First Drive

First Drive: Hyundai i20 pre-production

The story:
Hyundai has allowed us access to a prototype version of its new i20.
Key rival:Ford Fiesta
Hyundai i20
On sale:Late 2020

Hyundai is keen to build momentum for its all-new i20 which arrives in the UK towards the end of this year, so it has let Company Car Today loose on a pre-production prototype of its striking new supermini.

The i20 has hints of Seat Ibiza about the front end, which is certainly not a criticism, and the car’s rear features a pronounced lighting bar across the tailgate is a distinctive styling cue in what is an edgier design than the more rounded Hyundais of old.

First Drive- October 2020-Hyundai i20-Image 6That’s enhanced by the new car being 24mm lower than its predecessor, as well as 30mm wider and 5mm longer, stretching the body into a sleeker and less upright stance. It’s also increased the boot by 25 litres to 321, which isn’t bad for the class.

The interior was the place where the not-quite-finished nature of the development car was most obvious, with colours and textures not at the finishing line, but there was enough to be able to see the improvements in quality over the outgoing model. The larger touchscreen system is a notable improvement, as are the updated graphics on the driver’s display that change colour as the driver switches between eco, normal and sport settings.  The larger footprint also helps rear space, which is around the class average.

First Drive- October 2020-Hyundai i20-Image 5The left-hand drive model available to test was a 120hp 1.0-litre with a seven-speed automatic transmission, although the UK is likely to take the 100hp version instead, with either six-speed manual or seven-speed auto gearbox. Both engines feature Hyundai’s 48-volt mild hybrid system to offer a slight efficiency improvement, and its presence is obvious from the strong regeneration to replenish the battery that’s felt when the driver comes off the accelerator. But the 120hp version is a perky engine that the manufacturer may yet decide to take when the final UK line-up is confirmed. The steering has a great lock, which helps urban manoeuvrability, and the i20’s ride, although not in its finished suspension settings, balances neatly between the competing priorities of handling and comfort. The other major thing difficult to judge was refinement, as the development car was, according to Hyundai, missing 35 kilos of sound deadening materials. Which would make a significant difference.

A full test drive review will follow later in the year when the finished car makes its way to the UK.

paul barker

The verdict

Early signs are promising in terms of looks, space, driving dynamics and powertrain, and we’ll look forward to trying the finished article.