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We try the production version of Hyundai's new supermini for the first time, in the entry-level SE Connect equipment grade.
Standard equipment on SE Connect:
16in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, 8in touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, 10.25in digital instrument cluster, air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, leather steering wheel and gear lever, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert, intelligent speed limit warning, high beam assist, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitoring system
The new third-generation version of the Hyundai i20 has now arrived in the UK, looking to make a bigger impression than its predecessor in the ever-competitive small car market. Having previously sampled a pre-production version, we've now driven the finished article.
Compared with the outgoing car, the new i20 is slightly lower, wider and longer, which Hyundai claims makes it look more dynamic. It certainly stands out more on the road, with the aggressive slashing lines down the side giving it a funky look, and there are neat touches, like the i20 logo integrated into the tail lights, and cool silver-and-black alloy wheels.
Aesthetically, the interior of our entry-level SE Connect test car is less impressive. The door, dash and centre console are all completely trimmed in hard plastic - no luxury soft-touch materials here. However, it more than makes up for this with the level of technology. The standard 8in touchscreen integrates well with smartphones, is very responsive to the touch, and has impressive image clarity, which is particularly noticeable when the (also standard) reversing camera is deployed. And perhaps even better is the 10.25in digital instrument cluster, another impressive piece of standard kit for an entry-level supermini. Put it all together and we reckon this tech adds up to a huge chunk of driver appeal that will more than compensate for a few underwhelming plastics. In addition, despite all the oppressive black finishing, the i20's interior does feel spacious for a supermini - including in the rear, where adults could do a long journey quite comfortably. The boot is also large for the segment at 352 litres.
Only one engine is available at launch - a 100hp petrol mild hybrid. The mild-hybrid system allows what is described as 'sailing' mode - lift off the throttle and the engine switches off to save fuel. This is facilitated in our test car by a six-speed 'intelligent' manual gearbox (a seven-speed auto is also available) that can decouple the clutch automatically, but from a driver's point of view this feels no different to use than a regular manual. The engine has ample power for a small car, and feels particularly strong accelerating in gear, when the mild-hybrid system also lends the engine some assistance.
Selectable drive modes are included as standard, including an eco mode that unlike with some cars doesn't unduly sap power - in fact, we left it in this setting for most of our test drive. Sport mode might seem a bit less necessary in such a modestly powered car, but it is at least fun to watch it light the instrument panel up in red.
In terms of handling, the i20 isn't the most entertaining supermini on the market, but it's a pleasant enough steer, and easy-going around town, which is the most important thing. Ride quality is generally fine, and although it can feel a touch firm on more undulating roads there's no undue disturbance from surface ruts.
Having said the i20 features an impressive level of standard kit, we need to acknowledge that it does seem a bit less impressive after consulting the price list. While the SE Connect is indeed far better equipped than entry-level versions of rivals such as the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta, and even has spec advantages over the well-equipped Peugeot 208, it's also the most expensive of the bunch, and by as much as £2,000 in the case of the Clio. In part this is a deliberate choice by Hyundai, which has ditched the lower S Connect grade that started the range with the previous i20, but for the strategy to pay off it will need buyers to look past the upfront cost and appreciate the appeal of the enhanced spec. Hyundai says it's a strategy aimed at improving residual values, but these are still no better than rivals, according to our KeeResources data projections.
Hyundai i20 SE Connect 1.0 T-GDi 100hp IMT 48V Hybrid