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New Hyundai i20 review - An i for detail

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, is my motto. But not Hyundai’s. The popular premium hatch from the Korean automaker gets its first facelift and with it, a few tweaks too. The first thing you’ll notice about it is that the whole front clip is different. The outgoing model was a decent looking car, but this one is definitely better. Though the changes are minimal, they do help the car look radically different from the outgoing model, especially thanks to the headlights, grille and front bumper assembly. The profile remains the same, while at the rear we have new tail-lamps and a new bumper cover.

Even on the inside, the changes are minimal – it was always loaded to start with. The addition of an armrest for the driver’s seat is something I found very comfortable on longer drives. You also get a Bluetooth-enabled audio system, steering mounted audio controls and a few new trim pieces here and there.

 

It’s loaded to the gills with features though, we’ll give it that. The top-end model we drove came with all the boxes ticked, which meant a sunroof, keyless entry and start-stop button and such, so there’s more than enough to play with if you’re ever bored in traffic. There’s even a parking camera mounted at the rear which displays right into the rear-view mirror, like with the Verna.

But the changes are more than skin-deep. Hyundai has reworked the front suspension settings to make it ride softer. Now I don’t know whether that’s a good thing, because at high speeds the car was a bit of a handful and now it is even more prominent. But in the city, it is brilliant because of its light steering feel, easy controls and great ride quality. As the speeds rise though, that steering doesn’t tighten up as much as we’d like it to, the ride is soft and wallowy, much like the other Hyundais that have come out recently. We’re looking at you, Verna!

Now, the old car wasn’t exactly what we’d call a great driver’s car. This one though, takes all the effort, and with it, the joy, out of driving it. Great if you’re looking to just get from A to B without much fuss, but if you’re in the market for an involving car but also needed the space, you’ll be looking elsewhere.

Engine options (1.2 and 1.4 petrol and 1.4 diesel) are unchanged, except for the entry-level petrol. The same 1.2-litre Kappa engine which also does terrific duty in the i10, has variable valve timing trickery to help with emissions as well as power. There’s a 5 bhp bump in power on paper. Though I never felt the presence of those extra horses, the testing equipment assures me that they’re in fact very much present, but are a bit lazy at the lower end of the rev-range. The city friendliness of the steering and the lack of low-down torque from the engine are at odds with each other. You see a gap in traffic, but by the time the engine comes up to speed, the gap no longer exists. It is a smooth unit though, and at the top of the rev-range even emits a nice rorty note from the exhaust. Keep the revs high and you’ll definitely get some fun out of the engine.

So, is it still a great buy? Well, yes. Hyundai itself was taken by surprise by the warm reception the i20 got in the country. The fundamentals of the car – ease of city use, features, looks, quality and space – are unchanged, and with the facelift, the i20 proposition has only got better. So if you’re looking for a reliable, premium urban runabout, this Hyundai cannot be beat. But if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush,better look elsewhere.