Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • 1.0-litre or 1.2-litre non-turbo petrols
  • Sporty 1.0 turbo now added
  • Automatic gearbox best avoided

You can choose from three petrol engines in the Hyundai i10. The cheapest two are normally aspirated, which means they make do without a turbocharger, and as a result they’re not especially well-endowed with power – but to be honest, on a city car, they don’t need to be.

The entry-level unit is the non-turbocharged 1.0-litre. It produces 67hp and 96Nm of torque. This is pretty average for the class – the basic Volkswagen Up produces 60hp, the basic Fiat 500 69hp – and it results in a car that’s absolutely fine for use around town but does feel a bit strained on faster roads. Consider this choice carefully if you regularly carry at full capacity.

Getting up to motorway speeds requires you to be quite generous with your right foot, and even maintaining a cruise is tough if you’re on an incline. You’ll need to change down a gear to overtake in a timely fashion, too.

We think it’s well worth opting for the 1.2-litre engine instead, which produces 84hp and 118Nm of torque. It’s not a huge amount faster than the 1.0 on paper, but it feels much more relaxed, especially outside the confines of the city. And, as you don’t have to work it so hard, it’s more refined and just as efficient as the 1.0-litre.

The newest addition to the range is the N Line. It has a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine, making 99hp and 172Nm of torque. It'll crack out the industry standard 0-62mph time in 10.5seconds, or around four seconds quicker than the slowest i10 with the 1.0-litre non-turbocharged engine. It sounds good too, when you're really taking it out to the redline the engine's note becomes a shriek rather than a dull monotone. When you're really spanking it, you can even make it wheelspin when changing from first to second - a telltale sign of a fun little car.

For a bit of context, the VW Up GTI's 0-62mph sprint is around 1.7seconds quicker. The Up is a lot racier as a result, and is the one to go for if you want the fastest city car. The Hyundai is nowhere near as entertaining, but it feels a lot more grown up than the GTI. The engine makes peak torque at 1,500rpm - which is low. This makes all the difference as you don't have to work the car all that hard to make good progress - making it feel like a much larger and more powerful car.

Hyundai offers a choice of two gearboxes. The standard unit is a five-speed manual, which has a high-set shifter that’s very comfortable to use. It’s not as slick as the Volkswagen Up’s gearbox, but it's light, snicks nicely enough between ratios and responds quite well even if you’re rushing. The abrupt biting point takes a while to get used to, though.

Opt for the N Line and you get a much nicer manual gearbox, with a shorter gate and and a more positive gearshift. The gearknob itself is rounder and weighted, which may not sound like much, but it makes changing gear just that bit nicer. Plus, the biting point is so easy to manage on this model, it's as easy as driving a diesel.

The other transmission is called an AMT – standing for automated manual transmission. This is a cheap and simple kind of automatic gearbox, that works by simply robotising the clutch and gear assemblies rather than fitting a complicated and heavy new transmission.

It sounds good on paper, and doesn’t affect fuel economy much either, but unfortunately it’s absolutely terrible to use. It leaves vast gaps between gearshifts, responds ponderously when you ask for acceleration and can be downright dangerous if you’re attempting to slip into a tight gap in traffic.

The AMT comes very close to ruining the car altogether, though sadly in this size of car most competitors use the same system. The sole exception we can think of is the Kia Picanto, which uses a thirsty but smooth four-speed traditional automatic. If you want a self-shifting city car, that’s the best option.

Alternatively, you could opt for an electric rival, such as the Skoda Citigo-e IV, which doesn’t have any gears at all.

Handling

  • Neat and tidy in the corners
  • Plenty of grip makes things surprisingly fun
  • Little feedback from steering is to be expected

Let’s face it, most drivers buying a city car don’t want the last word in handling prowess – they want something that’s easy to drive in crowded streets, not on a racetrack. In this respect, the i10 does very well.

The i10’s light and accurate steering makes easy work of tight streets, and especially parking manoeuvres. It weights up enough at speed that you don’t twitch your way along faster roads, too, which we always like to see.

In terms of having a bit of fun with the i10, there’s lots of grip from those skinny front tyres. However, the Volkswagen Up still has a more supple suspension setup and more natural-feeling steering, so it’s the keen driver’s first port of call.

But compared with the insubstantial feel of a car such as the Toyota Aygo, the i10 feels very well-sorted indeed. We’ll be interested to see what the upcoming N-Line version has to offer, as it will feature lowered sports suspension for a firmer ride and better handling.

If you want the best handling i10, head straight for the N Line. Chassis changes are numerous and boring, but we'll talk about one inparticular, and that's new rear shock absorbers. Essentially they control movements in the suspension, and in the N Line, they make the car stiffer. They're palpably different from the regular i10 and the N Line is genuinely fun to drive. It changes direction quickly, and the steering never feels overly light. Good feedback through that N branded steering wheel too.