Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There are four petrol engines to choose from: four-cylinder 1.2-litre units making 74bhp and 83bhp and turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-litre units making 99bhp and 118bhp.
None is particularly sprightly; even the more powerful of the 1.2-litre engines needs working hard even around town and feels underpowered on faster roads. The 1.0-litre turbo engines are better, and can cope much easier around town. They can also handle longer motorway journeys, with the more potent of the pair offering noticeably perkier acceleration. Even so, these engines don’t come close to the kind of impressive, flexible performance offered by Ford’s Ecoboost or Volkswagen’s TSI engines.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard with all engines apart from the 118bhp 1.0-litre turbo, which gets a six-speeder. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is available as an option with the 99bhp engine, but it slows you down, recording a 0-62mph sprint that’s almost half a second slower than the manual.
Suspension and ride comfort
The i20 copes well with speed bumps and undulations, but it doesn’t quite deal with patched-up surfaces and sharp-edged potholes with the same comfort and ease that its best rivals can. It ends up being quite choppy and fidgety, particularly around town, although it rides smoothly on the motorway.
The i20’s steering is quite numb and slow to respond, making it difficult to gauge the effects of your inputs. This is annoying both when you’re driving quickly and at parking speeds.
Still, the car is generally stable and grippy even through faster bends. It leans quite a bit through tighter corners, but its small size means it always feels planted to the road.
Overall, the i20 is easy to drive, so buyers who simply want something that’s manoeuvrable around town and competent out of it won’t be disappointed. Just be aware that the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza are more enjoyable and confidence-inspiring both in town and on the open road.
Noise and vibration
At low speeds, the higher-powered 1.2-litre engine is smooth and impressively quiet, but rev it hard (which you’ll need to) and it becomes coarse and intrusive. The 1.0-litre turbos sends a bit more vibration through the pedals, and you’re aware of the low engine thrum most of the time. It’s not an unpleasant-sounding engine, but the engine note can become grating when you’re really pushing hard – more so than in the Fiesta.
There’s some noticeable wind and road noise at motorway speeds, but no more than is normal for a small hatchback.
The manual gearboxes have a long, rather vague action, so quick, slick shifts are difficult to manage, unlike in the Fiesta and Ibiza. The automatic actually does a pretty good job of keeping shifts quick without causing big judders or lurches, but it’s more expensive and slows the car down, so we’d stick with a manual.