Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Mild hybrid only
  • No diesel
  • Lack of choice in comparison to competition

New for the i20 is a 1.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine. This simple type of hybrid recovers energy when braking and re-uses it under acceleration to take the strain away from the engine, meaning lower emissions and better fuel economy.

Annoyingly, to start the engine (for manual cars) you'll need your feet on the clutch and brake, and for the gearbox to be in neutral; Hyundai owners will be familiar with this, but it's a surprise when you've come from another marque.

Luckily, apart from this, there's very little to be annoyed about from the engine. The 100hp turbocharged unit feels urgent enough, and it'll comfortably sit at 40mph in fifth.

Emissions-friendly gearing means it'll also run to 70mph in second, but we can't recommend this.

The 0-62mph times seem quite slow - 10.4seconds for the manual and 11.4seconds for the automatic, but because the car has a little bit of boost from the mild-hybrid system it never feels all that lethargic.

The six-speed manual is a delight to use. It's Kia/Hyundai's new iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission). Thanks to electronic wizardry, it can essentially cruise in neutral with the engine off - with the driver not needing to do anything. It works really well - but you'll need to be in optimum gear for it to work. The optimum gear is helpfully shown in the driver display.

There's also a seven-speed automatic that we've only driven in prototype form, so we'll hold back our judgement until we've driven a finished version.

Drive modes

There are three drive modes to choose from - Eco, Comfort, and Sport. Eco's optimised for fuel economy, comfort is for everyday driving, while sport generally makes the throttle more responsive so more power comes with less application.

There isn't a huge difference between the modes (although it does change the colour on the driver display), but we imagine Eco will be good enough for most people. Although the Sport drive mode is usefully more responsive should you wish to do some hooning.

Handling

  • Quick change of direction
  • Lacking overall feedback
  • Not as much fun as a Fiesta

For everyday use, the i20 is more than fine. The first notable thing about the car's handling is how light the steering is. This is perfect for what the i20 will be typically up to - tight roundabouts, multi-storey car parks, and sitting in traffic. It excels at these tasks.

It's not quite as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta, partially down to the steering that offers little in the way of feedback because of how light it is. But it's definitely more rewarding to drive than the old car, as well as other superminis like the Volkswagen Polo.

Despite the steering not 'speaking' much to the driver, the i20 changes direction quickly. The car reacts to all of the driver's input swifty - a good sign for the forthcoming N model.

There's a good amount of grip on offer, and our test route in relentless rain didn't provoke any traction control lights to illuminate.