Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
For many, the entry-level 1.0 MPi 67PS petrol will be plenty strong enough in town. This little three-cylinder engine allows the i10 to nip away from the lights briskly enough, but can feel a little wheezy when faced with motorway ascents.
With that in mind, we recommend the 1.2 MPi 84PS, which is a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine, if you're planning jaunts into the countryside. With a meatier 83bhp it feels stronger low in the rev range and revs out more willingly, but it's still not as punchy as the equivalent Kia Picanto 1.25 MPi 83. Often you'll need to change down a gear or two for hills or to overtake on motorways, and it gives you a relatively leisurely 12.6sec 0-62mph sprint.
If you want more pep, the 1.0 T-GDi with 99bhp – exclusive to the N Line trim level – might be of interest. Having a turbocharger means it doesn’t need revving as hard to make decent progress; the 10.5sec 0-62mph time is pretty sprightly, although it’s not as quick as the Volkswagen Up GTi. All engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, and it's this we’d advise sticking with. If you opt for the sluggish automatic gearbox, performance suffers greatly.
Suspension and ride comfort
Considering city cars aren't usually the comfiest modes of transport, the i10 is a revelation. Even on the largest 16in wheels, it takes the sting out of vicious urban potholes and resists fidgeting annoyingly over pimpled surfaces. Don't expect too much – there are small cars like the Peugeot 208 that ride better – but by the standards of the class, the i10's impressive.
Increase your speed and it continues in that good vein. There's a supple edge that makes even long motorway jaunts a breeze, yet it avoids feeling soft and bouncy like the Dacia Sandero is.
The N Line gets stiffer springs and its ride is noticeably firmer, but while you’ll feel road imperfections more clearly, they are dealt with quickly and with no nasty crashes or thumps. Although the regular version is certainly more comfortable, we suspect those who like the idea of a slightly sporting hatchback will be more than happy.
Let’s cut to the chase. You can have a surprising amount of fun in the i10. Even looking at it practically, its tight turning circle and light steering make town driving a blast. Thankfully, the steering weights up nicely at speed, so the i10 never feels skittish on open roads. In fact, it's the steering's precision and natural-feeling responses that make the i10 such an enjoyable and easy car to place. You’ll also find that the i10 musters more grip in the wet than the Kia Picanto.
That said, the Picanto is better at resisting body roll, and that gives it more of a playful agility to please those who really revel in throwing a car about. Stiffer i10 N Line models roll a little less in bends, feel a bit more poised and, therefore, more fun, but the difference isn’t night and day.
Noise and vibration
By the standards of dinky, three-cylinder engines, the 1.0 MPi is a refined little lump that’s smoother and quieter than a Toyota Aygo's engine. You will feel a little bit of vibration coming through the steering wheel at idle, but it’s still one of the smoothest in the class. The same goes for the 1.0 T-GDi, although this has a fruitier sound that’s in keeping with the N Line trim’s sportier demeanour.
The 1.2 MPi is even better. Thanks to an extra cylinder that improves the engine's smoothness, you’ll feel fewer vibrations through the controls. And because it’s that much stronger than the 1.0 MPI, it doesn’t need thrashing as hard, either, leading to a quieter life. Wind and road noise at 70mph are much better contained than is the case in a Picanto, although at that speed you can hear both engines whirring away in the background.
The standard five-speed manual gearbox has a light, slick and precise action, while the brakes are easy to modulate in stop-start traffic. The only issue is the clutch and accelerator of non-turbocharged models; the engine frequently bogs down and feels like it's about to stall as you ease up the clutch. You can prevent this by adding more revs, but this foible rather blots the i10's refined copybook. The automatic gearbox, meanwhile, is less clunky than that of the Toyota Aygo, but we'd still suggest avoiding it if you can.
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