In the premium hatchback space, the Hyundai Elite i20 has been a prominent player with monthly average sales close to 10,000 units. It has also managed to retain its position in the top 10 selling cars each month. But now, there’s a new one. It drops the ‘Elite’ from its name and comes with many new features, added powertrain options, and an attractive design both on the inside and outside. Can it fill the shoes of the outgoing Elite i20? Let’s find out.
We have driven the diesel and the new 1.0-litre Turbo-Petrol versions of the new i20 for this review.
Adopting Hyundai’s new ‘sensuous sportiness’ design language, the new i20 is quite a looker, no matter what the angle you look at it from. The wedge-shaped headlamps have some striking LED elements, and it integrates well with the low-slung nose and drooping bonnet. Upfront, the blacked-out meshed grille is the new Hyundai signature, and on either side are triangular elements housing circular foglamps. In profile, the chrome-finished fly-back beltline instantly catches attention. There are cuts and creases on the doors, fenders, and everywhere you move your glance to, keeping things interesting. Those 16-inch alloy wheels look good but some swanky wheel design to match the flamboyance of the rest of the car would have been better.
At the back, the wrap-around tail lamps get a unique ‘horizontal thunderbolt’ lighting signature. Apart from that, the tail lamp remains busy with more elements inside of it and the chrome inserts joining the two lamps in between. The rear windscreen gets extended piano-black surround on the side and bottom reminding us of something similar as seen on the Altroz. But, the petite roof-mounted spoiler and black-finished diffuser elements at the bottom make the i20 look sportier than any other car we have seen in this segment.
On the inside, the new i20’s cabin is fresh and modern, carrying bits and pieces from the more expensive Hyundai models. So, you see the first-in-segment digital instrument cluster borrowed from the Verna, sitting behind the Creta-styled steering wheel. The floating 10-inch touchscreen panel is the biggest in the segment and gets Hyundai’s latest interface too, which is smooth and easy to use. On the centre console, there’s a panel for air-con controls and a vertical ‘Coolpad’ for wireless charging. However, better material quality on the inside would have elevated the feel of the cabin, and the all-black layout misses out on some soft-touch materials too.
In terms of space, the front row is adequately spacious with good visibility all around. There’s a good amount of headroom and sufficient shoulder room too. The seats offer the right amount of support, especially on the side bolstering. Meanwhile, the driver’s seat can be adjusted for height, and the reach-and-rake adjustable steering makes it easier to find the right driving position.
In the second row, the scooped-out the roof helps with added headroom, while there are ample knee and legroom available. Seating three in the back seat should be a comfortable affair too. On the flip side, there’s no cupholder on the folding armrest and no headrest for the middle passenger. Even the seats don’t get split function and the boot space is rather small at 311 litres.
In terms of features and equipment, there’s a long list on offer. This includes the BlueLink connected car tech, wireless charger, sunroof, Oxyboost air purifier with AQI display, digital instrument cluster, TPMS, cooled glovebox, cruise control apart from auto AC with rear air vents, electric ORVMs, auto-dimming mirrors, seven-speaker Bose sound system with sub-woofer, welcome function, puddle lamps, blue ambient lighting, cornering lamps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, fast USB charging ports, and the 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. In terms of safety, Hyundai is offering six airbags in the top-spec version of the i20 along with ABS with EBD, ESC, and hill assist control. Moreover, it also comes with ISOFIX, height-adjustable front seatbelts with a reminder, and speed/impact sensing door locks.
Hyundai is offering three engine and four gearbox options with the i20. Replacing the older 1.4-litre diesel is Hyundai’s newest 1.5-litre U2 diesel producing 99bhp at 4,000rpm and 240Nm from 1,500rpm. It can be had only with a six-speed manual gearbox for now. There are two petrol engines – the familiar 1.2-litre Kappa making 82bhp when paired with manual and 88bhp with the automatic, and a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder T-GDI turbo-petrol motor making 118bhp and 170Nm. The latter can be had with the new iMT or a six-speed DCT automatic transmission choice.
First up, the diesel. On idle, the oil burner feels refined and muted but there are some vibrations felt on the pedals and steering. However, these vibrations won’t be noticeable if you aren’t paying much attention. Engage the first gear and depress the clutch, and you’d notice how improved the clutch action is compared to the older ‘Elite’ i20. The new i20 diesel gets off the mark with a smooth and assuring feel but we noticed a slight lag under 1,500rpm. Go past that and the strong mid-range comes into play where the motor becomes quite tractable. That said, at city speeds you can easily get around with the available low-end grunt without any hassle. But for quick overtakes, you’d need to get the motor into the sweet mid-range between 1,500-3,000rpm. The same mid-range helps with effortless cruising at highway speeds and triple-digit speeds can be maintained without having to strain the motor. But the power does taper off close to 4,000rpm, so it isn’t viable to wring the engine all the way to the 5,000rpm redline. The six-speed manual setup is well-gated with light and easy throws and has a minor notchy feel to it.
On the other hand, the 1.0-litre T-GDI motor feels refined for a three-cylinder unit. You could barely hear it off the line, but go past the 2,000rpm mark and the motor starts to feel alive. Under that, there’s enough grunt to potter around the city speeds without any hassle. It’s a high revving motor and once the turbo is spooled up and ready for action, the fun factor of this motor is increased tremendously. It doesn’t shove you in the seat, but the acceleration is quick and you’d be doing triple-digit speeds in no time. Even maintaining that speed on the highway isn’t difficult as the motor tends to upshift early with enough reserve to catch up for hurried overtakes. What’s more, the DCT is smooth, seamless, and goes about doing its job brilliantly.
In terms of ride quality, the i20 feels on the stiffer side at slower speeds. There are noticeable jitters even on the smallest of irregularities and thuds from the sharp-edged potholes are sent prominently inside the cabin. However, the ride quality improves with the increase in speeds, and the road irregularities are taken astride with a rather reformed poise. Even highway stability is impressive and you can maintain good speeds all day. Combine that with solid braking performance and the new i20 certainly feels confident to drive. There’s a ground clearance of 170mm and the new i20 can thread over the biggest of potholes or unpaved roads with ease.
As for the steering, there’s a slight vagueness around the dead centre. Move past that and it is direct and responsive. Going two and a half turns lock-to-lock the steering feels light and easy to manoeuvre around the city at slower speeds. Out on the highway, it does weigh up nicely but lacks a connected feel which could have made it more involving. Also, you’d need to constantly correct the steering wheel at higher speeds. There’s noticeable body roll present as well so the i20 won’t be your ideal tool for corner carvings. On the upside, the brakes on our diesel i20 were solid and did a commendable job of bringing the hatchback to a halt. But the same cannot be said about the brakes on the DCT-equipped model.
The new-gen Hyundai i20 has not only grown in size compared to the model it replaces, but it also ups the ante of what we should expect from a premium hatchback with its many segment-firsts on offer. Also, it is one of the few cars to offer a diesel engine option, which itself is a reason enough to buy the i20. But more than that, the new i20 also looks fantastic, has a spacious and feature-loaded cabin, and a plethora of variants to choose from ranging across various engine-gearbox combos. So, the new i20 remains a well-packaged family hatchback which ticks all the right boxes. Prices for the new Hyundai i20 range between Rs 6.80 lakh and 10.75 lakh (ex-showroom) and it currently competes against the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Tata Altroz, Honda Jazz, and the Volkswagen Polo.
Pictures By Kapil Angane.