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Old 17th August 2014, 20:59   #1
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Default Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20

This calm, sunday morning, I received a call from Samara Hyundai, Delhi that test drives for both the petrol and turbo diesel are available for the new Elite i20. Told them I would be interested, and a guy in sales, Sourabh, arranged for both the cars. Overall dealer experience was good, and I spent few good minutes behind the wheel of both the cars since I also had limited time.

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-5.jpg

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-4.jpg

The car is one of the better deigned cars from Hyundai and aimed at mas market, hence, compared to the previous i20 and other Hyundai designs, its kept on the conservative side. The design is a love it or hate it, but somewhat restrained from Hyundai standards, though potential buyers had a different opinion n the front end and the black C pillar.
The headlights is a tad too large and lens cover with steel inserts (where the euro model has DRLs) will take time getting used to, though universally, I preferred some more simplicity. The side profile is classic two box and is universally appreciated, though some scirocco influence is obvious. The much hyped black C pillar is another debatable design and in actual is a plastic panel placed on C pillar to give it a "floating roof" effect.
The best angle to view the car is from the rear. The low stance, wide tailgate and souped up bumper give the car oodles of personality. The wheels on asta are 16" diamond cut alloys with 195/55 R16 tyres (second in its segment after the punto evo 90) and give the car a balanced stance. Compared to the previous car, the length is shorter but width and wheelbase is increased to liberate more interior space.
Build is on par as far as Asian cars go, though it lacks the solid feel of the punto and polo which use thicker gauge steel. Still, build quality is ages better than many marutis and Hondas we have come to see in recent times.

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-3.jpg

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-6.jpg

The simplistic theme of the exterior is also carried over to the insides, though BMW design influence is obvious. The interior theme is dark brown and beige, and the dash consists of too many buttons, a bit confusing for the first time user. What really smacks is the overall quality and it and finish, several notches higher, but still the polo does have an edge in terms of build precision. Not providing fabric inserts on a 8.7 lakh rupee hatch is a glaring omission which Hyundai needs to consider, though soft touch plastics do feel upmarket.
Standard equipment in asta includes a cooled glovebox (with reduced size compared to previous model), ABS, dual airbags, reverse camera which tilts the angle when the steering is rotated, electrochromic mirror, Audio with USB/AUX/CD/BT, electric folding mirrors, auto headlamps and rear AC vents, and many more. Conspicuous by its absence is rear disc brakes, rain sensing wipers(which the previous diesel had) and no option of 6 airbags and sunroof (which the previous petrol had).

The front seats have been made wider, and steering adjusts for both tilt and telescopic. Lumbar support is above average and underthigh support could have been better. In fact, previous model's seats had much better side bolstering. Legroom is on par and even 6 footers will be comfortable.
Rear seats are wide and 3 people should be comfortable, going by the width, though headroom can be an issue for tall people due to sloping roof. Standard rear AC vents and a powerful airconditioner (a feature much needed considering the previous i20 was lacking in this area) should keep passengers comfortable.

The audio setup consists of 4 speakers and 4 tweeters, and for a stock setup, sounds pretty good. Bass is good, midbass is average and treble needs better tuning. Browsing through the folders require an effort, but later, is an easy task. The display does look cheesy though. It can read a 32 GB pen drive easily, and the USB and aux in sockets are placed lower down the central console.
The multifunction steering wheel houses controls for audio and bluetooth on the left, and MID on the right. Due t limited time, I didn't go through the MID but noticed that lots of functions are there (similar to punto's "my car").

Driving the petrol:
The petrol i20 is powered by the familiar 1197 cc with a rated power of 83 ps@6000 rpm and 11.7 kg-m torque@4000 rpm. In a short drive, I was skeptical on the performance of a small gasoline motor on a big hatch, but the engine did have its positives as well negatives. For city driving, the engine is adequate and its the close ratio 5 peed box that does the trick. Torque spread is linear and acceleration till 80 is pretty brisk, provided correct rev matching technique is used. Once out on open highway, the limitations of the small engine begin to show and the engine, though extremely refined and rev friendly, labours till 120. It's obvious that the motor is tuned for city commuting and low end, and of course, FE oriented. Overall, the motor is adequate for aam janta, but not meant for enthusiasts.

