What Car? says...
Talk about U-turns. The previous-generation Hyundai i20 was sold with the slogan “Follow your brain”, which, when all is said and done, meant forget all that namby-pamby emotional stuff – just make a logical choice for your next small car. Ergo, buy an i20.
All that’s gone out of the window now, though. Today’s Hyundai i20 is way funkier than the previous model. Its striking design has creases and angles in all the right places and there are options like two-tone paintwork.
In other words: don’t follow your brain. It’s time to loosen the stiff upper lip, embrace romanticism, let your hair down and follow your heart instead.
It’s not all flights of fancy, though. In fact, there’s still plenty of sensible stuff to pique your impassive side.
The i20 features all the latest must-haves, including a gizmo-laden infotainment system and 48v mild-hybrid engine technology, which aims to make it more efficient. Plus, it’s been designed to provide plenty of space and comes with a Hyundai five-year warranty, which is definitely sensible brain fodder.
Is the Hyundai i20 now a world-beating small car? Is it better than stalwarts like the sharp-handling Ford Fiesta and the classy VW Polo or the other excellent models in this class, including the Honda Jazz? That’s what we’ll be exploring, in detail, in this review. All you need to do is kick back, click forward and we’ll furnish you with the facts.
When you’re fully up to speed we can also help to get you a great deal on your next new car. Simply head over to our New Car Buying service to find out how much you could save. It lists plenty of the best new small car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
This section is nice and simple because the Hyundai i20 is available with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, with either 99bhp or 118bhp. Both have mild-hybrid tech, which means there’s a very small electric motor and battery, which adds a little electrical ‘kick’ to the engine as you drive around.
The entry-level version, badged 1.0 T-GDi 100PS, pulls from about 1800rpm, feels hearty in the mid range, and, while it doesn’t feel hugely energetic in the final furlongs of the rev counter, it finishes the 0-62mph sprint in 10.4sec (11.4sec for the seven-speed auto gearbox). In other words, there’s plenty of poke for town or country driving and it certainly doesn’t feel lacking next to a Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 95 or Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95.
If you want the more powerful 1.0 T-GDi 120PS engine, you’ll have to go for the sportier N-Line trim level. We’ve yet to try that version but, despite the extra power, the official 0-62mph sprint doesn’t seem to be all that much quicker, at 10.1sec if you stick to the manual gearbox. As such, we think the entry-level engine is all you could possibly need.
Suspension and ride comfort
The i20 isn’t a soft and forgiving car, but it is well controlled. Even if you find yourself on a fast country road that’s endured varying degrees of subsidence, you won’t be bucked about like you would in something softer and springier, like, for example, the Citroën C3.
That said, because the i20 is on the firm side, you'll be more aware of the lumps and bumps that you drive over, due to there being a slight thud through the steering wheel. It’s not horrendous and it doesn’t mean that the i20 is uncomfortable, but anyone looking for a small car with more of a focus on comfort should try out the Peugeot 208 or VW Polo instead.
The added up-side of the i20’s firmer suspension set-up is that it handles better than those rivals with more give. That’s because it doesn’t lean over as far when you corner quickly and the lack of bounce makes it feel very stable over mid-corner bumps. Adding to this, the i20’s steering feels sharp and eager to turn in to bends.
It’s not all roses though, because you first have to get past an initial nebulous patch just off centre. There's a vagueness around the centre point, which you’ll mostly notice on the motorway because you’ll have to make little tweaks on the motorway to keep it tracking arrow straight.
Even so, the i20 has plenty of grip and gives you sufficient confidence on a twisty road. It’s actually quite fun through the corners but the playful balance that makes the Fiesta such a hoot to drive spiritedly isn’t quite replicated here. If you want an i20 that’s really fun to drive, you’ll want to take a look at the Hyundai i20 N hot hatch, which is a rival to the Ford Fiesta ST.
Noise and vibration
Like every three-cylinder engine we’ve ever tested, the i20’s thrums a little and produces some slight vibrations, but it’s never coarse or annoying.
The accelerator, brakes and clutch are set up in such a way that you can start off and stop smoothly, and the gearbox is accurate, but not joyously slick like the Fiesta’s.
