2015 Hyundai i20: inside the cabin
* First sit inside the new Hyundai i20 at Frankfurt unveiling * All-new model due on sale at the end of January * Improved interior quality and space...
Hyundai's got a job on its hands with the new i20. First, it has to outdo the latest Ford Fiesta and the recently face-lifted VW Polo; then it has to anticipate and beat what's coming next – and that means, in the next three months alone, the Mazda 2, the Vauxhall Corsa and an all-new Skoda Fabia.
If Hyundai is worried about this, it isn't showing it. The i20 makes up 19% of the firm's European sales, but that's a relatively small percentage compared with the contribution that the Fiesta, Corsa and Polo make to their respective manufacturers' tallies. There's scope, says Hyundai Europe CEO Allan Rushforth, for the i20 to sell more than 100,000 units per year.
Thing is, the outgoing i20 is the last of an old breed; the arrival of the new edition marks the final step in a process of renewing every Hyundai in the line-up over the past five years. Hyundais are now bought on design first, then on value, the company says – but the old i20 (sales of which have continued to increase during its life) is still selling on value for money.
A quick poke around the new cars at Hyundai's Frankfurt unveiling event today shows the steps that have been made. The new i20 feels bigger inside; two six-footers should be able to get into the back without worrying much about head- or shoulder-room. The fabrics on the seats have had an upgrade, too; they have an appealing texture that's much more like denim or cotton than the stuff you usually get on car seats.
Up front, there's a slab of flat colour (if you want it) across the middle of the dashboard – either blue, or grey, or (a lot of) beige. The alternative is black, which is pretty drab. However, unlike the i10, the plastics on the dash do have a little bit of 'give' in them; they're extremely dense, true, but we should really call them padded, which is good.
It should be easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, thanks to a huge range of height adjustment on the driver's seat and plenty of reach and rake movement on the steering wheel. It does feel nicely screwed together; do not doubt that this is another step from Hyundai, in precisely the same way that the latest i10 put the old one in the shade.
The biggest worry is infotainment. We've just seen the face-lifted VW Polo make huge gains in that area, and while the i20 will be available with an integrated seven-inch satellite-navigation system, it may not appear far enough down the range. For example, only the base edition of the forthcoming Skoda Fabia is likely to have to 'make do' with a simple monochrome LCD display in the centre of the dash, but from the cars on show here in Frankfurt, it looks like most i20s will have that.
Hyundai will no doubt say that the smartphone cradle that's available on top of the fascia offers enough integration to make up for the lack of a colour screen. Time will tell, but it's worth remembering that the Volkswagen Polo (and, one presumes, the Fabia) have phone integration sewn up pretty well, thanks to MirrorLink. That tech is nowhere to be seen on the Hyundai's spec list.
The i10 is barely a year old but its infotainment already looks a little limited compared with the colourful options available in rivals from Citroen, Peugeot, Seat, Skoda, Toyota and VW. We're still waiting for trim levels and specs, but Hyundai needs to bold on the standard equipment list to ensure that the i20 doesn't suffer a similar fate.