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New i20: Why did they do it?

autos Updated: Apr 19, 2012 23:37 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

There was no pressing need for it, but Hyundai went ahead and gave its premium hatchback, the i20, a fluidic makeover of sorts. Like the Swift for Maruti, the car has been a lucky mascot for the Korean auto giant. Conceptualised and produced for “upmarket European tastes” the i20 routinely sells three times the company’s initial target in India, proving that consumer taste here is fast maturing. The shocking pricing of the Jazz by Honda helped, but that’s another story. Most makeovers, cosmetic or otherwise, are attempts to beat product fatigue with a more contemporary design. It doesn’t work always.

Exterior

There is always a temptation to exploit a successful design as much as possible. But there is a risk of overdoing it. With the i20, Hyundai has taken that risk and it does not seem to be working. The ‘fluidic’ design that was first used in the new Verna was extended to the Sonata and Eon, where it worked. But when it carried the design over to the i20, the problem is that the outgoing car was not bad looking either. Forcing the fluidic look on it may be stretching this a bit too far.

The changes are not dramatic anyway: a glossy black radiator grill embossed with the chrome Hyundai logo, wraparound headlamps, bigger leaf-like fog lamps and a pair of bulbous tail lamps. The sides were already free flowing, so ‘fluidic’ didn’t require much work. The car now looks sharper and meaner. Maybe it will grow on you with time, but the old car had more curves and character. Imagine ‘Dirty Picture’ Vidya Balan in size-zero. There you go!

Interiors http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/4/20_04_biz6.jpg

A lot of changes here, mostly added features. When the i20 was launched back in 2009 it had class-leading features. That has been updated and upgraged, and the i20 now gets keyless ignition (as seen in the Micra and Pulse), automatic lights, rain sensing wipers and the very useful rear parking camera with display on the rear view mirror. Hyundai says it has added 17 features inside the car. Apart from the afore-mentioned, the others are merely shoring up numbers. Body length has been increased but the wheelbase remains the same, so cabin space is unchanged — the most spacious car in its class after the Honda Jazz.

Ride, Handling, drive

Like the i10 kappa2, i20 finally gets a dual VTVT 1.2-litre petrol engine that optimises its performance and fuel economy. It gains 4BHP, and a bit on fuel efficiency. The outgoing i20 always felt a little underpowered on the highway and the new car is an improvement on that. In diesel, it retains the 1.4-litre engine that belts out 90 bhp power and a superlative 220 NM torque. This is a seriously powerful diesel engine, now mated with a 6-speed gearbox from the old 5-, which makes it even more potent. Hyundai's achilles heel is handling, though, and this remains unchanged. Designed for a pliant ride, the soft suspension makes the car unstable round corners and there is significant lack of traction if you take a bend at over 80 kmph. The diesel engine is up for performance, but the suspension is not!

On the straight line, the car will better every other vehicle in its class but the first hint of a curve and the Germans nose ahead. Pity.

Fuel economy

As mentioned earlier, the petrol variant now becomes a little more frugal and is up there with the Swift at 18.5 kmpl. As is the case always, the diesel is even more economical at nearly 22 kilometers to a litre. The Swift betters it here but it really is touch-and-go. For the kind of power that the car has, it is very fuel efficient.