The kitted-out rider on the Indian FTR 1200 craned back thrice to get an eyeful of the new Hyundai i20 I was driving, which came as a pleasant surprise to me.
A surprise because I wasn't behind the wheel of a WRC i20 or even an over-200 horsepower i20 N—the i20s I thought might interest someone who's riding an FTR the way it's meant to be ridden (there was a lot of mud on the bike, and on the rider's armour too).
I didn't expect a grey hatchback, albeit quite a sharp one, to arouse the interest of someone riding a nearly 20-lakh-rupee motorcycle. In all fairness though, the new i20 does look like something that didn't lose much in its journey from a concept on stage to an actual car on road.
From the front, it looks sharper than a katana, and gazing at it continuously for longer periods might have cuts appearing mysteriously on your body. People will also avoid resting their behinds on this bonnet for the same reason.
It looks good in profile as well, but I am not quite fond of the rear design, which is sad because that's the view most of you would see on the road. Because it's fast. But more on that a little later.
Right now, in the design stakes, it's an eight on ten in my books, and a nine on ten if I gauge it keeping the number of turned heads in mind.
2020 Hyundai i20 Review: Features & Equipment
Features and equipment comprise the biggest USP of all Hyundais, and the latest i20 is no exception. While, like always, I won't list every feature (you have the company's website and brochure for that) of this car as well, I will certainly tell you about a few which are not present in every car in this segment.
For example, the glovebox is cooled and the steering is adjustable for both rake and reaches (usually you would just find rake adjustability). And you know what the best part is? These two features are standard across all variants.
Then, in addition to wireless charging, there's a cooling pad which is supposed to ensure that your phone doesn't get hot and sweaty while being charged. I think it's a good feature, especially if you have explosive Samsungs.
There's one more feature that I would like to talk about, which is its advanced air purifier. Hyundai is calling it OxyBoost. Apparently, it not only comes with the regular HEPA filter (which removes dust particles, pollen, etc.), but also with some oxygen-gel-based thingy which "removes CO2, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and formaldehyde to generate oxygen". That's what the presentation slide said, before the drive.
Now I am no air-purifier expert, but even I could see that despite the AQI (Air Quality Index) level in Delhi going up to around 500 on November 9 (the day of our drive), the AQI inside hovered between 40 and 70. Which means you're better off doing Wim Hof breathing exercises in the new i20 than in your greenest neighbourhood park.
However, what's irksome is that there's no Asta (O) variant for the iMT, which means you can't have a sunroof, and side & curtain airbags, if you're buying your i20 with the iMT transmission. Ditto for cruise control and adjustable headrests at the rear. Hyundai has given the same treatment to the CVT (known as IVT in the brochure). Why Hyundai? Why can't I have the Asta (O) with the iMT and CVT?
Still, what would save the day is the fact that even the Sportz variant (the one above the base Magna) is quite loaded. Auto headlamps (halogen on the Sportz though, and not LEDs), projector fog lamps (Magna has them too), reverse camera, DRVM (Driver Rear View Monitor), TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System), and a few other goodies are standard in the Sportz variant, which I think would be bought the most.
2020 Hyundai i20 Review: Cabin quality, Ergonomics, Space, and Seat Comfort
The cabin quality of the new i20, as expected from its premium positioning, is quite decent and no owner would ever complain of feeling shortchanged. I have always loved all-black interiors, and that's what you get now in all the i20s.
The seats are comfortable and even six-footers will not complain of headroom, knee room, and legroom. I am not "assuming" this; I did manage to put a six-foot-tall friend inside. He said he was comfortable.
Also, the ergonomics are spot on—everything is exactly where it's supposed to be, and you never really have to hunt for anything. As mentioned earlier, the steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach, which, coupled with the height-adjustable driver seat, will make finding the perfect driving position easy for drivers of all shapes and sizes.
There's a good amount of storage space, and other than the small matter of the air purifier occupying a cup holder, from the two available, between the front seats, I couldn't find anything else in this department to fault the new i20 on. Okay, there is one more; the rear armrest doesn't have any cupholders.
The front one does have a storage compartment underneath, and it (the armrest) slides forward so that you may keep your arm on it and display the newly formed bicep to your date sitting in the passenger seat.
Hyundai says the boot space has increased as well. I didn't get a chance to examine it much, but I shall take their word for it. You should too unless you plan to run it as a taxi, which I don't think you would.
2020 Hyundai i20 Review: Performance
There are five i20 models (engine-gearbox combos) that you can buy:
1) 1.2 petrol manual
2) 1.2 petrol CVT
3) 1.0 turbo petrol iMT
4) 1.0 turbo petrol DCT
5) 1.5 diesel manual
I got to drive the iMT first, and then the diesel. I'll tell you about both, of course.
