There are four petrol engines available – a 1.2 with either 74bhp or 83bhp, and a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged engine with either 99bhp or 118bhp. A 99bhp 1.4 is the only automatic model in the range.
The 1.2s both have five-speed manual gearboxes. We’ve driven the higher-powered 1.2, which feels slow enough to need working hard even around town, while out on faster roads it can feel underpowered.
The 1.0 engine is certainly the best performer in the range. In either 99bhp or 118bhp guise, it feels good on the motorway, although the higher-powered 120 engine gets a six-speed gearbox and noticeably perkier response.
Diesel options are limited to a 74bhp three-cylinder 1.1 or an 89bhp four-cylinder 1.4. The 1.1 is almost as remarkable for its efficiency as it is for its slow, strained performance, which makes the more flexible, responsive 1.4 diesel a better bet.
The three-door i20 Coupe gets the higher-powered 1.2 petrol or both 1.0-litre turbocharged engines, but there are no diesel or automatic options.
Hyundai i20 ride comfort
The i20 copes well with speed bumps and long undulations, but patched-up surfaces and sharp-edged potholes unsettle it at any speed. It ends up feeling choppier than ideal, particularly around town.
There is only the one suspension set-up – the same for the three and five-door – so you’ll have similarly acceptable but often fidgety ride comfort regardless of spec and model.
The 17in alloys fitted to all three-door models, apart from those in base trim only, make things worse, so avoid those if you’re after a comfortable ride. Five-door models get 16in wheels even on top-spec models, so ride with a little more pliancy.
Hyundai i20 handling
The Hyundai’s steering is quite heavy and slow to respond, which can be annoying at parking speeds – particularly in the diesel, which has a fractionally weightier set-up.
Still, it’s generally stable and grippy even through faster bends, and while there is quite a bit of body lean through fast corners, and body float over faster crests, it’s progressive enough that it’s unlikely to make your passengers feel sick.
Overall, the Hyundai feels easy to drive, so buyers who simply want something that’s manoeuvrable around town and composed elsewhere won’t be disappointed. Just be aware that alternatives such as the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia are more enjoyable and confidence-inspiring both in town and on the open road.
Hyundai i20 refinement
At low speeds, the high-powered 1.2 petrol engine is smooth and impressively quiet, but rev it hard and it becomes coarse and intrusive. The 1.0-litre engines do send a bit more vibration through the pedals than the 1.2, and you’re aware of the low engine thrum most of the time, but it’s not an unpleasant sounding engine and it’s willing to rev and quiet enough most of the time.
The 1.1-litre diesel is less civilised, sending an unwelcome buzz through the pedals and generating a noisy three-cylinder warble when worked hard, while the four-cylinder 1.4 is a bit smoother and easier to ignore. There’s some noticeable wind and road noise at motorway speeds, but no more than is normal for this class of car, and the manual gearboxes are pretty slick.
Refined and happy to rev, but slow even if you do work it hard. The standard five-speed manual gearbox is fairly slick-shifting.
Our pick 1.0 T-GDI 100
The best bet for most private or company users, provided you’re not planning on doing a lot of motorway or open-road motoring, when the 120 with a six-speed manual will likely be worth the extra. This engine picks up well and feels willing to rev, so is easy to use and works out well financially.
1.0 T-GDI 120
A good option for those buyers who value a bit more response on the open road. Fitted with a six-speed gearbox, this engine feels perky enough to satisfy even on the motorway, but it’s still efficient and easy to use elsewhere.
Quieter than most diesel engines in rival small cars, but still gritty-sounding, and hard work in faster traffic thanks to the shortage of power. Not quite as economical as we hoped, either – we returned 55.1mpg in real world use.
Our pick of the diesels, because it has much perkier performance than the 1.1, making it feel more relaxing most of the time. It’s likely to be more economical than the 1.1, as our real-world economy figure of 58.5mpg shows.