The current Hyundai i20 is a seriously slick-looking small car, which actually has the kind of interior space that you’d expect from a larger hatchback. Its predecessor, the original i20, has never managed to achieve that sort of star quality, but actually it’s a very decent small hatch with a great deal to recommend it. It sort of got a bit overshadowed by other Hyundai models being launched at the time, such as the larger i30, the ix35 and the third-generation Santa Fe, which is a bit unfair – it’s a car that deserved more recognition.
Basically, you’re going to be buying a 1.2-litre i20. Almost all of the i20s sold in Ireland came with that engine and really it’s no bad thing that this is the case. With 80hp, it has rather usefully more power than most 1.2-litre rivals, and although it’s hardly the fastest thing around (12.7 seconds 0-100km/h) it feels better than the figures might suggest in real world driving.
Actually, if you’re going to describe the way the i20 drives, it would be ‘light.’ Light steering (to the detriment of any enthusiastic driving, but hey, that’s hardly the point right?), light clutch and accelerator and light, easy-going handling. This is not a car for early Sunday morning sprints over a favourite road, but for rolling gently around town and the odd motorway hop, it’s just about perfect. You could try to track down one of the rarer 1.4-litre petrol engines or the little-seen 1.4 diesel, but to be honest, you’ll be wasting your time. The 1.2 is fine, but it’s better to go for the post-2010 model, which saw emissions fall from 124g/km to 119g/km making your road tax a bit cheaper.
Inside, you’ll find a lot of cheap plastics (something that the i20 was criticised heavily for at the time it was launched), but the cabin is nonetheless hard wearing. And well equipped too – most i20s have all-round electric windows, something most competitors lack, and many will have been fitted with air conditioning and a fuel-saving stop-start system.
There are no major reported mechanical problems, and younger versions will still have some of their original five-year warranty left to run. Just make sure you check things like the radio and interior electrics, as those can occasionally develop mysterious gremlins.
Around €11,000 for a 2012 1.2 Comfort.
Hyundai i20 1.2 Comfort
Engine: 1,248cc four-cylinder petrol
Maximum speed: 170km/h
0-100km/h: 12.7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.6 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
• Many still have original warranty cover
• Not very exciting to drive
• Plain styling
• Lacks the sophisticated feel of newer Hyundais
It may not the most exciting car you’ll ever own or drive, but we bet that the i20 will be a satisfying, frugal and affordable little thing to have on your driveway. Lacks the ‘landmark’ status of some other new Hyundais but still a solid, sensible purchase.