Tested: 2021 Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid

Many, many years ago, when the internet was still black and white, I met a girl on a dating site and she was happily piloting her second Hyundai i20. It turned out that she rolled the first one but, upon emerging unscathed with her beloved collie dog, immediately purchased another.

I promise that this little story is fairly relevant to my review of this latest i20 hatchback because way back then I already learnt that i20 drivers are quite a loyal bunch. You see, she bought the first example because it looked good, drove well and offered a fair amount of space, tech and value-for-money.

The young lady also told me – in a very animated fashion – how all the German and Japanese products bored her immensely so the relatively new Korean was something that satisfied a craving for a bit of individualism. Rebellion, even. And, while wishing them the utmost sales success, I’d like to think that Hyundai is still getting that bit right.

This i20 has some properly unique design details.

I would even go so far as to include the word “bizarre” because its nose droops down at an awkward angle, culminating in some quasi-angry but extremely stylish headlights. I guess a bit like Lassie? The rest is textbook modern hatchback stuff. Flowing creases, hidden window pillars, stylish wheels and more air intakes than you can count.

It’s the same story on the inside, where you quickly discover a modern mix of sexy shapes and trendy textures. Not all of them feel (or look) premium, mind you, but happily it’s only a small percentage of the sombre black-and-grey affair. There’s also the obligatory touch-screen media screen and another display-based surprise…

A digital gauge cluster. Yup, fully animated instrumentation inside its own pod displays engine and road speed, fuel level and range, coolant temperature and various trip-related items in a mix of swooping 3D-effect bars, multi-level board computer, as well as trusty progress bars and LCD number facsimiles.

Although the overall layout of these dials can’t be altered (yet?) the designers added some pleasing details: fine lines with white gradients that double as a needle (or indicator), red lines at the usual European city speed limits of 30 and 50km/h, plus a delicate design element which perfectly centres the upper receding edges of the main virtual clocks.

It’s an absolute highlight in this class of car.

Why? Because most of Hyundai’s competitors will take years to introduce such a feature. And what’s left – usually the high-end stuff – is guaranteed to shove a virtual cockpit straight into the confines of their options list. “What’s that, Madam wants digital dials? That’ll be R80,000. As part of the Dynamic Package…”

One thing where Hyundai was often lagging behind its rivals was in terms of fire power. Everyone jumped onto the turbo-charger bandwagon but the Koreans took their sweet time to follow suit. I often praised this as a good thing, for it gave sensible buyers a chance to get a stylish car with a simple engine at a great price.

Now though, hoh-boy, the i20 has some turbo urge under its hanging nose. And in keeping with a quite recent Kia slash Hyundai tradition, it feels like this 1-litre engine is pushing out substantially more power than its brochure promises. Which means that either they’re under-selling engine specs or cranking the boost on press vehicles to 11.

Whatever the case may be, 0-100km/h is supposed to take an impressive 9.7 seconds, but our white specimen raced past that mark in just 9.36 seconds. It also exhibited quite a few traction issues so caution is advised when full throttle is applied at low speeds. Handling is decent, but quickly undermined by burning rubber.

It’s worth noting at this point that we had the top-spec Fluid model on test, which reserves the turbocharger and some other gadgets for itself while the cheaper renditions have to make do with a traditional 1.2L four banger; but acceptable spec levels. The only automatic derivatives in this i20 line-up either get a sensible 1.4L power plant or this 1L turbo monster.

So. What’s not to like about the new Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid Manual? Umm, unless you have a serious issue with its enormous grill, or you take offence at the shape of its door mirrors, I can wholeheartedly recommend this R340,000 hatchback from Korea, which also comes with an amazing warranty and small service plan.

Just keep the shiny bit pointing upwards. Lassie sold separately.

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