A ‘mainstream’ delight
Test reports are most certainly not the preserve of the fast and glamorous. For the most obvious reason, the overall majority of motorists don’t actually enjoy motoring very much and have absolutely no interest in owning a car with so many gadgets, gimmicks, and totally unnecessary additions that the run to the supermarket becomes a high-speed, fear-driven chore.
The little Hyundai i20 has a variety of sensible, easy-to-understand controls, some on the steering arm itself. She is most certainly good to look upon, even more so in the three-door version which came as a total surprise. This car is absolutely bang in the middle of mainstream motoring as it turns out.
Even non-believers should enjoy the motoring experience to a degree seldom encountered in offerings from today’s manufacturers. The quality is there. The sharp body lines and distinctive grill immediately catch the eye, and the purpose behind these most distinctive lines is to add to the stability and control of the vehicle.
We were amazed at the cargo hold with the rear seats folded down: 1,060 litres of space is frankly enormous, and with the seats in place there is still room to carry plenty of luggage in the 295-litre space.
This Hyundai is very much a multi-purpose car and the brightly illuminated glove box has a special refrigeration device to keep things cold, great on a hot Maltese day.
The fact that this small offering has rain and light sensors as well as cruise control and the choice of either an analogue instrument panel with classic round dials or a totally up-to-the-minute Supervision cluster, as the manufacturer calls it – which makes it easy to monitor vital engine functions, current fuel level, cruise control and speed limiter settings at a glance – actually seems to be one giant step forward for all those owners who never look at any of the instruments, dials or warning lights anyway.
Obviously all the standard safety features have been provided and the occupants of the i20 can feel as safe in this small delight as they would in far larger vehicles. ABS, ESC plus vehicle stability management help keep the car on the black-stuff and darn good seat belts, front, side, and curtain airbags make the passenger cell even safer. For those who enjoy even more luxuries there are options like rear parking assist and camera, heated electric side – mirrors, cruise control, a rain sensor, and a smart key with button start.
No car is better, or safer than its suspension and the i20 comes on line with, at the front fully independent sub-frame mounted MacPherson struts with coil springs and gas-filled shock absorbers and at the rear a coupled torsion beam with gas filled shock absorbers.
This is all mated to a very decent floor pan, which accounts for the fantastic degree of control that even an uninterested driver automatically has at his or her fingertips. This car is incredibly easy to drive well. The steering is almost a touch too light for our preference, the brakes positive without being remotely fierce or demanding.
Hyundai have from inception provided their cars with gear changes that make every other manufacturer green with engineering desire. The i20 is of course, no exception and we enjoyed going up and down the box for the sheer fun of it.
Town motoring becomes fun once more in this willing, little workhorse. Parking is easy, provided that councils have painted five-metre parking bays, because at 3,995 mm, light steering and optional rear view camera, it all becomes a bit of a doddle, even without the rear view camera.
In fact, all round visibility is really exceptional, and this is yet another reason why this car is ideal for so many drivers.
We viewed her with critical eyes, demanded more of her than would be normal and yet enjoyed the drive to a degree that was totally unexpected. This may well be because in the great scheme of things it is our opinion that Hyundai has struck such a balance – struck a chord that will resonate across the spectrum of old and young, male and female.
All of you that get behind the wheel of the i20 can believe that the car of your choice is not unduly demanding, behaves superbly well and will just possibly allow even the totally unconvinced among you to enjoy your driving just a little bit more.
Driving should be fun, not a dreaded experience making for terror, panic attacks or even blank refusal to venture out onto our overcrowded roads, and the i20 is the car in our opinion to quite probably prove the point to all of you.
Good seats, good driving stance, comfortable to drive.
More than adequate from the 1.25-litre engine.
Everything to all drivers.
5 stars in class. Say no more.
At a glance
85bhp at 6,000rpm
120.7nm at 4,000rpm