FIRST DRIVE | Facelifted Hyundai i20 lands in Mzansi

The popular compact hatch with a class-leading warranty gets a midlife refresh

The refreshed design has a new front bumper and glossy black radiator grille.
The refreshed design has a new front bumper and glossy black radiator grille.
Image: Supplied

Hyundai has given its three-year-old i20 hatchback a midlife refresh and reduced the line-up from eight models to five.

The five-door i20 is one of Hyundai’s most popular models and competes against cars such as the Toyota Starlet, VW Polo and Suzuki Baleno in the hatchback category, South Africa's second largest segment, accounting for 36% of new car sales. Hyundai stands out in the competitive category with its segment-leading seven-year/200,000km warranty and aims to create fresh buzz around the i20.

The compact hatchback is restyled with a new front bumper and radiator grille which create an elegant look with a sporty twist. At the rear is a redesigned bumper and distinctive Z-shaped LED taillights with new look 16" alloy wheels for the Executive and N Line models. The entry-level Premium variants have 15" steel wheels with carbon black wheel covers.

Built in India, the front-wheel drive i20 range is available with a choice of three petrol engines: normally aspirated 1.2l and  1.4l four-cylinder units and a three-cylinder 1.0l turbo. The 61kW 1.2 and 74kW 1.4 are offered with a choice of five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions while the range-topping 1.0 N Line is exclusively available with a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission (DCT); the 1.0 manual variants have been dropped.

The 1.0 N Line I drove at the media launch in Gauteng carries a hefty premium over its stablemates with its extra power and fancy transmission and comes with sporty style elements such as N Line 16” alloy wheels, LED headlamps with signature LED daytime running lights, twin exhaust pipes and tailgate spoiler.

Inside, the top model is revved up with aluminium pedals, multicolour ambient lights, red interior accents, a sporty three-spoke steering wheel in artificial leather and artificial leather upholstery (other models have cloth/artificial leather).

Bold red accents and artificial leather seats spice up the interior in the range-topping i20 N Line model.
Bold red accents and artificial leather seats spice up the interior in the range-topping i20 N Line model.
Image: Supplied

With outputs of 90kW and 172Nm and a light body weight, the turbocharged car musters reasonably energetic pace at Gauteng altitude. Carrying two people, it hustled through suburbia and on open roads without feeling strained and was powerful enough to ensure confident overtakes of long trucks. Hyundai claims a 0-100km/h time of 9.9 seconds and a 187km/h top speed.

The smooth-shifting seven-speed DCT seldom misses a trick but there are steering wheel paddles for those who want to change gears manually. The typical three-cylinder chortle adds subtly sporty acoustics without the engine sounding buzzy and it’s a refined car that cruises with minimal wind or road noise.

The i20 feels solid and has good ride quality for a B-segment hatchback, riding bumps without the choppiness one might expect of a short-wheelbase car. The test car averaged a frugal 5.4l/100km on the mostly open road drive, with Hyundai claiming 6.9l over a combined town/freeway cycle.

For its diminutive 3,995mm length, the i20 is impressively spacious, with four adults comfortably able to fit inside the cabin. At 1,775mm it is one of the widest cars in the class which reduces elbow-bashing between occupants. The 311l boot is quite small but carries a full-size spare wheel.

The cabin has neat finishes but there is no soft-touch dashboard plastic to raise the ambience as in the VW Polo, and the i20’s non-padded door armrests don’t bode well for long-distance driving comfort.

At the rear is a redesigned bumper and a unique z-shaped taillight design.
At the rear is a redesigned bumper and a unique z-shaped taillight design. 
Image: Supplied

All versions of the i20 have an 8” infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a digital instrument cluster and a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, while the 1.0 N Line ups the ante with a premium Bose sound system. The infotainment screen has large, easy to use icons and there are quick-access physical controls for several functions to minimise distraction while driving.   

Standard features across the i20 range include daytime running lights, auto-on headlights, USB charging ports, air conditioning, electric windows, multifunction steering wheel and a steering column adjustable for height and reach. The 1.0 N Line adds full climate control, a sunroof, cruise control and a push button starter. A wireless cellphone charger is standard in Executive and N Line variants.

Safety levels across the i20 range include ABS brakes and twin front airbags, with the range-topping 1.0 N Line adding side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control and hill-start assist.


  • i20 1.2 Premium manual — R309,900
  • i20 1.2 Executive manual — R329,900
  • i20 1.4 Premium auto —  R329,900
  • i20 1.4 Executive auto —  R349,900
  • i20 1.0 N Line DCT — R467,500

Prices include a five-year/150,000km manufacturer’s warranty and additional two-year/50,000km powertrain warranty, with a four-year/60,000km service plan.


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