Once you’re on the motorway, wind noise and road noise are noticeable, as they are in most of its rivals, with the exception of the hushed Polo.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
There’s very little wrong with the essentials in the Hyundai i20, because the seat, pedals and steering wheel line up nicely, and there’s plenty of space for your left foot next to the clutch in manual models. The steering wheel also has enough reach and height extension to cater for most people, and the driver’s seat bolsters stop you spilling over your passenger around tight bends.
There are a couple of issues: there's no lumbar adjustment, even as an option, although to be fair the lower back support is pretty good anyway. The backrest angle is adjusted using a lever that has a set number of positions, rather then the finite control that a wheel adjuster offers.
The digital instruments are clear, but, unlike the Seat Ibiza or VW Polo, they don’t have the option to display a navigation map. Unlike in the Polo, the rest of the controls in the i20, including the climate controls, are easy to adjust, because they’re simple, physical buttons instead of annoying touch-sensitive ones.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Thanks to relatively thin front window pillars, forward visibility is great and you won’t find yourself struggling to see out at junctions. Meanwhile, the view over your shoulder isn’t quite as good, but little quarter windows set into the thick pillars helps to make things slightly better.
Luckily, every trim level comes with rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera as standard, so you won’t struggle when it comes to reversing into a parking space. When it comes to seeing out at night, you’ll have to upgrade to Premium trim if you want LED headlights.
Sat nav and infotainment
So far, we’ve only tried the upgraded system that comes as standard from Premium trim and up, and it's very good. It has a 10.3in touchscreen plus built-in sat-nav. The screen is sharp, the graphics look smart and you get a row of touch-sensitive shortcut buttons to hop between menus. There’s a slight delay swapping between the main menus, after which the software seems more responsive and it’s easy to find what you want after a bit of practice.
The standard stereo has six speakers, but top-spec Ultimate trim adds a Bose system with a subwoofer, as well as wireless phone-charging.
The i20 feels generally solidly made but isn’t as plush as the Mini 5dr or Peugeot 208, which have easily the most deluxe interiors in the class. Unlike its rivals, the i20 doesn’t come with any soft-touch materials, other than its seats and door armrests, which is a tad disappointing.
Even so, thanks to some nicely textured plastics, the slatted design on the dashboard and doors, plus the softly damped switches and two-tone interior on the upper trims, the i20’s interior is still an inviting place to be. It just isn’t as pleasant as the Ibiza and Skoda Fabia.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The front door bins aren’t massive, taking a large bottle of water and little else, but there are enough spaces elsewhere to make up for those, including a large glovebox, cubbies by the gearlever and under the front centre armrest (Premium trim and above), as well as a couple of cup holders.
The i20 isn’t quite at the level of the Honda Jazz for roominess in the rear, but it’s still excellent compared with most of peers. You can get two six-footers in the back seats relatively easily, and adding a third person is doable, but shoulder room won’t be great.
The middle passenger gets more foot space than in many rivals because there's only a small hump on the floor in front of them. There’s very little in the way of storage space in the rear – just small rear door bins. They’ll fit a 500ml bottle but that’s all.
Seat folding and flexibility
Again, the Jazz is the king in this regard, with flexible rear seats that offer many more options than any of its key rivals to help you fit things on board. The i20’s 60/40 split-folding rear seats are merely par for the course, and there aren't any useful additions, such as a ski hatch.
The front passenger’s seat doesn’t get height or lumbar adjustment on any version.
The height-adjustable boot floor adds an extra layer of usability, not just enabling you to create a separate storage area but also for levelling out the boot floor when the rear seats are raised and reducing the height of the internal loading lip.
Accessibility & Motability
Usability for people with disability or their carers
Motability - Access
The door sill is 368mm from the ground. That’s higher than in the Nissan Micra (362mm), but only by 6mm. From inside there’s a 121mm sill to step over when getting out. The Micra has a much lower sill (86mm), while the Corsa’s is higher, at 130mm.
The i20’s height-adjustable driver’s seat can be set anywhere from 557mm to 600mm above the ground. That's on a par with most rival small cars, but if sitting high up is crucial to your comfort, the C3 (658mm) and 208 (639mm) both have loftier maximum seat heights.
Motability - Storage
With a capacity of 326 litres, the Hyundai i20's boot is one of the largest you’ll find in a small car. In fact, it's not far off the luggage space of some cars from the family car class.
The boot will take a folded wheelchair with the rear seats in use, and folding down the back seats should make room for a fully assembled chair. That's a rarity among cars of this size and price.
