Hyundai i10 1.2 Premium SE
List price £13,110
Target Price £12,152
For several years the i10 has been the best city car. Once again it must prove its mettle.
Kia Picanto 1.25 MPi GT-Line
List price £12,450
Target Price £12,129
The previous Picanto didn’t win our praises, but this all-new model looks to be a far better package.
Suzuki Ignis 1.2 Dualjet 2WD SZ-T
List price £11,749
Target Price £11,222
The Ignis may look like a miniature SUV, but it’s actually cheaper than its city car rivals.
Ah, the good old days. But were they? You could argue that we’ve never had it better. Take city cars; in the past you doled out your money for one and in return received four wheels, a wheezy engine and a couple of doors with wind-up windows. That was your lot.
Not any more. For example, the new Kia Picanto has a relatively gutsy 83bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine and, in GT-Line trim, comes with electric front windows, air-con, alloy wheels and a sporty bodykit.
Then there’s the quirky Suzuki Ignis. Launched earlier this year, it’s a city car-cum-miniature SUV. You can even have it with four-wheel drive, although the version we have here is driven by its front wheels.
But the daddy of the class for the past few years has been Hyundai's i10. Good to drive, relatively roomy and luxuriantly appointed in range-topping Premium SE trim, it’s a fine buy, but is it about to be beaten?
What are they like to drive?
You don’t need loads of power in a city car – just an engine peppy enough to zip you away cleanly from traffic lights and with enough in reserve for the odd blast up the motorway. All three cars fulfil this brief, although there is a pecking order, with the Ignis easily the punchiest for acceleration and the hardest-pulling from low revs, allowing you to keep up with traffic without continually shifting gear. The Picanto and, even more so, the i10 make you work their engines a bit harder for the same turn of pace.
When you do, it’s immediately apparent that the Picanto’s engine is the gruffest-sounding, especially in the upper reaches of its rev range. It also has a less slick gearchange than the other two. The i10 actually has the same basic engine as the Picanto, but better sound deadening means it’s less intrusive, although the Ignis’s motor is the smoothest and sweetest-sounding.
Around town, the Ignis is quietest inside, but the amount of wind noise it generates at 70mph is irksome. At the same speed in the other two, you hear more engine thrum, but in the Picanto it’s the road noise that grates. The i10 is the most peaceful cruiser, suppressing both road and wind noise well.
The i10 is also the smoothest-riding. It isn’t perfect – it still jars over deeply scarred roads – but it absorbs smaller undulations well. The softer Ignis also deals well with smaller imperfections, but hit something sharp and it sends a violent thwack right through the car. The Picanto’s bigger wheels and firmer suspension mean it fidgets the most in town and at speed, although at least it doesn’t crash over potholes like the Ignis.
However, the Picanto’s stiffness helps in corners. By a whisker over the i10, it leans the least and grips the hardest. It also has the most accurate steering, which, despite not weighting up as progressively as we’d wish, lets you place the front of the car where you want it.
The i10 is almost as composed, but its steering is heavier and feels less natural as a result. However, it’s nowhere near as bad as the Ignis’s, which gives alarming kickback over mid-corner bumps and doesn’t self-centre properly on the way out of low-speed turns. The Ignis also sways about the most in corners and has the least grip.
That poor grip largely explains why the Ignis needs six metres more than its rivals to stop from 70mph. Its long brake pedal travel doesn’t give as much confidence as the firmer pedals in its rivals, either.
Page 1 of 5