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HYUNDAI i20 1.4 CRDI - Silent assassin

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It took just 11.1 seconds to register 100 kph on the VBox. That and the fact that the car in question was a hatchback raised our collective eyebrows. What did Hyundai do to deliver a car with such a potent package that we actually had to re-run the test a couple of times and then ask a car once again for 20 days just to be sure it is as quick as the numbers suggest?

Well, this is the Hyundai i20 CRDi for you, ladies and gentlemen. The fastest accelerating diesel production hatchback in the country (probably even the fastest accelerating hatch!). What's more, it can deliver identical performance numbers to the outgoing Hyundai Getz diesel, which produced more power and torque (imagine the hottest hatch in India is a diesel!). And considering the overall package that has made the i20 such a roaring success in India and across the world, such capability is hard to ignore. But is it really worth all the tom-tomming or is it just a straightline rocket that can't deliver the goods once it enters a corner? What better than to head out on a long winding road in search of answers.

 

  CRUX OF THE MATTER
Hyundai's favourite gadget these days is the hydraulic lash adjuster. Its job is to reduce tappet noise while improving performance. And so, the i20 diesel gets it along with the roller swing arm. It also gets a swirl control valve to improve efficiency, and the usual raft of lambda sensors – the widgets that make this engine such a brilliant performer. Displacing 1396cc, the twin-camshaft engine produces 88.7 bhp@4000 rpm and a staggering 22.4 kgm@1750-2750 rpm. Put that in perspective with the outgoing Getz diesel and its 20 bhp down on power and 1.6 kgm on torque. Despite all of that, the i20 diesel remains the most powerful diesel hatch in the country and its performance is hardly the kind that won't raise eyebrows.

To put it into perspective, the Skoda Octavia diesel with similar power, but higher kerb weight only pulls its punches to drop the tonne in 13 seconds. The i20 diesel registered 11.12 seconds dead and the expressions on our face said it all. A top speed of 174 kph puts it in a league which only the more powerful petrol hatches can manage. But it's the way the car moves that matters here more than the numbers. As the turbos start to spool around 1900 rpm, there is a massive shove of power and torque that becomes available. What's more, unlike the Suzuki Swift diesel that feels like being launched out of a missile launcher at 2000 rpm, this one feels like being hit in the face by a howitzer shell. Yet, the manner in which it delivers it all is supremely refined for a small car equipped diesel engine with close to no vibes, very little clatter and the usual dose of torque steer.   Place the car in urban conditions however, and it feels a little out of breath. The small amount of turbo lag does impede progress in stop-go traffic, yet doesn't feel as cumbersome as the Swift diesel, despite the first two gears being rather tall. Gearshift quality is decent, with the gears slotting into place rather nicely - it's only when you engage reverse that it tends to feel rubbery. The taller gears also help in delivering a very decent 14.3 kpl overall, with the turbo lag playing truant with its fuel efficiency in city conditions.

LOOK WHO'S TALKING
The i20's biggest trump card has been its features and overall design. That hasn't changed one bit with the i20 diesel with our top-of-the-line spec test car kitted with every imaginable feature you have come to expect from a modern premium car. From electrically folding mirrors to automatic climate control to USB and auxiliary outs for the stereo system, it is pretty well loaded. The quality of trim too is of a high order, even though colours on some surfaces don’t necessarily gel well with the rest of the car. The overall space and space management has always been good with the rear occupants pretty comfortable even with a 6 footer sitting up front, though the legroom and shoulder room is a mite short than the Getz.   Using a combination of McPherson struts and a torsion beam at the rear, the wider front track and overall chassis balance is decent. Yet, the car tends to suffer from understeer on fast sweeping corners while being driven enthusiastically. Ride quality too, though decent, is too unsettled with constant shifting from being crashy to bouncy. Some re-working of the rear suspension, especially in the area of jounce could yield better results. No complaints on overall high speed stability or stability under braking where the car performs pretty well.

FINISHING TOUCHES
The i20 diesel is a pretty good hatchback, given its performance, its relatively decent fuel efficiency, overall kit, fit and finish and the Hyundai value card. But value depends on whether you are looking for a diesel hatch or a diesel premium hatch. If it's the former, then the price tag of Rs 6.50 lakh for the Magna and Rs 7.16 lakh for the Asta put it at a disadvantage. Viewed the other way and the i20 diesel suddenly presents itself to be a competent car that tugs at your heart. Or in this case, our road test sheets too!