Motability - Ease of use and options
All versions have 48-volt mild-hybrid technology to assist the engine, and a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes.
Likewise, every version comes with automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, which should aid city driving and parking.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Cash buyers will discover that the Hyundai i20 is similar money to a Ford Fiesta and actually, like for like, a tad more than an equivalent-spec VW Polo. It’s also quite a bit more than rivals including the Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia.
That said, the i20 is predicted to hold onto a bigger chunk of its list price (after three years) compared with the Ibiza or Fabia, or the Fiesta for that matter. It should even manage to hold its price nearly as well as a Mini 5dr. That’s good news because it means that PCP finance prices should remain competitive.
The 1.0 T-GDi 48v Hybrid engine has good official economy and efficiency that puts it up at the sharp end of the class with rivals like the Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 125 Hybrid, which helps to keep your running costs and company car tax bills low. That said, proper hybrids (the i20 is a mild hybrid) like the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris are even better – the latter even proving to be the second most efficient car in our True MPG tests, with an average test mpg of nearly 60mpg.
Equipment, options and extras
We’d suggest sticking with the entry-level SE Connect trim for the best balance of kit for your cash. It has most of what you might want, including all the infotainment and parking aids we’ve talked about, plus air-con, a leather steering wheel and gearlever, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors and 16in alloy wheels.
That said, Premium trim is also worth the extra if you can afford it and like the idea of 17in alloy wheels, heated front seats, privacy glass, power-folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and climate control.
Ultimate trim adds plush items like keyless entry, but it’s also quite expensive, which makes it hard to recommend. N-Line trim adds a sportier edge to proceedings, giving you the most powerful engine and lots of N-Line specific styling both inside and out.
When it comes to reliability, the i20 should serve you well, thanks to Hyundai’s reliability record. In fact, in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey, Hyundai as a brand managed to claim joint 5th place (tied with Suzuki) out of the 32 included manufacturers. That’s below Toyota (2nd) and Mini (3rd) but above Skoda (13th) and way above Ford, which finished down in 27th.
We don’t have any specific data on the latest version of the i20, but the previous version did well in the small car class of our survey, sitting firmly in the top third of the table and way above all of its rivals.
If that wasn’t enough, you get added peace of mind because every Hyundai comes with a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty and five years of UK roadside assistance. That’s better than you’ll get with most rivals but can’t match Kia’s seven-year cover.
Safety and security
When safety experts Euro NCAP tested the i20 in 2021, it was awarded four stars out of five. Looking deeper into the results, the i20 did well at keeping child occupants safe but didn’t score particularly well when it comes to adults in the front, especially in the far-side excursion test.
It’s hard to compare the i20’s results to that of the Fiesta and Polo, due to them being tested in different years and the tests becoming more stringent every year. The Fabia, however, was also tested in 2021 and scored the full five stars, beating the i20 in every area.
Regardless, the i20 should still keep you safe and it comes with plenty of standard safety equipment, including the all important automatic emergency braking (AEB) with forward pedestrian monitoring, driver attention alert, eCall emergency assistance and lane departure assistance. Top-spec Ulimate trim also adds blind spot monitoring and cyclist detection for the AEB.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
The i20 is not available as an electric car but the only engine option – a 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol – does have mild-hybrid assistance. That means it has a small electric motor that provides a boost to acceleration and fuel efficiency but can’t drive the car by itself. There is no regular or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the i20 available.
The 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol unit is the best engine option for the i10 – because it’s the only engine option. As for the trim levels, we’d recommend the entry-level SE Connect version because it offers the best value for money. It comes with some useful kit, including automatic lights, cruise control, a rear-view camera and plenty more.
SE Connect is the entry point in the i20 line-up, and comes with helpful kit such as automatic lights, cruise control and a rear-view camera. Upgrading to Premium trim adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, heated front seats and privacy glass, plus larger (17in) alloy wheels.
The i20’s boot is reasonably big by small car standards, with a volume of 352 litres. That’s larger than you get in the Ford Fiesta and almost matches the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo. The i20’s height-adjustable boot floor also means you can reduce the lip at the entrance, making it easier to slide in large or heavy items.
|RRP price range||£20,770 - £26,530|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||40.4 - 53.2|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||5 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,148 / £1,808|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,297 / £3,616|