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Upgraded from an Elite i20 to the i20 N-Line DCT: Initial observations

The driving experience is just something else. D mode allows me to get a decent 12-14kmpl mileage in the city and easily touches 16/17 kmpl on the highway.

BHPian phoenixnine recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hello hello BHPians! I’ve been a long-time lurker (some 9 odd years now I think) and after years of trying, here I finally am, a member of this community. I wanted to share a very interesting car ownership journey of mine. I recently upgraded to the Hyundai i20 N Line N8 DCT and man I am having so much fun with it. But how did we come to this moment you ask? Well, here’s all the juicy details.

Vehicle I upgraded From: Hyundai Elite i20 (Asta)

I’m sure some of you (or most of you) are either scratching your heads or are looking for the close button. I bought the car way back in 2007 when it originally launched for a few simple reasons; it looked wicked cool, the drive was really nice, and at the time, for a price of 7.3L (onroad), it was the most loaded with features. I had originally really wanted the Polo, but at the time, the car’s feature set was incredibly 2000-and-late. I received the car within 6 days of booking it because someone else’s payment fell through and I was a happy camper. However, I made one rookie mistake; Didn’t get any warranty extensions. Within 15 months, my cooling coil started leaking, a part that I had changed thrice in the 7 years I owned the damn thing. 3 years into ownership, the module that controls the power steering failed and had to be replaced for some big bucks. Over and above this, Hyundai made sure to raise a bill of 15K (minimum) for every service. Towards year 6 (2020), I was so fed up of Hyundai charging a ton of money for even the basics, and their uncontrollable urge to fleece customers. This summer, my AC stopped working. Three Hyundai service centers say that my car had run over 1L KM and, WITHOUT EVEN DIAGNOSING THE ISSUE, straight up said “sir, the entire AC unit will have to be overhauled. That’s compressor, resistor, pipes etc etc, will cost you 30K.” My clutch, which has been just a little hard, received the same response, again without any diagnosis. It didn’t help being told “sir, this car has only fully electronic parts, nothing can be repaired, it has to be replaced.” I was once told that there is no such thing as a “control valve” on an AC Compressor.

Reason for Upgrade: Doctor’s Orders

A few years ago, I sustained a bad injury to my left knee from very ‘over enthusiastic’ cycling. A whole year of physio and precautions and care later, my left knee continues to be a pain point for me. Eventually, the physiotherapist said “unless you stop driving a car with a clutch, its unlikely you’ll see anymore improvement in the knee.” This is mostly because the routes I would usually drive included 30-45 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, twice a day. I also drive Noida to Manesar atleast twice a month, where a notable portion of the route would be driven shuttling between the first, second and third gears. Given how much I was driving, it was strongly suggested I either stop driving or switch to an automatic car.

The choices:

Mercedes A180: This had always been one of my dream, practical cars to own. I like compact cars/hatchbacks. Much to my dismay, I recently learned that the car had been discontinued in India. Joyous news was hearing that there was a replacement (of sorts) recently launched, called the A45, but decided not to pursue it since I wasn’t looking to take out a house loan to buy a car

Tata Nexon: Who in their right mind wouldn’t have the Nexon on their list if the budget is sub 15L? Drove their petrol automatic (XZA+HS) variant (Tata really needs to get their variants under control). While the car felt big, the backseat didn’t feel much bigger than that of my i20, not a dealbreaker though. What felt unsatisfactory to me was the pace at which the car would progress through the gears. Flooring the accelerator, I could feel every gear shift as a slight jerk, very similar to the one felt on my mom’s automatic Celerio. Plus, there was notable engine vibration/noise and that really eliminated the Nexon for me. Pity. I really like the looks of the car and would have loved to own one, but the drive just didn’t feel that good to me.

Tata Altroz (DCT): Drove this car and while the gear shifts were smooth and unnoticeable (hello DCT), the overall driving experience felt a little sluggish to me. There was also the issue of engine vibration and noise coming into the cabin. I would have settled for the XZA+DCT, however, three showrooms across Delhi and Noida told me the waiting was easily running into 18-22 weeks.

Volkswagen Taigun/ Skoda Kushaq: I have heard so much about the Skoda/VW build quality. Managed to spend some time inside a Kushaq and damn it really felt like a premium vehicle. I chose not to test drive either of them because I knew that either I would significantly blow my budget, or constantly live in the regret of the fact that I chose not to buy a car that I really wanted (Kushaq/Taigun) and instead settled for something else.

