ARE KIDS today spoilt? OK so the default answer to this question is yes, but look at it in a motoring context. If you were fortunate enough to be young and buying a new car 20 years ago, your choice was almost non-existent: it was a cheap supermini or a bus pass. And even though it was brand-new, zero miles on the clock and shiny paint accounted for pretty much everything on the options list.
Fast forward to today, and the differences are astounding. This Hyundai i20 Active is the mid-range model, and according to a rough calculation provided by the Internet, it's current price tag of £11,595 would equate to £6,540 in 1990 - so bang on budget for a very cheap entry-level supermini.
Clap eyes on it from even 50 yards away and the last thing you get is a sense of cheapness. The i20 was not a bad-looking car to start with but recent revisions have given it even more personality and style. There's a hexagonal grille, new lights and bumpers and even front wings, all of which give the i20 a proper grown-up look in line with the bigger models in the Hyundai range. There are more subtle tweaks at the rear, but the redesigned bumper is better integrated into the overall design. It's handsome and subtle rather than trend-setting but has more than enough visual appeal for all kinds of buyers.
There are updates on the inside too. The dashboard is broadly as before, but there is a sprinkling of piano black which helps to lift the tone, while the ventilation controls are more substantial - pretty much everything you touch feels chunkier and more pleasurable to use. There's no increase in space as the exterior dimensions are almost identical, but there was always plenty of room: the fuss-free dashboard gives plenty of legroom and a feeling of spaciousness and whether you're sat in the front or the back there shouldn't be any complaints. And the driver certainly won’t grumble with features like Bluetooth and air conditioning thrown in – something that was a total luxury on big cars in the past.
Up front the engine range has been tweaked with the usual target of improved emissions and economy. The offerings have been slimmed down, but the two petrols and two diesels that are left are impressive. Grabbing the headlines is the 1.1-diesel, which is capable of 99g/km in standard trim but a remarkable 84g/km with stop-start added to the mix.
But our fledgling new car buyer will be looking at a cheaper petrol model, which is where this 1.2-litre version comes in. Significant tweaks have raised power and simultaneously cut emissions, so the 1.2-litre i20 is down to 114g/km while offering a healthy 84bhp. Like any good supermini motor, this 1.2-litre unit is quiet and responds accurately to throttle inputs – and also can handle being revved hard. If you’re young and behind the wheel it is inevitable that you will wring your little car out for all it is worth, and while understandably the noise levels go up a bit the i20 can take a thrashing in its stride.
Unlike the superminis of old however, this one is properly prepared to help you out in times of crisis. For starters it has ESP as standard across the range, and as a car that could well be bought by young drivers that is nigh-on essential. There are six airbags and a strong safety cell too, which should go some way to reassuring angst-ridden parents when their offspring are out with their friends. The i20 helps you along the way too, as the steering is accurate and light (thanks to the power steering), the brakes are strong and the driving position sound. An undemanding drive is exactly what you want from your supermini – the driver should be taxed as little as possible, and the i20 does just that.
This sums up the i20 in a nutshell. It’s a smart, attractive little car with good space, sound driving dynamics and value running right through it from the initial purchase price to the impressive fuel economy. And whatever you may think about how it compares to European rival brands, the reassurance of a five-year unlimited mileage warranty is not to be sniffed at. It’s a car you can buy for yourself, or your loved ones and be content that it will serve you well.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Hyundai i20 1.2 Active, £11,595
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol producing 84bhp and 88lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 104mph, 0-62mph in 12.7 seconds
Economy: 57.6mpg combined
Emissions: 114g/km of CO2
- Power3 (average performance)
- 0-60 mph
- Economy5 (high fuel economy)
- Insurance groups5 (very low costs)
Motors.co.uk value verdict: