Inoffensive: the new Hyundai i20


PRICE £13,725 (£14,220 as tested)
ENGINE CAPACITY 1.2 litre petrol

The first thing you (don't) notice about the Hyundai i20 is its styling. Let me explain. It is very modish, for sure, but more than a bit derivative; it doesn't stand out in the car park, you see. That kink at the end of the roof line, for example, was a novelty when it appeared on the re-incarnated Fiat Panda a few years ago, but now everyone's doing it, the Mini Countryman being a notable example.

I'm not sure who first started pulling the headlamps half way up the front wings and fitting trapezoid grilles (those trendsters at Ford, probably) but they too are very fashionable, and naturally the i20 has them. In other words, it is a bit identikit and generic. Except at the back, where the lines go a bit wrong, like its sister and rival from the Hyundai-Kia combine, the Kia Rio.

Like the Rio, the i20 will offend no one, but no one would fall in love with it either. That's true of lots of superminis in the overcrowded "B-segment" of the car market, where the car is becoming more like functional "white goods" than some sort of fashion statement or status symbol. I cannot imagine anyone, not even me, getting the hots for a Polo, Clio, Fiesta, Corsa, Honda Jazz, Mazda 2, and almost all the rest. The Fiat Panda is about the most loveable, even though it is getting on a bit now.

That said, the Hyundai is definitely likeable. It has an undefinable, but friendly, companionable feel to it, like an automotive Jack Russell, I suppose. With metallic paint and four (alloy) wheels, the i20 that I tested was a 1.2 "Premium" variant and was lively enough for me. The engine is very torquey, so nice and flexible, and it has a terrier-like eagerness to get on with things.

As with most car ranges, the shrewd thing to do is to go for the cheapest version, which in this case is the 1.2 litre "S", in a slightly less potent state of tune and which gives you the whole Hyundai experience at the lowest entry price – £10,695. For which you get a smart little five seater (at a pinch), a five-year warranty, an iPhone holder on the dash and lots of blue lighting inside.

But you'll never fall in love with it.

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