Andy Goodwin reviews and road tests the new generation, 2014 Hyundai i10, and can’t quite believe how good it is.
When the Hyundai i10 city car first arrived in 2008 it proved once and for all that small cars don’t have to be noisy buzz-boxes, with low quality going hand-in-hand with a low price tag. It was grown-up and quiet, with smooth petrol engines, light steering and a sweet manual gearbox. Us Brits lapped it up, buying 110,000, a third of all European sales. The 2013 model aims to have even less road noise and better quality, while also addressing one shortcoming of the original i10 – its image. If the i10 used to be Vanilla, the new model is at least choc chip.
It’s a tough gig designing a city car. You have to fit five people, luggage, an engine, running gear and safety equipment in a space three-and-a-half metres long and less than two metres wide, and then make it look pretty. It’s all about compromise — for example, lots of interior headroom is great for occupants, but can ruin a car’s appearance and make it handle like a wedding cake. The previous i10 did look a bit top-heavy, so it’s now 80mm longer, 65mm wider and 50mm lower and it looks sportier as a result.
The headlights stretch further back – in keeping with the current trend – the grille is the same shape as the latest i30 and there are neat rubbing strips along the bottom of the doors, both giving car park protection and making the car appear less portly when viewed from the side. Both the wing mirrors and radio aerial have been sculpted to produce as little wind noise as possible. It’s all about quality inside, with Hyundai setting itself the goal of having no exposed metal or screw heads in the cabin.
The increase in overall length has paid off in the boot, where there’s 252 litres of storage space – ten per cent more than before and one litre more than the VW up!. Rear legroom is also joint best-in-class and we were impressed to find a person over six feet tall could sit in the back quite happily, thanks also to ample headroom. Hyundai believes the i10 offers “B segment value in an A segment car”, and it’s true some will look at the i10 as a Fiesta alternative, despite it being from the class below.
Performance & handling
There are just two petrol engines, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 65bhp and a 1.2-litre four-cylinder with 85bhp. Both engines perform best around town, but saying that, both feel quicker than acceleration figures of 14.9 and 12.3 seconds from rest to 62mph suggest. Both feel happy being coaxed to motorway speeds. We preferred the feel of the 1.0-litre thanks to its smooth growl under acceleration and enthusiastic response to quick changes with the slick five-speed manual gearbox. It’s more refined than the Volkswagen up!, Citigo and Mii, if not as quick off the mark.
What’s really impressive is the suspension tuning. Hyundai has started from scratch, and used 30 per cent high-tensile steel in the i10’s construction (up from nine per cent). This has given them a rigid platform, and coupled with suspension and steering tuned in Germany at the Nurburgring and on the derestricted Autobahn, the i10 feels more stable and planted through fast corners than most other city cars. This is the best steering Hyundai in recent memory too, with precision and good weighting.
Economy & environment
Despite having only two engines, the choice of a 1.0-litre Blue Drive eco version and 1.2-litre automatic means the i10 straddles four different road tax bands. The Blue Drive emits 98g/km of CO2, making it free to tax, while the standard 1.0-litre isn’t far behind with 108g/km. The 1.2-litre model emits 114g/km of CO2, which is a little high for a car with just 85bhp, but still won’t break the bank. Disappointing, however, is the 1.2-litre automatic, which emits 142g/km of CO2. While an acceptable figure in 2008, in 2013 this is more than a 313bhp BMW 435d, so if you have an auto-only driving license, the i10 may not be the car for you.
Equipment & value
Hyundai recently made its trim levels easier to understand, with S, SE and Premium grades and Blue Drive denoting models with extra fuel-saving technology. Starting from £8,345 the S trim is competitively priced, but a lack of air-con will limit its appeal. You do get central locking, electric front windows and a CD player with USB input.
An S model with air-con costs £8,995. For £9,295 the SE trim offers remote central locking, electric rear windows, heated door mirrors, driver’s seat height adjustment and a black B-pillar between the side windows, while Bluetooth is a £175 option. Premium trim is rather impressive, with Bluetooth, voice recognition, 14-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps and steering wheel audio controls. The biggest disappointment is the stereo, which feels last-generation, with a basic dot-matrix display. We’d like to have seen a touch-screen system, even as an option, especially given the neat plug and play system in the VW up!
There aren’t too many bells and whistles here, but you do get a strong little car, with six airbags as standard, as well as stability control. The one unexpected feature in this class is a standard Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, which alerts you to a puncture. There’s no optional City Safe system, however, which is available in the up! and Citigo to potentially mitigate low speed collisions.
The original Hyundai i10 was a sales hit and going by our first experience of the 2013 model, it has the potential to be an even greater success. After a long drive you get out of the i10, look back at it, and can’t quite believe you were just in such a small car. The quiet cabin, smooth ride over bumps and handling stability all trick your mind into thinking you are driving a far bigger car. It’s a significant step forward for the i10, only let down by a mediocre infotainment system. It might not be quite as trendy as the up! but it wins for interior refinement.
Model tested: Hyundai i10 hatchback
Engine: i10 1.0-litre, i10 1.2-litre
Power: 65bhp, 85bhp
Torque: 94NM, 120NM
Acceleration: 0-62 in 14.9, 12.3
Top speed: 96, 106mph
Emissions: 108, 114g/km CO2
Price: £9,295, £9,795