Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • 1.0-litre or 1.2-litre non-turbo petrols
  • Sporty 1.0 turbo is on the way
  • Automatic gearbox best avoided

You can choose from two petrol engines in the Hyundai i10. They’re naturally 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 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.

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.

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 snicks nicely between ratios and responds quite well even if you’re rushing.

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.

Later in 2020, Hyundai’s set to introduce a third engine to the range. It’s a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol, but fitted with a turbocharger to produce 99hp. If our experience with this powertrain in a mechanically similar Kia Picanto is anything to go by, this could be a really fun model.

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.