1.0 turbo petrol iMT Performance
The 1.0-litre turbo petrol produces 120 PS at 6,000 rpm and 172 Nm at 1,500–4,000 rpm. The iMT is a six-speed unit, and you would get accustomed to it within ten mins. Still, once or twice you will forget to upshift/downshift because the absence of a clutch pedal makes you feel that you're driving an automatic.
Thinking out loud, this could be a journo-only thing as most of the times nowadays we are testing only the automatics. Most owners' subconscious won't fool them in a similar fashion.
Anyway, the gearbox is a smooth and precise unit, and it functions just like a normal manual gearbox. The only difference is that YOU don't operate the clutch here, the car does it for you. Also, like in a conventional manual, you don't have to keep your foot on the brake to engage first gear. Of course, you can do that, but it's not a prerequisite like it is on all sorts of automatics.
So, here, you slot it into first and the car will start moving even if you don't have your foot on the accelerator pedal. Think of it like a manual transmission car where you have let the clutch out in first gear without using the throttle and it will start moving ahead as well.
Give it more gas, lift off, change into second, and that's the process you would follow to engage all the six gears smoothly. Just like a manual then. Of course, the iMT will still shift the gears even if you choose to keep the throttle pinned, but it would not be a smooth affair. Again, just like the manual.
Either way, you always have a lot of power at your disposal. Therefore, getting away from traffic at the lights or overtaking the vehicle in front of you—both tasks are accomplished without much effort. The fueling is brilliant, which ensures that every prod of the throttle is instant but not jerky. The tractability is great too, and you would seldom need to downshift. Here are the lowest speeds you can pull from in each gear:
18 kph in 3rd
23 kph in 4th
28 kph in 5th
32 kph in 6th
Any lower and the car will ask you to downshift. Please note that you do have the flexibility of starting in 2nd from a standstill in 2nd. As far as cruising and in-gear acceleration go, this car does 60 kph in 6th at a leisurely 1,300 rpm, and 60 to 80 kph in the same gear comes up in less than six seconds. The same sprint in 5th takes less than five seconds, while in 4th it's done and dusted in just a shade over three seconds. The zero to hundred dashes is achieved in under 12 seconds, whereas the car comes to a complete standstill from 80 kph in less than three seconds.
1.5 diesel manual performance
This engine was a revelation! This car feels so torquey right from the word go, and not without reason. It produces a whopping 240 Nm of torque at 1,500–2,750 rpm. The peak power figure isn't shabby either: 100 PS at 4,000 rpm.
Interestingly, though this car FELT a lot quicker, stronger, and faster than the turbo petrol iMT, the reality turned out to be a bit different. Well, it is indeed quicker to 100 kph, but the difference is less than half a second. In fact, it is slower in the 60 to 80 kph run in fourth, by around three-fourths of a second! Again, it had definitely felt stronger, but the stopwatch doesn't lie.
However, the diesel is the more relaxed cruiser of the two. It sits at 1,900 rpm at 100 kph in 6th whereas the iMT was doing 2,300 rpm at the same speed in 6th.
Overall, if you want power, you can't go wrong with either.
2020 Hyundai i20 Review: Ride & handling
Both cars feel different here as well. The petrol's ride quality feels a tad firmer and, at slow speeds, you'd know exactly how broken the road beneath your tyres is. However, take the same stretch at a fair clip and it gets better! I think it would get even better when there are passengers as well in the car (I was driving alone throughout this test).
The diesel felt just a wee bit softer in comparison, but, strangely, I also felt its ride height to be more as compared to the petrol's. I say "strangely", because both cars ride on same-size wheels and tyres. The air pressure in both cars' tyres was similar too. And I had adjusted the seats in exactly the same manner in both cars. So I know that I wasn't hallucinating.
The only possibility then is that Hyundai is using different spring rates for petrol and diesel i20s (to handle the additional weight of the diesel engine). I must add here that I didn't drive the diesel as much as I drove the petrol, but even in that short span, I could notice these differences. The question you might have right now is whether these differences are big enough to consider one over the other. The simple answer is, no. At best (or worst), if everyone in your family is a fan of Big Mac burgers (with extra cheese), then I reckon it's the diesel's suspension that will be more accommodating and forgiving.
Body roll is more (in both cars) than what I had expected from what appears to be such a low slung car, but this is again something you will hear only from us auto journalists who expect every car to handle like a sportscar. Everyone else will like how the car handles in traffic, and how the steering feels at triple-digit speeds. In other words, the steering is light at city speeds and does weigh up a bit at highway velocities. The crux is: it's an easy car to drive in the city, while not feeling unstable and nervous on the highways.
