Many South African car buyers choose a new car mainly on price, reputation, looks and badge without bothering too much about comparing it to other vehicles in its class in terms of safety, luxury features, warranty or service plan - all key departments in which the new face-lifted Hyundai i20 outscores most others in is class.
The ride is now also surprisingly quiet and comfortable. In fact, the ride quality beats some higher priced cars.
In fact, the latest i20 has already proved to be an instant hit with about 400 of them waltzing off dealer showroom floors within the first month of arriving in South Africa. What makes this even more impressive is that its first-month sales are only about 60 units less than the VW Golf. About 2.5-million i20's have already been sold in Europe this year, where Hyundai is showing a growth in sales of 16% compared to the 6% overall market growth on the continent.
Hyundai attributes the upgraded i20's instant popularity largely to its high specification levels. For example, the latest i20 offers the choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission (one of only 12 in this super-mini class to offer an auto choice), Bluetooth connectivity, rear park assist, side and curtain airbags, alloy wheels and climate control (in the flagship only), onboard computer, smart sound system, remote Bluetooth phone/sound control on steering wheel, three-point inertia reel safety belts for all passengers, all of them new features which the outgoing model didn't have.
Spacier, and spicier - and better looking and enhanced after-service support
The refreshed i20 is also higher, wider and longer than others in its class and to add all of these new extra features, for example, to a VW Polo Trendline, would push its current price up by about R33 500.
The boot is very spacious - great for the small family with lots of toys and sports equipment.
To rub further salt in opposition wounds the i20 also comes standard with a five-year/150 000km warranty, a five-year roadside assistance, a three-year/60 000km service plan and a five-year/160 000km perforation warranty, topped by a 15 000km gap between services.
The Euro-centric make-up artists and plastic surgeons employed by the Korean carmaker have also spruced up the i20's looks, both inside and outside, with new 'eagle-eye' headlamps, a redesigned front grille, fog lights embedded in a new front bumper, attractively sculpted, bold body lines and a fresh new-look derriere.
The living quarters are also more comfortable and classier and passenger and luggage space have also been increased. Particularly neat and nifty is its redesigned centre fascia and new soft-touch finish surrounds.
The new three-model range of i20's now all sport more frugal 1.4-litre engines and gone is the one 1.6 power plant in the previous range. The three new derivatives are branded as i20 Fluid Manual, which has a new six-speed manual gearbox; a flagship i20 Glide which has the same transmission and the i20 Fluid automatic armed with a four-speed automatic transmission. All three derivatives are powered by the new engine which produces 73kW and 136Nm, while keeping CO2 emissions down to 132g for the two manual models and 140g for the automatic. Average fuel consumption for the two manuals is a frugal low of about 4.2 litres/100km and 4.8 for the auto option.
Hyundai has clearly spent lots of time and energy on reducing intrusive noises, harshness and vibration in the cabin and the living quarters.
At the recent motoring media introduction I drove the range-topping Glide version across the undulating country-side of the Boland and Swartland and in spite of initial reservations about the performance of the smaller 1.4-litre engine, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it trotted on quite gamely at cruising speed and was quite happy to go way beyond that before starting to run out of breath.
In type the performance figures are hardly exciting but the i20 certainly feels livelier out on the road than the figures indicate, although our drive was at sea level and upcountry its pace will no doubt be more sedate. Official performance figures claim 181km/h for the two manual models and 170 for the auto. Acceleration figures for the 0-100km/h dash are 12.3 seconds for the two manuals and a sleepy 19 seconds for the automatic, which I didn't get to drive.
Ok, so on long uphill stretches, particularly when overtaking, you have to stir the soup spoon quite regularly because the 6th gear is really only an overdrive and even 5th and 4th are fairly highly geared. But then the updated i20, like the outgoing model, is clearly aimed more at frugality, comfort, quiet ride and city traffic, than for enthusiastic mountain pass fun.
Quiet and comfortable ride
The revamped i20 now sports many improvements and new features.
The ride is now also surprisingly quiet and comfortable. In fact, the ride quality beats some higher priced cars. The upgraded i20 also handles with much more confidence, thanks to a redesigned underpinnings for which of the design work was done on European roads, and improvements to the steering set-up. This was particularly noticeable in howling cross-winds which didn't seem to upset the car's equilibrium at all.
Hyundai has clearly spent lots of time and energy on reducing intrusive noises, harshness and vibration in the cabin and the living quarters now feel much more like those of the more expensive members of the Hyundai family. Even the peppy exhaust tone has become more subdued.
The i20 certainly feels livelier out on the road than the figures indicate, although our drive was at sea level and upcountry its pace will no doubt be more sedate.
Young families, in particular, are likely to find the small car's extensive spread of active and safety features appealing. This ranges from ABS brakes, a high-tensile steel strengthened body, class-leading airbags, an ISOFIX rear child seat anchor to three-point inertia seat belts with pre-tensioners up front and three-point inertia reel safety belts for rear passengers.
The revamped i20 now sports so many improvements and new features, plus new looks and a much classier cabin and much better ride quality that it comes close to being an entirely new model rather than just a face lift. With all the improvements aboard it has matured to one of the best rands and sense choices in the super-mini class and has all the makings of a champion -- another winner from a brand that just keeps on producing better and better cars.
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This Message Board accepts no liability of legal consequences that arise from the Message Boards (e.g. defamation, slander, or other such crimes). All posted messages are the sole property of their respective authors. The maintainer does retain the right to remove any message posts for whatever reasons. People that post messages to this forum are not to libel/slander nor in any other way depict a company, entity, individual(s), or service in a false light; should they do so, the legal consequences are theirs alone. Bizcommunity.com will disclose authors' IP addresses to authorities if compelled to do so by a court of law.