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-1.jpg

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-2.jpg

Compared to petrol, the diesel performs better, but once again, Hyundai have changed the tuning. Low end is much better and driveability is more linear now. Turbo lag is well controlled and the first two gears have increased ratios for instant throttle response. The Kick of the turbo that was present in the older i20 is gone and torque spread is linear. The car feels much similar to my punto in mid range, and top end continues to remain strong. Family oriented customers will like this state of tune. Power comes from a 1396 cc 4 cylinder CRDi engine with 89 bhp@4000 rm and 22.4 kg-m torque@1500-2750 rpm. In terms of torque output, the VW 1.5 still has an edge but lacks refinement of both the U2 1.4 and the 90 hp multijet.

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-7.jpg

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-8.jpg

Suspension, steering and brakes:
The biggest weakness f the previous model was its ride and handling, and the new model goes to a large extent in correcting the flaw. Steering remains typical Hyundai, overlight at parking speeds, weighing up decently as speeds build, better than the grand i10, though still nowhere as communicative as that of the punto and figo, or even swift's EPS for that matter. Overall ride remains consistent, and suspension has been made stiffer, though high speed stability is nowhere in the league of the euros.
The brakes are good and provide good stopping power. But, the main concern I noticed in petrol was the car fishtailed on hard braking, though the diesel did not. Discs at rear are solely missed, though, for the diesel.

Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20-x-9.jpg

To sum up:
Hyundai did try hard to iron out the issues that previous car had, and have succeeded to some extent. The car looks better, drives better, has a good interior and a decent ride. An all rounder it ain't, but for a family who needs a feature packed luxury hatch,this will surely sell. Concerns with steering still remains, as few people have reported issues with the xcent and grand i10, and so does the cost of ownership, which is always on the higher side. Its positives and negatives will remain debatable, but, Hyundai's dealer network and marketing muscle will be the backborne of its sales in the upcoming months.
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Old 18th August 2014, 09:04   #2
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Default Re: Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20

Thanks for the short and sweet review sidindica.

Coming to the car itself. i20 actually grew up on me with the earlier version(i-gen). However, this one takes it a step back. In my opinion, they've got the looks messed up terribly on this. Add to that the lackluster petrol engine, which they should have definitely upgraded.
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Old 18th August 2014, 09:14   #3
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Default Re: Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20

Wow! Thanks for the neat pictures. The comparison actually shows one fact, the outer dimension wise design is almost identical to the Punto. One wouldn't notice it otherwise since the design factors are different, but structurally, almost identical.
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Old 19th August 2014, 09:18   #4
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Default Re: Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20

When you say "previous version" do you mean the original doe-eyed i20, or the i-gen version?

The omission of rear-discs on the diesel is disheartening considering my i-gen sportz has it.
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Old 20th August 2014, 14:44   #5
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Default Re: Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20

Great first impressions as always, Sidindica.

My one line summary for the new i20 would be "the same premium package, only improved". It takes all the good qualities of the old i20, improves on the bad ones and keeps the pricing in the same range. Yes, there is no true top-end variant like the old Asta option pack with 6 airbags, sunroof & rear disc brakes. That said, no one is going to be complaining about stopping power in the new i20.

The quality & refinement are top notch. When I started the diesel & was waiting for the car ahead to move, I didn't realise I'm in the oil-burner until I saw the revv counter!

Is it a hatchback for enthusiasts? No ways. Is it practical? You bet. Great in the city? Yep. Easily a top choice for anyone looking at a truly premium hatchback.
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Old 20th August 2014, 15:42   #6
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Default Re: Quick First Drive: Hyundai i20

Thanks Sid.

A question on the steering:
Recently, I drove the 2014 iX35 around the Scottish Highlands. This was my first long drive in a Hyundai. While the car was loaded with all bells & whistles (Cruise Control, BT etc), and the engine was decent, the steering was a complete letdown.

It was very light at high speeds (90-100 MPH) and needed constant inputs.As a result, I was exhausted at the end of a straight motorway drive as well. The car would not hold a straight line and needs steering inputs like the old recirculating ball systems and definitely didnt feel like a Rack & Pinion that it said on the site.

Since both these are from the same line up, any feedback on the steering/highway behavior?
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