Hyundai i20 (2020) Review

Hyundai i20 (2020) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
There's nothing massively wrong with how the Hyundai i20 goes about its business but then, aside from its rear-seat space, there's nothing astonishingly good either, making it hard to recommend against near-perfect rivals like the Volkswagen Polo.

+You get lots of equipment for your money, the back seat is roomy, plus the mild-hybrid engine is economical and nippy.

-Already looks dated, isn't as fun nor as comfortable to drive as rivals and the interior feels uninspiringly cheap.

The Hyundai i20 comes loaded with kit, gets decent infotainment and has a high-tech engine that provides nippy performance and decent fuel economy. In an uncompetitive class that would be enough to rocket it to the top of your shopping list, but the small car class is far from uncompetitive and, up against its rivals, the i20 struggles to shine. It matches a Volkswagen Polo for space, but gets nowhere near its interior quality and can't compete with its finely tuned balance between being comfortable and enjoyable to drive. As such, the i20's generous equipment list seems like an attempt to hide its deficiencies, rather than enhance its qualities. 

Rightly so, much has been made of Hyundai's climb from budget brand to mainstream carmaker that occasionally nibbles on the heels of premium models. But, in many ways, the Hyundai i20 feels like a car that's caught back in time – its generous equipment list and excellent warranty designed to make up for the fact that it's fundamentally off the pace.

And if that sounds harsh it shouldn't do because the i20 is up against cars that are pound-for-pound some of the best currently on sale.

It gets off to a shaky start with its looks. They comprise piercing headlights, an angular grille and a variety of overlapping body creases that make for a fussy overall appearance, which the neat back end – complete with its wraparound rear lights – doesn't rectify. More striking than the vanilla old model? Sure. Genuinely good looking? That's for you to decide.

Things get worse on the inside where the interior really isn't good enough. You sense that a lot of new cars have to sacrifice overall quality to provide you with (what seems like) compulsory large infotainment screens – and the i20's displays are the some of the biggest you'll find at this price point.

Perhaps because of this, the rest of the cabin has vast swathes of cheap-feeling plastics that don't cut it when rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Toyota Yaris all treat you to flashes of softer, more expensive feeling materials.

Where the i20 matches the Polo and has the measure of the other two is interior space. Upfront, the range of seat adjustment means whether you're tall, small, have long arms or short legs – you'll be able to get a comfortable driving position. Meanwhile, try out the back seat and you'll find your passengers get a surprising amount of knee room in what is, remember, Hyundai's second smallest car.

What you don't get is a wide range of engines because (ignoring the incoming i20 N hot hatch) there's only one option – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol that produces 100PS and is boosted by a small electric motor via a 48V electrical supply. It's a combination that delivers decent performance and fuel economy but isn't as characterful as similar units fitted to other small cars.

The driving experience also wants for defining features. The Hyundai's composed and grippy in bends but it lacks the cheeky nimbleness of a Ford Fiesta or the well-behaved fluidity and comfort of a Volkswagen Polo, because of this the Hyundai's not very memorable.

And that sums up the i20. There's nothing glaringly wrong with it in isolation but what it fails to serve up is that little bit of magic that separates a good car from a great car. Unfortunately for the i20, more than one of its rivals hits on that winning formula.

Ask Honest John

Can you recommend a small, economical car to replace my ageing Micra?
"I drive a Nissan Micra and it's getting old (2006, 110,000 miles) so I'm looking at what to buy next. I would like something similar regarding economy of fuel and reliability; nothing has ever gone wrong with my current car. However, I would really like to get something just slightly bigger so passengers are less squashed. I'm doubting I can improve upon the Micra, but value your opinion. The new Micra seems more flimsy in its body work, or am I wrong about this?"
While the Micra used to be a really robust, reliable little car, it's true that the latest models don't have quite the same reputation. We'd recommend a Honda Jazz. It's a very reliable car and more practical than most small cars. Also consider a Hyundai i20 or Ford Fiesta.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What does a Hyundai i20 (2020) cost?

Buy new from £16,951 (list price from £18,565)