2020 Hyundai i20 Review: NVH and fuel efficiency
On a scale of one to ten, where one is the lowest and ten is the highest, I would give the petrol an excellent nine for NVH (Noise Vibration & Harshness) while the diesel expectedly trails behind and gets a not-too-bad score of 7.8. Let me quickly add that both cars do a ten on vibration as neither has any of it throughout the rev range. There's no harshness felt anywhere as well; it's just a bit of noise (upon revving high) that compels me to deduct a mark or two from their scorecards.
The diesel fights back in the fuel efficiency round though. Hyundai claims that this is the most frugal diesel car in India with an ARAI figure of over 25 kmpl. Of course, it's impossible to do a tankful to tankful test in a day, but I can tell you what the MID showed and what you may expect as an owner. It showed 17.6 kmpl for the diesel and 14.7 kmpl for the turbo petrol.
2020 Hyundai i20 review
Now considering that potential owners won't be doing repeated acceleration runs, I think, in city traffic, it would be reasonable to expect 18–20 kmpl from the diesel and 15–17 kmpl from the iMT. Take them on highways and add anywhere between two to five kmpl more depending upon your right foot behaviour.
2020 Hyundai i20 Review: Verdict
Justifying the price of the new i20, Hyundai presented an interesting comparison between the new and old 1.2 petrol Asta (O) models.
The company said that though the new car is around 90 thousand rupees more expensive than the old one, it packs in equipment and features worth around 1.9 lakh rupees, thereby leaving the customer in a lakh-rupee profit. This would have made more sense had Hyundai not discontinued the auto-dimming IRVM.
Hyundai also addressed the cannibalization issue, primarily with respect to the Venue vs i20 confusion, which almost every potential buyer of the i20 would go through.
The company says that the buyer of compact SUVs have high-end SUVs in their hearts, but since they can't afford those, they compromise and buy a compact SUV. Whereas the buyer of a premium hatchback aspires for that specific hatchback, and, therefore, doesn't compromise.
I don't agree. I would choose a compact SUV because that is exactly the size I have in mind for a vehicle in India. For example, my friend has a Creta in India, and a KIA Telluride in the Gulf. I know for a fact that he could have bought an Endeavour, Fortuner, Gloster, etc., if he wanted to India, but he didn't want a bigger vehicle. Conversely, there are people who love the Volvo V40, and would "settle" for this i20. Told you I don't agree with them.
Anyway, whether I agree or disagree with Hyundai is absolutely immaterial. My job is to review motorcycles and cars and tell you how they ride/drive and stuff, and also to "report" what the manufacturer is saying about its product. What I feel about their "strategy" is beyond my purview. YOU have to tell me whether you agree with the company or not. But that still doesn't mean I won't give you my verdict. So here it is:
Hyundai i20 iMT (from Rs 6.80 lakh to Rs 9.35 lakh):
A novelty in the segment, as no one else is providing an iMT gearbox at the moment. It's indeed the most stylish hatchback as well. It also has the best cabin space of the lot, and it has the most powerful engine in the segment too.
However, while it's clear that it does most things better than the competition, the fact remains that the Venue iMT SX will appear to be a better proposition to most buyers when they go to the showroom.
At just ten thousand rupees more than the i20 iMT Asta, the Venue gives you the masses' favourite feature: a sunroof. That's something you just cannot get with the i20 iMT, irrespective of the type of credit card you're carrying. You don't get the side and curtain airbags in the i20 iMT because, again, there is no Asta (O) here. You do have the option to spend more and get those in the higher trims of the Venue.
That said, the Sportz variant of the i20 iMT (Rs 7.60 lakh) is the one I'll buy if I have to buy an iMT.
Also, if we talk about the exterior design, parked alongside the i20, Elantra, Verna, and Tucson, the Venue looks more like a Mohan, and not a Venue, in comparison.
Hyundai i20 diesel manual (Rs 8.20 lakh to Rs 10.75 lakh):
In times to come, this might just go down in the car history books as the best i20 ever. It's quicker than the petrol turbo i20 in the standing start sprints; is almost as quick in the roll-ons, and beats them all in the fuel efficiency stakes. Plus, it's ride quality is just that wee bit better than its petrol siblings'. The difference is minute, but it's there.
If I have to drive more than 50 km every day, I shall buy the i20 diesel.
However, the most sensible i20 seems to be the one I haven't driven yet. That would be the 1.2 petrol MT, though I would also want to sample the CVT. Either way, I'll take the Sportz variant, thank you. That's Rs 7.60 lakh for the MT and Rs 8.60 lakh for the CVT.
(All prices are ex-showroom, New Delhi)