REVIEW | 2021 Hyundai i20 gives the VW Polo a run for its money
The new Hyundai i20 enters the market with a striking new design and takes on Volkswagen’s Polo head-on in a segment that has been dominated by the German for many years. We spent time with the manual transmission 1.0 TGDI Fluid variant.
The i20 has grown up since the first generation. This third generation i20 is substantially bigger than before, with improved interior space (especially for rear passengers), and a wider, longer overall package. The styling features a bolder approach and cannot be described as boring.
Inside, the dash has a flowing design, and although some of the plastics are a bit on the hard side, it seems well put together. The leather-wrapped, multi-functional steering wheel has a good feel to it, with red stitching adding a sporty touch. The eight-inch touchscreen also features physical buttons for quick operation, along with a rotary dial to adjust volume. Apple Car Play and Android Auto is standard and works a breeze.
The seating position proved to be a bit problematic for my taller frame. The issue is that the seat doesn’t lower enough, and the steering wheel (only height adjustable, not rake) doesn’t go high enough. This in turn caused an obscure situation where my knees would be in the way when turning the steering wheel. A strange problem to have in a modern car.
The general driving experience has been greatly improved from previous generations of i20. Wind and road noise is kept to a minimum, with the engine’s growl coming through only in the higher RPM range. The suspension does a sublime job of soaking up the bumps, although it is on the slightly stiffer side. It shows great composure and surefooted handling come rain or shine. The steering wheel feel is lacking a bit though, with very little information coming from the tyres to the feel in hand.
The little 1.0 three-cylinder turbo engine packs a healthy 90kW and 172Nm. The six-speed manual gearbox has a rather numb action, along with a soft clutch pedal. There is some turbo lag at reef altitude, which is most apparent when going over speed humps in second gear, or when you fail to modulate the clutch efficiently at pull away. Once the turbo kicks in, the engine pulls eagerly. It feels like a much bigger capacity engine, without the con of hefty fuel bills. We averaged around 7.3l/100km according to the car’s on-board computer, with a mix of town and highway driving.
At R333,900 for the 1.0 TGDI Fluid Manual, the Hyundai is placed squarely in competition with the Volkswagen Polo TSI Comfortline Manual at R336,400. The Hyundai’s standard spec offers a fair amount more equipment than the Polo, and the Polo’s engine only produces 70kW and 170Nm. The Polo’s interior is a better place to be in from a quality perspective, with the i20’s cheaper plastics letting it down.
The new Hyundai i20 is a worthy contender in the segment with its latest model line-up. It’s not perfect, but it does offer a much improved driving experience over previous generations and is a much more complete package. It can give the Volkswagen Polo a good run for its money, if certain caveats can be overlooked.