Premium hatchbacks, how relevant are they? I ask this question because, well, there are subcompact SUVs that offer more. But it's a very different kind of buyer who wants a premium hatch while the crowds attracted to the SUVs are completely versatile. The ones buying the subcompacts are compromising in a sense, because they just want an SUV and maybe they are financially constrained to buy one of the compacts. But with the premium hatchback tag, the i20 sits at the top of the hatchback pyramids so it gives you a lot more which is why it becomes really relevant and it has of course best seller for Hyundai in the segment also now it has a unique advantage because along with the Altroz, it's now the only car with a diesel engine in that segment. Remember, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Honda Jazz, Volkswagen Polo and even the Toyota Glanza are only available with a petrol engine. So let's get on with it and answer the big question. Where does the new-gen Hyundai i20 stand in that crowded space of premium hatchbacks.
WATCH: 2020 Hyundai i20 Review
So, the new i20 is a little bigger then the last one but in terms of proportion it's very different when you look at it. But let's put numbers to it. The length is up by 10 mm at 3995 mm, it's wider by 41 mm but the height remains the same. You might think it looks smaller and that's because I said things are disproportionate in it. We have got this massive grill up front all modern and nice. The styling is edgy and the company offers different patterns on different engine types. The 1.2 petrol gets the same but all black and there's no chrome option available which is good. Viewed in profile, you feel that the car is closer to the ground, squatting in fact, but it really isn't that, but there's a chrome strip that you see running on the side of the car.
But it's the rear that grabs your attention and that's because of the ‘Z' motif on the tail lamp. There's that very Altroz-like glossy black element at the rear but overall it looks really sexy and the way it is integrated into the pattern, is a nice touch. The i20 comes with 16-inch alloy wheels and those look good too but we would have preferred the ones on the European Spec because, it just changes the entire look of the car.
The cabin is sophisticated and modern. The dashboard is design is clean but it's the AC vents are the bits where we have a problem. The pattern continues across the dash and there's not doubt it looks modern and something that a European car would have. But here in India can you imagine all the dust which will go and sit in there? Now cleaning that will be a nightmare. But other than this, the cabin is a great place to be in. The steering wheel comes straight out of the Creta, which is great, because, it is compact and absolutely fits the bill, especially on a compact car like the i20. The digital instrument cluster looks great too and yes, there's some resemblance to BMW in there but the graphics and the overall package, is pretty intriguing. On a single tone colour variant what you get is black seats with copper stitching and copper accents on the AC vents while in the dual tone variant gets red inserts on the seats and AC vents and few other places inside the cabin. And of course, what's going to be the big crowd puller, is the sunroof which is only available only in the top-spec version. The feature makes a comeback of sorts to the i20 after being introduced on the first-generation version way back in 2008.
The rear seat too has more to offer, because wheelbase is up by 10 mm and according to Hyundai rear legroom too has been improved by 80 mm and take the company's word for it because there is good enough leg, shoulder and knee room at the rear. There's also rear AC vents on offer and you also get a USB charging port.
But taking centre stage is that 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It is basically transplanted from the Creta and yes, very responsive. It offers a laundry list of features like a 7 speaker Bose sound system which attaches a premiumness to the car. It sounds great, it's a little mid heavy but you even get the woofer in the boot.
Of course the i20 gets Apple Carplay and Android Auto but Hyundai has also packed it in with Bluelink technology. Yes, the i20 is a connected car. You get geofence for the car, you can remotely unlock it, you can turn it on, you can turn on the AC remotely, you can also access the smart SOS service, all of it at the touch of a button and that's a first in segment. You also get a tyre pressure monitoring system, and not to forget the various chargers that you get including a wireless one. So, yes, it is packed to the gills with features, especially on the top end variant. There's also the air purifier now a part of the package on the i20 and while it occupies one cupholder in the centre console, it does promise to clean the air in the cabin, which will be boon in several parts of our country. Hyundai says its still working on the cost of replacing the air filter but recommends changing one in six months, where air pollution levels are moderate.
Also Read: 2020 Hyundai i20: Variants Explained
How Does It Drive?
So we got to drive the 1.5-litre diesel and the 1-litre turbo petrol model. Let's start with the diesel then. It's a good move from Hyundai to transition to this 1.5 diesel engine in the BS6 phase of things. It's very refined, it's great on power. It's nice and sporty, in fact, the performance you get from this engine is extremely satisfying. There's 99 bhp on offer and there is no turbo lag which is very nice to see and you get tons of mid and low range torque which means city driving especially while gear changing won't be a hassle. But what surprises us is that there is no automatic on this diesel why? Okay pricing could be a factor, but if you can get a diesel automatic on the Kia Sonnet and that's like a family product for Hyundai, that could have been easily added. Hyundai however, has a trick up its sleeve as it says that the i20 is the most fuel efficient diesel in the segment because it provides fuel economy of more than 25 kilometres per litre and well, that's certainly a big plus.
But let's turn our heads to the one engine that you all have been asking about, the 1-litre turbo petrol. We've seen this engine on the Verna, the Venue and now it's the i20 that gets it. It puts out 118 bhp making it the most powerful premium hatchback in the segment. Well, it doesn't disappoint. The 1-litre turbo is available only with the intelligent Manual transmission (IMT) and the 7-speed Dual clutch unit. What we got to drive is the DCT and yes, initial acceleration is a bit disappointing but it has a strong mid-range, but this one also has a sports mode and once you shift into it, there is a sense of urgency which makes it fun to drive. You would want to drive it in that mode, but it may take a toll on efficiency though Hyundai says that this one returns economy figures of more than 20 kmpl and that's impressive!
Ride And Handling
After Hyundai launched the new generation of the Elantra in India a few years ago, there has been a strong focus on ride and handling and you see that focus come to fruition even in the i20. It will deal fantastically well on broken roads, the ride is well balanced and nothing disturbs you inside the cabin. Even the NVH levels are in check. The i20 glides over everything that the road throws at you, but you have to be careful about the deeper ones. The steering feel too could have been a bit more engaging but the brakes feel extremely spongy and do not have the bite you'd want to them.
Hyundai has gone big on the safety features front. Now given that it takes on a 5 star safety rated Altroz, it had to up its game. So while we wait to know how it does in the crash test, Hyundai says that the new-gen car is the safest model of the i20 till date. Dual airbags are standard across all variants, so is ABS with EBD and rear parking sensor. It's the top-end Asta(O) that comes with six airbags, which includes the side as well as curtain airbags. Then the car also gets a tyre pressure monitoring system and ISOFIX child seat mounts and finally the very useful emergency stop signal feature.
Also Read: 2020 Hyundai vs Rivals: Price Comparison
The petrol i20 is launched at an introductory price of ₹ 6.80 lakh but when compared to segment leader Maruti Suzuki Baleno, it is more expensive by ₹ 1.16 lakh for the base variant, while it undercuts the Glanza by ₹ 21,000. It's also more expensive than the Honda Jazz and the Volkswagen Polo. But what about when compared to the Altroz?
Both petrol and diesel variants of the Altroz are less expensive than the i20. The top-end petrol is nearly ₹ 1.81 lakh cheaper while the diesel is ₹ 1.51 lakh more affordable.
So yes, the i20 is more expensive than all its rivals and of course the prices are introductory, so come January 1, 2021 those too will be revised. Is it good enough then? With all the features it has to offer, it sets itself apart in that department, and that turbo engine makes it a pocket rocket for sure. It ticks all the right boxes in the ride and handling department, but is that enough to stay ahead in that segment? We think, it's enough to call it the new benchmark!