Hyundai i20 review - more fun than a Vauxhall Corsa?
"The latest i20 is well-equipped, stylish and is worth considering for supermini buyers"
- Good to drive
- Lots of standard tech
- Just one engine
- Some cheap interior materials
- Small boot on mild-hybrid models
Verdict - Is the Hyundai i20 a good car?
The Hyundai i20 offers as much, if not more driver engagement than many rivals, comes well-equipped and looks good, with the benefit of innovative technology to boost efficiency. However, the i20 doesn’t lead the way in terms of comfort or practicality, and while the interior is better than before, some materials look and feel cheap. The 2023 facelift was only minimal, and while rivals such as the Vauxhall Corsa have been improved with a mid-life refresh, the i20 feels like it’s mostly familiar from before.
Hyundai i20 models, specs and alternatives
The Hyundai i20 is the South Korean brand’s supermini offering, going up against other more well-established names in this hotly contested class, such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and Renault Clio. Although the previous model offered great reliability, practicality and low running costs, the latest i20 seeks to deliver the ‘X factor’ – attributes that make a supermini great by making it more desirable, fun to drive and enjoyable to be in.
The supermini class has shrunk in recent years, with even well-established rivals such as the Ford Fiesta being cut from the brand’s lineup. Before it was discontinued, though, it set the precedent for the supermini class. It’s clear that the latest Hyundai i20 had this fun-to-drive supermini firmly in its sights, given it was developed with the hot-hatch ‘N’ version in mind (we’ve reviewed the Hyundai i20 N separately) to compete with the Fiesta ST.
While the Hyundai i20 is by no means uncomfortable, its focus on driving fun does equate to a firmer ride compared to some rivals and could deter buyers looking for comfort first and foremost – the Citroen C3 and Skoda Fabia offer a more comfortable drive at the expense of driver engagement.
The i20 was facelifted midway through 2023, but the changes were minimal. The Hyundai logo was relocated from the grille to the bonnet, while the front and rear bumpers get a sportier design than before. The Hyundai i20 N hot hatch also went off sale with the facelift, and as of early 2024, there’s no sign yet on if or when it will return.
Before the update, the i20’s engine range consisted of just one size in two power outputs, both with mild-hybrid assistance: a 1.0-litre petrol three-cylinder unit with 99bhp or 118bhp. The latter was discontinued as part of the refresh in favour of the 99bhp version, which comes with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission. The i20’s sophisticated fuel-saving systems boost efficiency, keep running costs down and bump up the car’s acceleration, so the engine still manages to be peppy, smooth and refined despite its small size.
The Hyundai i20 boasts a competitive fuel economy figure of up to 53.2mpg with 120g/km of CO2, which is also helped by an innovative system that can decouple drive from the gearbox when you come off the throttle, allowing the car to 'coast' with the engine temporarily switched off. Although that may sound jarring, the i20 has one of the smoothest mild-hybrid setups we've tried so far.
The i20's interior is a bit of a mixed bag but there’s more good than bad and it’s certainly an improvement over the previous model. On the positive side, there's lots of tech and space. Hyundai equips the Advance base model with an eight-inch touchscreen to the left of the instrument binnacle - for all other models this is upgraded to a 10.25-inch screen. There's a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel on all models. Features like air-conditioning, cruise control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay also come as standard on all cars. There are almost no options available but Premium trim adds LED lights, folding mirrors, auto wipers, heated front seats and even a heated steering wheel, along with 17-inch alloy wheels – this is the model we’d recommend for most buyers.
What's slightly disappointing is some of the interior materials, because while the swooshes across the dashboard look distinctive, there's a lot of hard and scratchy plastic lower down in the car – which is made all too obvious on versions with grey trim. You’ll feel where costs have been cut every time you use the handbrake, too. There's more chrome or gloss-black trim in the Fiesta and Clio, bringing a classier feel, and even cheaper plastics tend to be patterned to make them look more attractive.
There are no worries about passenger space in the i20, with enough room in the back for two six-foot adults, which is about as much as you can ask for in a supermini. The boot isn’t so great, with the battery for the mild-hybrid system stashed under the boot floor, which drastically cuts into space. Now that the mild-hybrid technology features on every i20, there are just 262 litres to fill; much less than a Skoda Fabia or Renault Clio.
Hyundai has also fitted the i20 with plenty of safety kit, clearly wanting to better the four-star Euro NCAP safety result of the outgoing i20. Its 'SafetySense' suite of technology includes active safety kit like autonomous emergency braking to help mitigate collisions.