"No one can possibly achieve any real and lasting success or get rich in business by being a conformist." This famous quote by J Paul Getty, an American industrialist pretty much explains the reason for the Hyundai i20's success in the past. In terms of safety and features, the Korean carmaker broke, what was considered a decent standard earlier and forced competition to follow.
Recently, Hyundai Motor India launched the all-new Elite i20, aiming to further stretch the bar in the B segment. We drove the petrol variant of the car at length to find out if it's still the benchmark of the segment for the mass-market.
The Elite i20 is quite simply a stunning car to look at, with the evolved Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy. The car's sharp and angular design gives it a dynamic and sporty stance, making it the sharpest looking car in its segment. The sleek and sharp headlamps along with a hexagonal grille impart the i20 with a chic appeal. The rear has been given an extra dash of sportiness with a blacked-out C-pillar, which adds a kinetic character to the side profile.
A striking element on the Elite i20 is the tail lamp, which owing to a wraparound and edgy design looks attractive, especially in the dark due to its cluster design. Overall fit and finish on the car is of top order and it's hard to find things amiss therein. The diamond-cut 16-inch alloy wheels help the car exude an imposing stance but its glossy finish seemed a tad too loud to us. Average consumers though have an inclination towards such wheels, if the choice of aftermarket fitment on cars is anything to go by.
In general, the Elite i20 is a futuristic and dynamically styled car with high quality fit and finish. In our opinion, it clearly is the best looking car in its segment.
Our test car was equipped with a 1.2 l Dual VTVT Kappa engine, which has been carried over from the previous model, but with some tuning to improve overall performance. The naturally aspirated engine develops about 82 hp and 115 Nm of torque. Improved NVH proofing along with a refined engine mean that the cabin is well-insulated from external disturbances. Efficient aerodynamics ensures that wind noise isn't intrusive even at about 120 km/h.
The petrol engine pulls cleanly from the start and offers a linear acceleration through its rev band. Beyond 5,000 rpm though the engine doesn't sound comfortable and starts to run out of steam. The five-speed manual gearbox is smooth to operate and coupled with a light clutch, the Elite i20 makes for a good urban car. Fuel-efficiency is claimed 18.6 km/l for the petrol variant and during our test we got an average figure of 14.2 km/l, with most of the running done in city.
The exterior design does raise expectations about the interiors too, and fortunately, it supersedes expectations. The overall cabin design and quality is impressive and looks right out of a premium sedan from Europe. Material quality is appreciable in most places with only some bits in beige reflecting a plastic feel. We believe that an all-black interior would've suited this car and its overall design character much better.
The centre-console features a neat and hassle-free design, which instead of a plethora of buttons, offers a split-design. The top part houses the infotainment controls, while the lower part houses the climate control knobs and readout. The music system comes with an in-built 1 GB memory and eight speakers, the sound quality of which is decent. The steering wheel feels nice to hold and has controls for the audio, Bluetooth telephony and information display setting. The information cluster offers a wide range of information, of which one that particularly caught our attention was the front wheel angle indicator. This informs the driver of the angle of the front wheel, prompting him/her to straighten it out before leaving.
The seats at the front are comfortable and offer good support on the sides along with decent headroom. The long wheelbase of 2,570 mm translates into decent legroom at the rear, which along with a comfortable seat makes the car suitable for long journeys too. One also gets AC vents at the rear. The rear parking camera projects its feed in the ORVM, which is convenient for the driver in tight spots.
Our overall feedback of the interior is positive and like the exteriors, the Elite i20 in our opinion features the best cabin as well.
Dynamics & Safety
This has generally been an area of mixed results for the company in the past as it has offered good ride quality but high-speed dynamics weren't that good. The company claims to have improved this balance with the Elite i20, which we were eager to test. On city roads, littered with broken surfaces and breakers, the car performs exceedingly well. The suspension soaks up most of the bumps and keeps things settled in the cabin. This though was something that Hyundai has delivered well on in the past and has made progressive improvement with the new model.
At high speeds, the Elite i20 showed a significant improvement in terms of handling. The car is much more controllable in the corners now and holds its line better. The suspension has been stiffened but is still inclined towards soft, making the body-roll evident. The steering too, unlike earlier cars, isn't extremely light and weighs up decently, while offering some bit of feedback as well. All this equates to a much better ride & handling package from Hyundai.
For the regular city and highway runs the i20 offers a good balance but misses out on offering fun and involvement. That said, takers for these attributes aren't many, and for the rest, Hyundai has got its recipe right.
On the safety front, the i20 offers ABS and front-dual airbags, but only on the top variants. This is a missed opportunity for the company, since it was the i20, which had first introduced six airbags in this segment. Pricing pressures are understandable but with the kind of premium image the company is offering with the Elite i20, the safety offering could've been better on the base variants. The top variants, being loaded to the brim in all areas though leave us completely impressed since some cars, even from a segment above seem bare, when compared to the Elite i20.
Hyundai ticks almost all the boxes right with the Elite i20. Aspirational markets such as India will respond well to the class-leading design, features and comfort. Initial numbers too confirmed our assessment, in a much more spectacular manner though. Since the launch of the car in mid-August, Hyundai has already received more than 25,000 bookings!
Despite the initial surge usually associated with a new model, the figures are quite surprising. This proves that the way ahead for carmakers in the premium compact segment is to offer a smart design, increased connectivity and enhanced comfort. In a country with more than 65 % of its population aged under-35, there's no way around this formula, which Hyundai seems to have perfected!
Very soon we'll bring to you a detailed reveiw of the diesel Elite i20 as well.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay