Hyundai has perked up its popular i20 range in South Africa’s hyper-competitive small hatchback market with a mid-life facelift and equipment upgrades.
SA’s third best-selling B-segment hatch (after the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta) also introduces a new crossover version as a rival to cars like the Toyota Yaris Cross. This model, called the i20 1.4 Active, replaces the old i20 1.4 Sport derivative and is dressed up with SUV-style roof rails and plastic front and rear skidplates to give it an ‘urban adventurer’ look. Inside, it gets a splash of extravagance with contrasting colours on the seats, dashboard and gearshift.
Though it’s front wheel driven like the rest of the i20 range and has no offroading aspirations, the new 1.4 Active gets a raised ride height (from 150mm to 170mm) to give it better ground clearance on rough gravel.
The Active is the new flagship of the range and is available in a single 1.4-litre, six-speed manual model selling for R279 990.
The remainder of the i20 range, which was launched here in 2015, has been given a makeover with reshaped bumpers, grille and lights, and new alloy wheel designs. The biggest change is at the back where larger tail lights and more bodywork detailing make for a busier look than the old car’s clean lines.
In all models the infotainment has been upgraded to a large screen system with Bluetooth and USB music connection, while navigation can be ordered as an optional extra.
As before the i20 is available in Motion and more upmarket Fluid grades, with all versions coming standard with keyless entry, driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes, aircon, and front electric windows.
The higher-specced Fluid and Active derivatives replace manual aircon with automatic climate control, swop steel wheels for alloy versions, and throw extra features like automatic headlamps, LED daytime running lights, rear electric windows, a centre armrest, and rear park assist into the mix.
The upgrades come with nominal price increases of R5000.
With the 85kW Sport model dropped from the line up, the i20 range is available in two power outputs: a 1.2-litre petrol with 61kW and 115Nm, and a 1.4-litre petrol with 74kW and 133Nm.
The 1.2 versions are available only with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.4 Fluid offers the choice of six-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The 1.4 Motion is only available in four-speed auto.
I drove the 1.4 Active manual at this week’s media launch in Gauteng and Hyundai’s compact hatch impressed above all with its soft-spoken refinement, smooth gearshifts and useably perky power, which allowed me to easily cruise at the national speed limit on the open road - and more, if I’d wanted to.
The cabin is smartly finished and the red detailing gives the black interior an appealing splash of colour.
I also drove the 1.2 manual and though it was noticeably less powerful, it still managed to cruise along, and even overtake the occasional long truck, without getting completely out of breath. It too was very refined with minimal wind and engine noise.
In both cars the power-assisted steering had a tendency not to self-centre as readily as expected - an issue I’ve picked up on other Hyundais.
HYUNDAI i20 PRICES
1.2 Motion manual - R229 900
1.2 Fluid manual - R241 900
1.4 Motion auto - R254 900
1.4 Fluid manual - R266 900
1.4 Fluid auto - R284 900
1.4 Active manual - R279 900
* All models sold with Hyundai’s 5-year/150 000km warranty. 1.2 models have a 2-year/30 000km service plan and 1.4 models have a 3-year/60 000km service plan.