Hyundai launched the new i20 last year but the underwhelming engine options of a naturally aspirated 1.2 or 1.4 were a limiting factor next to what is available in rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza. Here is Hyundai’s solution: a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, available in either 98bhp and five-speed manual guise, or 118bhp with a six-speed 'box.
We’re testing the more powerful version, which is available only in the higher two of the three trims on the Coupe.
What’s the 2016 Hyundai i20 Coupe 1.0 T-GDi like to drive?
That Coupe badge does tend to bring with it the expectation of at least a mildly entertaining drive, and the new engine goes some way to delivering that. It revs willingly and with an encouraging, friendly burble from the exhaust, delivering reasonably zesty response provided you’re willing to keep it higher up the rev range. That does mean that you have to work the six-speed gearbox a bit to get the best performance, but with a light clutch and gearshift action that’s no massive chore.
Unfortunately, that’s where the fun stops; the handling is safe but underwhelming. Certainly, there’s enough grip to confidently carry a good speed through a bend, but the i20 will wash wide much sooner than a Ford Fiesta, and while the i20's steering weights up in faster corners, it's never very direct.
More disappointing than that is the ride comfort. This engine only comes with 17in alloys, on which the i20 thumps harshly over sunken manhole covers or potholes, and fidgets at higher speeds. Certainly, there’s none of the pliant damping and poised, involving handling that you enjoy in the Ford Fiesta.
Some might wish that the engine note would die down a little more when you’re on a steady throttle, but otherwise, refinement in the i20 is more than adequate for what you’d expect from a small car.
What’s the 2016 Hyundai i20 Coupe 1.0 T-GDi like inside?
You have to go for the top-spec Sport Nav trim to get the colour touchscreen shown here, and if you do then it’s a fairly smart-looking interior. It does err more towards the durable rather than classy if you start looking more carefully around the cabin when you’ll find some flimsy-feeling air vents and plastics, but most controls are where you want them and clearly labelled.
Lower end trims get a Smartphone docking station instead of the touchscreen, which can be a bit clunky but does offer a convenient way to charge a phone and keep it securely in your line of sight if you wish to use a phone-based sat-nav. DAB is not standard, though, so you’ll have to rely on your phone’s internet signal if you want to listen to digital radio through the car’s system. USB input and Bluetooth are standard across the range, though.
The driving position is good, with enough side support in the seats to keep you in place through corners, although some might want the seat to drop a little lower than it does.
The i20 also excels in terms of its space and practicality in this class. Two average-sized adults will be able to sit in the back reasonably comfortably thanks to the generous leg room – which is better than you’ll enjoy in most rivals – although anybody approaching six feet tall will find it uncomfortable due to the limited head room. You can seat three on the rear bench, but the middle passenger won’t want to stay there for long.
The boot is also bigger than those offered by many rivals, and you get standard variable-height boot floor, as well as the default 60/40, split folding rear seats.
Should I buy one?
Only if you’re tied to getting the lowest possible insurance rating, since the Group 11 insurance of the Hyundai is usefully lower than that of the Ford Fiesta Zetec S Ecoboost 125 or Suzuki Swift Sport that would be our first choices in this price range. In fact, the Suzuki is much cheaper (by more than £1500 going by list price) and both of these alternatives are noticeably faster and vastly more fun.
Simply put, the Hyundai makes sense for those who might want a sporty-looking car that puts safety and running costs far ahead of performance and fun, making it a good option for new drivers in particular. Otherwise, there are much more comfortable and enjoyable alternatives – primarily those already mentioned – and some at a better price, too.
What Car? says...
Hyundai i20 Coupe 1.0 T-GDi 120 Engine size 1.0-litre turbo Price from £15,525 Power 118bhp Torque 126lb ft 0-62mph 10.2 seconds Top speed 118mph Fuel economy 58.9mpg CO2 112g/km