Westward Ho!

Impressive engine i20 will initially be available in India with the 1.2-litre Kappa petrol

Impressive engine i20 will initially be available in India with the 1.2-litre Kappa petrol  

i20 is built to establish Hyundai as a serious player in Europe’s huge super-mini market

It’s built in India but the Hyundai i20 has been designed for European buyers. No more westernising Korean models and selling them on the cheap. Hyundai, with its large technical centres in Germany and modern factories in India and the Czech Republic, has benchmarked its European opposition and has been working out how to beat it.

The i10 went a long way to show us Hyundai’s capabilities, but the i20 is the one that will establish Hyundai as a serious player in Europe’s huge super-mini market and replaces its best-selling Getz in Europe. Given its importance, you may be slightly disappointed by its conservative looks, which forego the panache of the new Ford Fiesta and the verve of a Mazda 2. It’s certainly no fashion object, but the relatively high roofline has practical benefits and the shape is elegant enough.

Hop into the cabin and you’re greeted by a more contemporary interior than we’ve seen from Hyundai thus far. True, we tried the top-end Style model which may not come to India but all i20s will come quite generously equipped. Vibrant two-tone seat covers jazz up the interior, and we’ll let Hyundai away with some uneven panel gaps and a few scratches (early cars had been on motor show duty). There’s decent headroom and knee space in the back, and the luggage area is reasonable.

We were allowed to drive only the range-topping 1.4-litre diesel i20, which will come to India only in the distant future. There’s no questioning its fuel efficiency, since it returned more than 17.7kpl on a hard test drive. But this coarse-sounding oil-burner really doesn’t suit what is potentially a nippy little car.

For India, the i20 will initially be available with the 1.2-litre Kappa petrol that produces 77bhp. We have seen this engine in the i10 and it’s a cracker. Even though the i20 maybe heavier than its smaller sibling, don’t expect it to be a slouch.

There’s much less body roll and it steers very neatly, even on tricky wet roads. Beyond the limit, the i20 behaves safely with no nasty surprises.

If you’ll excuse the stereotyping, it drives more like a German car — not surprising, since much of the high-speed and handling testing was done there. But therein lies the i20’s biggest flaw: its ride. There’s too much vibration through the cabin at low and high speeds, even on the smooth German roads we used.

It’s not that the i20 crashes over everything; it actually rides over big bumps quite adeptly. But a constant fidget caused by the suspension’s firmness is likely to compromise comfort on Indian roads, unless Hyundai has tweaked the suspension for Indian conditions.

In all, the i20 moves the game on for Hyundai. It’s a reasonable car and a fair rival for European-branded alternatives. In India, its main rival will be Fabia for now and the Jazz and Grande Punto next year. It’s only after a drive on Indian roads that we can tell you how good the new Hyundai is. We will have to wait till January 2009 when it finally gets launched.

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Technical data Hyundai i20 Diesel Specifications

PriceRs 6.5 lakh (est)

Top speed 170kph



Kerb weight 1222kg

Engine 4 cyls, 1396cc, diesel

Installation Front,

transverse, FWD Power

89bhp at 4000rpm Torque 22.4kgm at


Gearbox 5-speed manual

Fuel tank 45 litres

Boot 295 litres

Wheels 16in, alloy

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