coast the i20’s engine shuts down. Prod the accelerator, hit the brakes or dip the clutch and it’ll spring back to life. The whole system is very smooth and unobtrusive – you won’t notice it working and there’s no need to adapt your driving style to suit. The clutch pedal even feels pretty natural (better here than in the i30) which is an achievement because it’s not really connected to anything.
Hyundai has plainly worked on making the i20 more engaging. It’s a tidy car to drive, if not as amusing as a Ford Fiesta, with sharp (if largely feel-less) steering, good grip and precious little body roll. It feels agile and quick-witted and changes direction smartly. A big improvement over the car it replaces and very much in the mix versus rivals, which bodes very well for the forthcoming Fiesta ST-rivalling i20N hot hatch.
The only real concern we have is the ride, which feels offputtingly busy and overly firm on the 17-inch alloys fitted to our mid-spec test car.
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