Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Only two 1.0-litre engines…
  • … unless you buy the i20 N hot hatch
  • Good blend of performance and economy

Petrol engines

Petrol’s your only option with the Hyundai i20. The standard models are all powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder mild-hybrid powertrain, while the N-badged hot hatchback gets a more potent 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit. We’ll start with the common-or-garden variants first.

The engine found in SE Connect, Premium and Ultimate versions of the i20 develops 100hp and 171Nm of torque. It’s not exactly fast – 0–62mph comes up in 10.4 seconds on manual models – but it’s a willing engine. Hyundai’s mild-hybrid system adds some electric boost in the mid-range, too, which benefits in-gear acceleration.

The sportier N Line model is a little faster. Torque remains the same at 171Nm, although power climbs to 120hp, which cuts the manual i20’s 0–62mph time down to 10.1 seconds. The performance isn’t earth shattering by any means, but the extra poke certainly makes the i20 feel more sprightly – especially on a windy back-road.

True performance enthusiasts will need to opt for the i20 N hot hatchback. Its 1.6-litre petrol engine churns out 204hp and 275Nm of torque – enough for a 0–62mph time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 143mph. In-gear acceleration is strong too, with a wave of torque from the turbocharger that pushes you back into your seat about 3,500rpm.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Sharp handling and lots of grip
  • Huge improvement over the old car…
  • … but not quite as good as the Fiesta

Hyundai’s engineers have made a good job of the i20’s chassis. The entry-level models offer a good balance of comfort and grip. The setup is quite soft, so you get a fair amount of body roll if you tip it hard into a corner – but the chassis was designed to take that into account, so the tyres never leave contact with the road. That makes it safe at speed.

It also changes direction keenly, although the steering doesn’t offer a lot of feedback. This is unlikely to be a problem for most buyers – most i20s will spend their lives pottering around multi-storey car parks and negotiating tight roundabouts, which is where the car excels.

However, petrolheads can still extract a lot of fun from the i20 – especially if they opt for the N Line model. For starters, it has a bigger-bore exhaust, so it’s a little noisier than the standard car. It also gets larger 17-inch alloy wheels and grippy Hankook tyres, which encourage you to drive with more vigour. 

Pair these changes with the car’s Sport driving mode (which sharpens up the throttle response and backs off the power steering), and the i20 N Line is quite fun to throw down a country lane. Just make sure you specify it with the six-speed manual ‘box – it’s a great unit with a short throw and a pleasingly mechanical action. It’s also much more satisfying to row through the gears yourself to make the most of what little power you have.

The driving experience gets even better when you step up to the i20 N hot hatchback. Every scrap of the car’s suspension is improved, so it sticks to the road like a limpet – and the fiery engine slingshots the car out of corners. You can read our full review of the i20 N here.