First Drive

2015 Hyundai i20 Coupe review

The Hyundai i20 Coupe is the company's first attempt at a sportier, three-door alternative to the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta. Can it match or even beat two of our favourite superminis?

Words ByJohn Howell

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Hyundai is looking to kill two birds with one stone - expand its range and attract a younger audience to the brand. As part of this process, the i20 five-door hatchback has lost its two rear doors and had a 25mm roof chop. The result is the Hyundai i20 Coupe.

The five-door version makes a sensible choice, because it offers class-leading space and a decent drive, for a sensible price.

However, this is the first time that Hyundai has fielded a three-door car in the competitive city car class, which includes our two favourite superminis, the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, as well as the Vauxhall Corsa.

What’s the 2015 Hyundai i20 Coupe like to drive?

Towards the end of this year, Hyundai will be launching a new range of three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines in the i20 range, but for now you are limited to a choice of one petrol or one diesel variant.

The petrol is a 1.2-litre (non-turbo) with 83bhp and 90lb ft of torque. It's relatively quiet and smooth until 4000rpm, at which point it gets a little boomy, but only becomes harsh nearer 6000rpm.

This isn’t ideal because the engine needs to be revved hard to make progress. Even then, it can't match the performance of the equivalent Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost or Polo 1.2 TSI.

If you are trying to build speed along a B-road, it’s best to keep the engine in the upper half of the rev range, although once you’ve got up to motorway speeds, it has the power to maintain momentum.

The diesel version has the opposite character. With twice as much torque (177lb ft) concentrated low down in the rev range, it’s far more flexible at low revs, but it’s also less refined.

This means it pulls happily from around 1500rpm in most gears (although it does run out of puff by about 4000rpm), but there’s noticeably more diesel clatter and vibration through the controls. That said, none of the i20 Coupe’s rivals' diesel engines are particularly refined, either.

Despite its sporty pretensions, the i20 Coupe uses the same suspension settings as the five-door version. As a result, it feels very similar, with lots of grip combined with stability through bends.

The petrol engined i20 Coupe feels noticeably more agile, and can carry more speed into turns without the front washing wider than the heavier diesel.

The diesel also has heavier steering than the petrol, which is both good and bad. The extra weight over the front end makes it feel less fidgety around the straight-ahead, so it's easier to keep it tracking in a straight line than the petrol.

That said, for pottering around town, the slightly lighter steering of the petrol is less demanding, and it weights up more naturally in the corners.

The i20's ride isn't uncomfortable by any stretch, but it is still on the firm side, especially around town.

On the motorway, the i20 manages to keep wind noise to a sensible level, but rough surfaces create quite a bit of road noise, particularly from the rear.

What’s the 2015 Hyundai i20 Coupe like inside?

Like the five-door, the driving position in the Coupe is hard to fault. The head- and legroom are sufficient for people more than six feet tall, and the range of steering wheel adjustment is as good, if not better, than that of its rivals. The front seats also offer good lateral- and lower back support.

The ergonomic dashboard layout makes it simple to operate all the buttons and switches while the large dials are easy to read at a glance. Forward visibility is also good thanks to relatively slight A-pillars, but the shallow rear window and wide C-pillars limit the view rearwards.

The dash itself uses soft-touch plastics, with less pleasing materials generally kept to the lower surfaces. It doesn’t feel a match for the Polo, which has the best perceived cabin quality in this class, but it is arguably better than the more fussy and cheaper feeling interior of the Fiesta.

Even so, it can feel a little drab inside, with an abundance of black and grey surfaces, but there is a curious option to alleviate this. If you want metallic paint (a Β£495 option) and select the Tangerine Orange colour, it comes with orange accents on the seats and dashboard, which adds a welcome splash of colour to brighten things up.

Despite the three-door arrangement, getting in and out of the Coupe is straightforward thanks to a wide door opening, and once in, there’s a reasonable amount of space for up to two adults; three children will fit across the rear bench at a push.

Rear legroom is up with the class best, although tall passengers will find the Coupe’s sloping roofline limits headroom.

While the competition can offer between 280-290 litres of boot space, the i20 Coupe manages a class-leading 336 litres. It also has the added flexibility of a height-adjustable boot floor and a wide tailgate opening, with the only downside being a high load lip. The rear seats are split 60/40 and the backs-rests fold easily to create additional space with a flat load deck.

All i20 Coupe’s come well equipped, with even the entry-level SEs having 16in alloys, Bluetooth, cruise control and rear parking sensors.Trade up to Sport trim and you will add bigger 17in alloys, air-con, automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, and privacy glass.

The whole i20 range, including the Coupe, can now be ordered in a new top-spec Sport-Nav trim. This offers a fully integrated sat-nav infotainment system, complete with a 7.0in touchscreen, DAB radio and a rear parking camera.

Should I buy one?

The i20 Coupe’s outstanding feature is its space and practicality, and if this is your top priority, then yes. It’s also well priced, well equipped, comfortable and decent to drive.

However, we think this petrol engine feels too underpowered, so if you fancy an i20 petrol, we’d wait until the new range of engines come out later this year, or go for the diesel version.

Ultimately the Ford Fiesta remains the best to drive while the VW Polo is still the most refined. This means they continue to be our top choice of the three-door superminis on sale today.

What Car? says...

The rivals:

Ford Fiesta

VW Polo

Hyundai i20 Coupe 1.2 SE

Engine size 1.2-litre petrol

Price from Β£12,725

Power 83bhp

Torque 90lb ft

0-62mph 12.8 seconds

Top speed 106mph

Fuel economy 55.4mpg

CO2 119g/km

Hyundai i20 Coupe 1.4 CRDi SE

Engine size 1.4-litre diesel

Price from Β£14,725

Power 89bhp

Torque 177lb ft

0-62mph 12.1 seconds

Top speed 109mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg

CO2 106g/km