The biggest surprise was the 1.25 GLS model, which gets a more powerful engine good for 64kW.
The biggest surprise was the 1.25 GLS model, which gets a more powerful engine good for 64kW.

Hyundai just about had the modern cheapie market to itself when its i10 first hit our shores around three years ago. It definitely felt like the most 'grown up' of the A-segment (half loaf) cars, and with a smart interior to boot.

Wow, but how things have changed. Now this price bracket not only hosts even more 'A' cars like the Toyota Aygo and Suzuki Alto but also bigger and more substantial players like the new Chev Spark and Nissan Micra - all of which must also compete with previous generation 'B' cars like the Ford Figo and VW Polo Vivo.

Hyundai was competing here with an i10 with no airbags at just under R108 000. “The company will really have to up its game in the value stakes if its facelifted i10 is to make any headway in this game”, I thought while on my way to its launch.

And it has. After keeping us not-so-captivated, for what seemed like an eternity, about how many cars it builds in Russia and its recent profit gains, they finally revealed that the new i10 1.1 GLS will start at just R99 900.

This includes a driver's airbag, aircon, MP3/CD player with USB and aux connections and steering wheel controls, central locking, front and rear electric windows and height adjustment for the steering wheel and driver's seat.

Power is via the familiar 1.1-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that's good for 50kW and 99Nm.

A nice start, but the biggest surprise was the 1.25 GLS model, which gets a more powerful engine pushing 64kW and 119Nm, and sells for just R109 900.

Besides the engine, this model also adds a passenger airbag, ABS brakes and keyless entry. This is by far the best buy in the range and there's even an automatic version available for R119 900.

Of course, the i10 has also received a styling makeover, with more angular headlamps, new 'face of Hyundai' front bumper/grille combo (read: gaping mouth), a set of multi-reflective taillights and fully colour coded bumpers and side strips.

While the cars looked great on paper, Hyundai also afforded us the chance to drive the new 1.25-litre model on some roads just north of Jo'burg for about 90km.

Immediately impressive, while still on urban roads, was its ability to sprint between robots. 64kW is plenty power for a car that weighs just 885kg and it shows in this car's strong acceleration. Hyundai claims a 12.3-second 0-100km/h sprint at sea level and I don't see this being far from attainable - even at Highveld altitudes.

On the open road, the high gear ratios for fourth and fifth meant that plenty of gearing down was required for overtaking, but the fifth ratio worked well for cruising, hovering quietly around 3500rpm at 120km/h. Road noise was quite apparent at these speeds though.

The car's short wheelbase, narrow stature and skinny wheels naturally don't bode well for ride and handling, but the ride comfort is acceptable for this class of car, if a little choppy at times, and though there is a fair amount of body roll around corners, it holds its course well enough.

What all this proved is that although the i10 is truly in its element in the city, it's not afraid of a long out-of-town jaunt and will more than hold its own on the highway - at least in 1.2-litre form.

Regardless of the journey, it'll also comfortably fit four average-sized adults in a cabin that's spacious for its segment and even the 225-litre boot is less pathetic than those in most rivals.

Another important consideration in this class is fuel economy and here Hyundai answers to OPEC greed with claimed combined consumption figures of 4.8 litres per 100km (114g/km of CO2) for the 1.1 and 4.7 l/100km (113g/km) for the 1.25.

VERDICT:

Ultimately it comes down to how much size counts. If you're happy to drive one of the smaller cars on the block, the i10 comes highly recommended (especially in 1.25 GLS form) for its unbeatable combination of quality, performance, economy and features. It even has a five-year/150 000km warranty.

If a bigger and more substantial-feeling car is more on your agenda though, it's still worth finding another six-or-so grand for a Ford Figo.