REVIEW | Nippy Hyundai i20 1.0T an agile surprise as new turbo engine impresses

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• Hyundai's new i20 launched in South Africa earlier in 2021.

• The i20 is powered by two engines, including this 1.0-litre turbocharged mill.

• The i20's powertrain fits its well, but the ride quality is not on the same level.

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The Hyundai i20 has become somewhat of an institution in South Africa. Popular beyond what the Korean automaker could have imagined, the car is a real contender to the likes of the evergreen Volkswagen Polo and Ford's Fiesta. But while these two rivals kick the i20's butt every month when sales scores are tallied, the i20 has always stood its ground and is perhaps one of the best value-for-money in the entire South African car parc.

Earlier in 2021, Hyundai South Africa launched the all-new i20 in the country, with the top model, the 1.0-litre turbo Fluid, implementing the automaker's familiar 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated with a six-speed manual gearbox (a seven-speed automatic is also available). It's a drivetrain combination that works exceptionally well, gifting the car with performance not expected of it. It's not i30N fast, but it's a welcome surprise.

Following a few days driving the i20 1.0 Turbo decked in its two-tone hue, we came away impressed at what Hyundai has brought to the table. It's not a perfect car, and a jaunt through some of the Cape's finest roads brought a few shortcomings to the fore.

Comfortable cabin

The new i20 is larger than the previous model, with it boasting 88mm of extra legroom and 40mm more shoulder room for rear passengers. In addition, boot space has also been increased to now come in at 311 litres. But while the interior has been made roomier, the i20's secret weapon is how ergonomically friendly the space is.

A new 10.25-inch instrument cluster relays driving information to the driver, while an eight-inch entre touchscreen plays home to the various menus, radio, and other multimedia options. Connecting one's phone to the system via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is also a breeze, allowing for apps to Google Maps to connect seamlessly.

The digital display in front of the driver takes on a futuristic approach, with the speedometer and engine revolution meter sitting on either side of it. In between, every detail on your drive is relayed, including remaining range, speed, and average fuel consumption. The seats are decked in artificial leather and provide ample comfort.

READ: Hyundai's new i20 officially launches in SA - We have pricing and specification

Hyundai i20
2021 Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid

Wow, it's nippy!

The turbocharged mill in the i20 is not shy when it comes to power figures. With 90kW and 172Nm sent to the front wheels, the car pulls off the line incredibly well. It rushes through the speedometer and comfortably sits at 120km/h when you engage the cruise control. The engine does not labour when tackling an incline, and it's surprisingly apt at showing its hand when shifting the gearbox into the right gear to match the engine's speed.

But while the car's drivetrain is one you can write home about, the ride quality is not its best trait. While front passengers are less likely to feel every road imperfection, those in the rear are often at the rear suspension's mercy. The torsion beam setup does the car's rear no favours, and the jitteriness make its presence felt on the steering. At low speeds, occupants are not too confronted with the rather jumpy suspension, but it can become obtrusive at higher speeds.

If Hyundai is truly looking at taking the fight to the segment leader, the Polo, perhaps it should consider doing away with the i20's current rear suspension setup and adopting one similar to the Polo's. The German hatchback features a semi-independent twist-beam rear suspension with gas-filled dampers - gifting it with its class-leading ride quality.

In terms of fuel consumption, Hyundai claims a return of 6.5-litres/100km.

In summary

There's a reason why Hyundai is among the top four best-selling automakers in South Africa: its vehicles are properly good. From the Atos the forthcoming Palisade, there is a vehicle for everyone, except those hoping that the Santa Cruise bakkie would have made its way to our shores. But despite the absence of a bakkie, Hyundai South Africa's product portfolio is a strong one and has given the brand a solid foothold in the country. Cars like the i20 have become cornerstone models, and their importance can't be denied. In its latest iteration, the i20 is another impressive offering, with the turbo model acting as the ideal headliner.

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