Hyundai i20 N Line N8 DCT: The only reason I even opted to take this vehicle for a test drive was because of a close friend who often appears on the Car&Bike show. He sat me down and said that if I was looking to spend under 14L, my decision would be “ill-informed” if the N Line was not a part of the mix. He said “not the regular i20, drive the N Line.” Given that we go back over a decade, I figured I should do it out of respect for him, because, you know, there’s no way I’d be impressed by the i20. Never have I ever been so wrong. I went back for four more test drives, one being a much longer (10-15Km) one through two types of routes; heavy-ish traffic and open roads (the DND flyway). Eventually, this is the car I came home with, and below is the collection of reasons why.

Key Features I was looking for

Here are some things I knew I needed out of my new car and how the i20 N Line fit that bill.

  • A nimble driving experience. Parking is a hassle in all of Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon and I have seen how my dad would struggle to get his Honda City into a spot that I could easily manouver my i20 into. Plus the whole “reverse-turn-forward-turn-reverse” thing is a regular part of my driving experience, so the nimbleness of the car combined with that great rear view camera really helped.

 

  • Automatic transmission.

  • Technology. As a former technology journalist with experience of over 10 years, I am aware of the creature comforts cars nowadays have started to offer. There’s been a growing trend over the last four-five years of technology journalists becoming auto journalists, by simple extension of the fact that “cars now have a lot of tech, so we can review cars also.” Publishers have also been pushing this narrative since this content becomes an additional revenue stream for them. Hence, I did, for a brief period of time, have access to most cars courtesy my work. As an iPhone user, I was sure I needed car play and steering mounted controls were a must. In an idea world, I would have liked AC controls on the wheel as well, but as they say “itne mein itna-ich milta hai.”
  • Power throughput. I’m not really a car guy, and I’m sure the phrase “power throughput” I am using is incorrect, but essentially, I wanted a car that could shoot straight like an arrow if I needed it to, without feeling sluggish. The i20 N Line may not have the extra power that its international variants have, but the car really does turn into a naughty little thing once you put it in S mode.

 

  • Clean, minimal interiors. I wanted a car which adopted minimalism as its design language for the interiors. I don’t like too many colours/materials in one place. Tata’s very premium feeling interiors have a tri-tone colour scheme, and that inverted Y logo just didn’t work for me. The i20’s simple black and red interiors really spoke to me. The whole dash feels like one singular “thing” and the way the AC vents are made part of an existing horizontal structure felt really cool to me. I also like the “switches” for the AC controls. Honestly, I would have MUCH preferred the black/blue scheme which is part of the N Lines abroad, but oh well.

  • Delivery Time. I was sure I wanted the car delivered before August 28th, as my baby sister was scheduled to leave the country for studies on the 30th of august. It was a long shot, but the Hyundai showroom guy said “Sirji, ho jayega.” He offered me the car in DT white and the Blue as they were both standing in the showroom, but I wanted to try my luck and get the Titan Grey. I saw the colour on an N6 IMT variant and it gave some real stealth vibes.

Closing the Deal

I took a total of five test drives of the Hyundai i20 N Line N8 DCT at Dream Hyundai in Noida. Incidentally, this place used to be called Nirmal Hyundai back in 20014, when I originally bought my Elite i20 from them. The sales rep “VS” was super patient, explained all the features of the car, and even accommodated my requests for repeated TDs and one which was far longer than what is usually sanctioned by dealers. On July 21 (sister’s bday), I paid the booking amount and requested for the Titan Grey colour. VS showed me their stock list and said that an N8 DCT in Titan Grey was expected anytime, along with a Polar White and a Thunder Blue variant. Since I’d already owned a blue i20, that was going to be a complete no-no for me. While the Storm Grey was my first choice, the dealer only received the white and blue as part of the next “shipment.” On August 3, I showed up at their stockyard with a PDF of the TeamBHP PDI and after making sure everything was to my liking, told the SA to allot the VIN number to my booking. The car’s VIN confirmed that this was a July-manufactured car.
On August 7, I took delivery of the Polar White Hyundai i20 N Line N8 DCT. Along with the car, I also purchased the 5-year extended warranty in addition to the 5 year Shield of Trust. Now I’m more than happy for Hyundai to replace the entire AC assembly just because of a minor fault. I also had the showroom install door visors, mudflaps and 3D mats, along with also getting a car cover. I bought my own insurance as the dealers around town were quoting some seriously funny money for it. The total cost of car, UP registration with the 5-year warranty, 5-year SoT and accessories came out to 13,72,667. What did strike me as odd was that the showroom only gave me one key-fob, saying that the other one will come after six months. They did give me two physical keys though. I also got the 3M PPF done on the car, the one that doesn’t cover yellowing under warranty. Since I have underground parking, and work from home, most of my driving either occurs at night, or on the weekends. For days when I have to park the car in the sun (like when I visit my parents), I just put the car cover on.

