Un-compromise. It's not a word that you will find in any dictionary, but Hyundai insists, it is what best describes the new Elite i20. How? Well, Hyundai seems to believe that the new i20 is in fact the ideal fusion of a compact SUV and sedan. So, it better have the utility and street creed of an SUV while being refined and dynamically sound as is expected of a sedan. Tall ask? You bet! But can it be true? Can the new Elite i20 really be that good for one to overlook an SUV or a sedan?
Exterior Design / Style
Now, before we answer that, let's talk styling. The Elite i20 might run on juicy looking 16in wheels, but as you can tell, it's no SUV. It is, nonetheless, a good looking large hatchback, we will give it that. The Elite i20 now follows what Hyundai calls its Fluidic Sculpture 2 design, which to you and me means a car that's less flamboyant and in-your-face, and more palatable than the likes of the Hyundai Verna and Elantra. It still has Hyundai's signature hexagonal grille and pulled back head lamps, but the mesh that integrates the fog lamps as part of the bumper is a new addition; and it looks good. The bonnet has more creases now and daytime running lights, interestingly, have been given a miss. Hyundai says customers weren't willing to pay for it.
In profile, the increase in wheelbase of the Hyundai Elite i20 is obvious. What isn't as clear is the reduction in length. The new i20 is 10mm shorter. But with its stronger shoulder line that runs from the front fender all the way into the tail lamps; the sloping down roofline; and the blackened C-pillar, the Elite i20 looks sportier and has a larger than class road presence. It is the rear where the Elite i20 looks very unlike the previous generation car. Its large LED tail lamps that run into the hatch dominate, and they look beautiful. But then on, it lacks the same styling flair the Elite i20 displays upfront and in profile. It has this ugly protrusion under the Hyundai badge (for the reversing camera) and the bumper though flowing in design, lacks character.
Exterior Design / Style: 4
Interior & Space
The idea with the Elite i20 is to go premium. And it's obvious in the way the dashboard has been designed. Like most expensive cars, the face of the dash - finished in a lighter shade to make it standout - is one continuous slab that gives a wrap around feel thanks to the same colour being carried over to the door. It looks upmarket, no doubt, and with better finish and quality of materials all round, Hyundai sure has achieved that step up in premium feel.
And it isn't just a good looking design this, it's well thought out too. The instrumentation is neat and easy to read; the stereo is nicely integrated into the centre console; and though the climate control system looks old as Hyundai as carried over the buttons and knobs and even the fonts from the previous car, it is well located. So, using it while on the move, isn't a hassle. Moreover, besides good ergonomics, Hyundai has done well on the operability front too. The buttons have a positive spring back action, these are logically placed and feel rich to the touch.
Space on the Elite i20 has increased as well; helped no doubt by its larger wheelbase. The new i20 is also wider than the older car. This not only translates into better knee room for rear passengers, the shoulder room is more too. Plus, the seats are large and supportive and though there's no cup holders for the rear passengers and no rear armrest, there's at least an AC vent.
Interior & Space: 4
Equipment & Features
In fact, when it comes to comfort and convenience related equipment, the Elite i20 scores quite well; at least in this top of the line Asta trim. It gets steering mounted controls and single zone climate control system; electric ORVMs with auto fold and a cooled glove box; height adjustable seat and Bluetooth telephony; auto headlamps and keyless entry and start; and a reversing camera as well.
What it could do with, however, was a rear central armrest, a better trip computer and a leather pack. On the safety front, there's ABS and front two airbags. Sadly, the six airbag option available on the previous generation i20 has been skipped on the new car.
Equipment & Features: 4.5
Engine & Performance
Now the engines. As has become a norm in this class of hatchbacks, there's one diesel and one petrol engine on offer. Both engines have been carried over from the previous i20. So, the petrol is a 83PS, 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol while the diesel is a 90PS, 1.4-litre unit. The petrol is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox while the diesel gets a 6-speed manual. There is no automatic yet on offer.
We are driving the diesel here; the engine almost 70 per cent of Elite i20 buyers have opted for so far. And for good reason, because the first thing that strikes you is how good the NVH is on the new Elite i20 diesel. You can hear the diesel engine outside, but it isn't an irritating or loud clatter. However, once seated inside the car, the engine feels both quiet and refined. It is also an easy revving engine. But if we had to nitpick, we'd say the turbo lag is a bit of a dampener. It's only after 2,000rpm that the car really gets going. The 6-speed gearbox, however, doesn't give you much to complain about. The gear shifts are precise, the throws aren't very long and the clutch operation is light and progressive too.
Engine & Performance: 3.5
Ride & Handling
Hyundai has worked towards improving the ride and handling on the Elite i20 and it shows on the move. Though the suspension has been carried over from the older car in theory, the geometry as well as the damping characterisers have been revised significantly. The setup is slightly firmer than the older i20. Surprisingly, it hasn't affected the ride and the i20 still rides quite well; it feels pliant, absorbent and well judged.
The improvement in handling on the other hand is more than obvious. The body roll, the pitch and the waywardness under quick direction changes have all been tied down tightly giving the i20 a more confident, stable and exploitable handling character. We would have liked a less artificial steering response though; the current setup fails to connect the driver with the happenings. Braking on the other hand, even though Hyundai has ditched rear disc brake in favour of a drum setup, is stable and strong.
Ride & Handling: 3.5
Price & Fuel efficiency
The pricing of the new Hyundai Elite i20 did come as a surprise. Now this is an all new generation car and it isn't short on features either. Moreover, it has improved in a number of areas. Even so, Hyundai has priced it similar to the outgoing car. It is less than Rs 10,000 more expensive trim for trim, which in our book is a commendable job. As far as fuel efficiency is concerned, the i20 was always one of the more economical cars to run and that continues for the new Elite i20 as well. For those interested, the ARAI figure for the diesel is over 22kmpl and for the petrol is nearly 19kmpl.
Price & Fuel efficiency: 4.5
Is it an SUV? Is it a sedan? Is it an un-compromise between the two? Well, the equation isn't that simple. Sure, barring a high seating position and ground clearance, the Elite i20 does deliver on usability and street presence. And like a sedan, it is refined and now better handling too. But, mostly, the new Elite i20 is a car you won't regret having. It is a significant improvement over the car it replaces. Not only does it improve upon the virtues of the older i20 in areas like interior room, features and quality, it has addressed the older car's shortcomings as well. Handling being a case in point. We agree that it could do with a better steering response, but this apart, the Elite i20 is almost as good as they come and is certainly worth buying. More so when you consider its price.
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