REVIEW | 2021 Hyundai i20 can spar with the best in the business

Hyundai is a on good run of late creating good-looking cars such as this new i20.
Hyundai is a on good run of late creating good-looking cars such as this new i20.

Judged on its monthly sales figures, it’s fair to say that anyone looking for an average family hatchback defaults to the Volkswagen Polo, such is its popularity.

It's got the looks, practicality and comes with plenty of equipment at a competitive price but maybe with new i20, Hyundai finally has a convincing reply to the indomitable German range.

This Korean hatchback kicks off with a shapely design accentuated by a contrasting black roof and large, elaborately designed tail lamps connected by a red strip.

The adventurous styling continues in front with a wide mesh grille with seamless integration to headlights that cut deep inside the front wheel arches. It's a car that has a look of rally motorsport menace.

If you wish for good space then the i20 wheelbase of 2,580mm and 1,505m height provides for a capacious cabin. My 1.0T Fluid top range test model had most of its convenience systems crammed inside a touchscreen display and it’s a neat and ergonomically sound place to be on standard fitment faux leather-covered seats. 

Most people will be able to find a comfortable sitting position in the i20 front and back thanks to well thought-out spatial planning but the car’s thick windscreen A-pillars can obscure your side view at junctions, so be wary of this. Rear visibility is good enough and the boot fitted a fair amount of luggage.

The equipment and connectivity list is up there with the best and includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and multifunction steering wheel.

The interior looks snazzy and has bright command screen.
The interior looks snazzy and has bright command screen.

The i20 is available with a trio of engines: normally aspirated 1.2l and 1.4l units, and my test car’s 1.0T — the most powerful of the line-up. This means a turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 90kW and 172Nm mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Performance isn’t hot but the triple motor is a fine little workhorse that’s good for a 9.7 second 0-100km/h sprint and a top speed of 190km/h, performance that is on par with the segment leaders.   

It’s got plucky handling prowess too when you are being playful, possibly even better than its more celebrated foe. How it turns in keenly with little body roll when at full tilt is a sign of suspension gurus at work despite not having stability control.

Driving it in a more civilised manner rewards with good cabin insulation, an easy-going gait and peppy overtaking agility. Hopefully, you’d also want good fuel-eating habits but alas, it returned 9.0l/100km, which is quite a margin from the manufacturer’s rating of 6.5l/100km.

Despite these blemishes this 1.0T Fluid model undercuts its Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI Highline auto and Ford Fiesta 1.0T Titanium auto peers by thousands of rands, and it’s more powerful.

There’s also the prospect of having it in cheaper manual guise to save even more but the auto is the one you’ll actually want for ease of daily usage.

Over the years Hyundai has been making the i20 on the premise of its being a good alternative to the segment leaders and no iteration has come close to beating its rivals as this current generation.

Only time and sales figures will tell whether consumers find it as attractive and exciting as I do right now.    

Styling elements on the top model include 16-inch alloys and a two-tone paint scheme.
Styling elements on the top model include 16-inch alloys and a two-tone paint scheme.

Tech Specs


Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 1.0l

Power: 90kW

Torque: 172Nm


Type: Seven-speed Auto


Type: Front-wheel drive


Top speed: 190km/h

0-100km/h: 9.7 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 6.5l/100km (claimed), 9.0l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 126g/km


ABS brakes, six airbags, air conditioning, daytime driving running lights, camera for park distance control rear, cruise control, auto on/off lights, front fog lights, electric folding mirrors, multifunction steering wheel, artificial leather upholstery,  USB port front and rear, Bluetooth connectivity                


Warranty: Seven years/200,000km

Service plan: Four years/60,000km

Price: R355,900

Lease*: R7,656 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit


Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid



Looks, build quality, engine, handling



It’s a little thirsty



A real VW Polo challenger



star rating






**** Handling


****Value For Money




Citroën C3 1.2 Shine, 81kW/205Nm — R324,900

Ford Fiesta 1.0T, 74kW/170Nm — R383,800

Kia Rio 1.4 Tec Auto, 73kW/135Nm — R364,995

Mazda2 1.5 Hazumi, 85kW/148Nm — R368,900

Opel Corsa 1.2T Elegance, 96kW/230Nm — R386,900

Peugeot 208 1.2T Allure auto, 96kW/230Nm — R379,900

VW Polo 1.0 TSI Highline Auto, 85kW/200Nm — R376,700


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