Ownership & Driving Experience

Here are just some observations after having driven the car for about 2200kms over the last 3 months.

  • The driving experience is just something else. D mode allows me to get a decent 12-14kmpl mileage in the city (my old delivered 10-11kmpl) and easily touches 16/17 kmpl on the highway. Fun fact, drove from Manesar to Noida on Diwali night, absolutely NO traffic. Put the car in cruise control at 75km/h and ended up with a mileage of 22.7kmpl. S mode will definitely kill your mileage, but it’s a price you pay for a good time.
  • Mileage when running on XP95>normal fuel by about 1-2km/l. XP95 also feels like it runs the engine “smoother.” I may not be using the right term to describe it but driving on XP95 just feels better. Could be placebo effect, but the mileage difference is definitely there.
  • The steering itself feels so nice in terms of feel, finish, layout, everything.
  • The tire pressure monitors are definitely not accurate and change readings every day. I run all tires on Nitrogen at 33psi, but I get different readings from different tires on different days.
  • I’ve used the paddle shifted maybe like 4 times since I got this car because between the S&D modes, you’re set.
  • This car is definitely not made for short folks. I am 5’3”, with a lovely food baby and I find it difficult to find the perfect driving position. Most of this is attributable to the fact that the driver’s seat has a 23-degree incline, which sinks your backside into the seat and raises the thighs ever so slightly. On my old i20, the seat was fat, which made finding a good driving position a lot easier. Even the tilt and telescoping adjustments are different and its been difficult to find the perfect driving position. There is definitely a sweet spot, but the tolerances are so tight that if my dad drives the car (and has to adjust, well, everything since he’s a 6-foot giant), I spend a significant amount of time trying to put the seat in the right position.
  • God that exhaust sounds absolutely DIVINE!

  • I’m still on the stock CEAT tyres and god they’re awful. As I drive, I can feel micro vibrations in my arms through the steering. After a long drive, my arms have this slight ache, the kind you get due to arm-pump while mountain biking. Going to change the tyres out and hopefully, that should fix the issue.

I do want to specifically point out some things I absolutely do not like about this car.

  • The spare wheel is now a size smaller. This is an incredibly frustrating practice that Hyundai did not need to learn from the luxury brands. When I asked the sales advisor why this was the case, he said “the company wants to make sure you use the spare tyre as a spare, and not a main tyre,” to which I responded “but doesn’t your own workshop have a tyre rotation schematic that puts the spare when into use to make sure there is even wear and tear on all wheels?” He just shrugged and walked away. Question for you guys; If I get a new spare wheel that matches the size of the main tyres, do I also need to change the spare rim?
  • The paint job on the outside is okay, but it was shocking to open the boot and basically see unfinished metal on either side. Sure, it’s painted white, but it might as well have been done with water paint. You can tell it’s an unfinished job.
  • No lighting for the door lock/unlock buttons and window buttons on the driver's side. While I can live with no lighting on the window buttons, but its a real pain to feel around for the door unlock button in the dark (scenario: dropping someone home at night). Absolutely MENTAL that despite so much attention to detail, this is where Hyundai cut cost!

  • There are some nooks and crannies that haven’t been designed very well. For example, when it rains, a lot of the water and muck will accumulate in the space where you have to put your hand to release the boot. And once the boot goes up, you’ll see just how much filth accumulates in that entire section. Similarly with the space between the bonnet and the part in front of it. The gapping is slightly uneven and if you look into it from the side, you can see a lot of the imperfections (unfinished paint job, accumulated muck etc).
  • When I roll up the driver’s side window, the whole door, it feels, pushes outwards. Its as if the slit for the glass does not line up properly, and for it to fit, it needs to get pushed out by a quarter of an inch or so. Just weird to see a misalignment of this magnitude in a car this expensive.
  • Lack of wireless CarPlay is a blasphemy on a car in this price range. Running cables from the console to the phone just makes it messy. Also, not happy about how the Screen doesn’t automatically switch to CarPlay when I plug in my phone. After you’re done reversing the car, the screen goes back to the regular Hyundai screen instead of switching back to CarPlay. Pretty bad UX and an easy fix, but doubt Hyundai will ever get to it.

While there are definitely some things I am not happy about, overall, I am absolutely THRILLED about my purchase. I was also fully aware that the minute I would buy this car, either Hyundai would launch a refresh of this in black OR introduce a variant with automated seat adjustment. And sure enough, a month later, we have the Venue N-Line with the auto-seat adjustment. I am not going through FOMO though. I have loved every second I have driving the car and I’m sure others will too. My plan is to run the current CEAT tyres for another 6 months or so and then upgrade all 5 to Michelin. In maybe two or three years’ time, I plan to get the whole car wrapped in matte black, retaining the red elements.

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