Hyundai had first launched the original i20 in India back in 2008, following which it received a facelift in 2012. The new Elite i20 was then introduced in 2014 which topped the sales charts in this premium hatchback segment. This is a segment where car prices almost match their compact sedan siblings, and yet are getting popular. Yet, the Elite i20's popularity soared so much that it crossed the one-lakh units sold landmark within a year. Now, the carmaker has given this model a midlife facelift to keep abreast with its competitors. Will this refresh help the model, which draws a strong response from the public, to continue to be in the top 10 of the sales chart every month? We take a closer look at it to see if it continues to have it all.
A single look at the car will not be enough to enlighten you about any cosmetic changes. Firstly, because there aren't many. And secondly, and more importantly, the small changes are tastefully done.
The familiar grille is devoid of chrome and the front bumper gets more curves featuring new fog lamps and smartly integrated air dams. Even now, the overall stance is nice with the stunning new design of the alloys adding more character to the hatchback. Sadly, my favourite design of the tail lamps is replaced with a new one now. Nevertheless, it gels well with the new bumper design that has lend it a stylish look.
Why fix something good that isn't broken, right? So the interior layout and design of an ergonomic and practical cabin remains the same. The quality of parts is impressive even if the dual tone dash is something I am not fond of. We would have loved to see leather seats, but the updated i20 gets black and beige coloured fabric for the otherwise comfortable seats.
There are new switches on the steering wheel reiterating the great fit and finish along with functionality. Adjustable driver's seat, a good frontal visibility, clear and functional instrument cluster and comfortable seats made sure I was in the driving seat for hours. The second row passengers will be happy too with supportive seats, good view of surroundings, great space and air-con vents to keep circulating air.
Speaking of the features, the i20 has always been the benchmark in this segment and continues to do so. The top-spec Asta (O) here is well specced with an easy-to-use AVN system that comes with complete in-car entertainment and the usual connectivity features. Sat-nav is optional, but Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirror link is now standard. It comes paired to a rear view camera with guidelines that add to the convenience. This also reminds me of the practical keyless entry, push button start, automatic climate control, tailgate opener with remote etc. that add to the ease.
Also, all cars in this segment get a USB charging port, but the i20 gets a fast charging one. Clearly, Hyundai has wanted to be a step ahead of competitors. Even in terms of safety, there's ABS on all trims with the top-spec getting six airbags adding to the safety net. Boot space remains unchanged with an acceptable 285 litres, which can be extended to 1,042 litres with the entire rear seat folded down.
Hyundai is offering the Elite i20 with no changes to the powertrain. There are two engine options - a four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 82bhp and 115Nm of torque and a 1.4-litre diesel motor delivering 89bhp and 220Nm of torque. The former comes mated to a five-speed gearbox and will get an automatic transmission (CVT) later this year. The diesel continues to be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, which is the model we have sampled in this test.
The Elite i20’s diesel engine is a promising one by being the most refined, smoothest and most tractable unit in this segment. Only a slight engine noise can be heard in the well-insulated cabin, making this mill the quietest amongst competitors. This diesel unit is extremely refined and delivers enough punch for daily driving with loads of torque available at low rpm. The turbo lag is minimum and revs nicely till 5,000rpm while remaining pleasantly smooth even near the redline. So whether it’s slogging through traffic in the city or cruising on the highways, the motor feels apt for any purpose. The six-speed gearbox is well-tuned to offer light and precise gear shifts. On the flip side, I wasn’t able to slot it in reverse quickly and the clutch pedal felt springy. Nonetheless, this transmission backs the engine well to offer a pleasant experience.
Now on to the ride and handling department. The Elite i20's steering drew a lot of flak earlier and the Koreans still need to work on this. The Elite i20 still doesn't make for driver focused and most connected car. Though the steering is light it isn't direct and still vague at the centre. The brakes too aren’t progressive and the late brake bite doesn't instil confidence in hard braking. On the plus side, the Elite i20 has a sorted ride especially at slow speeds. The well-tuned suspension will absorb bumps and sharp potholes with ease. There's no clatter from any body part and so poor roads are not an issue at all. However, as you throw the car into a corner you realise the body roll come into the picture. It doesn't feel very agile and responsive around these bends. Also, built up some speed and the car still tends to wallow a bit. Nonetheless, this up and down movement has considerably improved over the old model. In any case, the car feels planted and smooth to drive.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||89bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||220Nm @ 1,500rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||45|
|Tyre size||195/55 R16|
|Six Airbags and ABS||Yes|
|New 16-inch alloy wheels||Yes|
|Projector headlamps with DRLs||Yes|
|Fast Usb charging||Yes|
|Automatic climate control||Yes|
|Touch screen infotainment system with Mirror Link Android Auto and Apple CarPlay||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||Asta (O)||Alpha 1.3|
|Max. Power (bhp)||89bhp @ 4000rpm||74bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm)||220Nm @ 1,500rpm||190Nm @ 2000rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||45||37|
|Tyre size||195/55 R16||195/55 R16|
The Elite i20 only gets better whether it’s the styling of the exterior, the top-notch features in the cabin, space inside or the refinement of the engine. It still isn’t as enthusiastic to drive like the Baleno or utilitarian like the Jazz, but still makes for a great package with competitive prices starting at Rs 5.35 lakhs. We surely recommend it to people looking for a premium hatchback with good looks, great quality, practical features, good NVH and a refined engine. Hyundai’s hassle-free service experience will only back it up to further augment the sales numbers.
Photos By Kaustubh Gandhi