The Hyundai i20 seems a bit of an odd basis for a coupe version, but give this one a chance. It's well worth a look. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Hyundai i20 Coupe lands squarely into a spot in the market for three-door superminis recently vacated by Renault's Clio. It's a very adept piece of product planning and the car looks great and is soundly engineered. We could do with a bit more engine power though.
The Hyundai i20 is one of those cars that sneaked in and became seriously good looking. In five-door guise, it's developed into one of the most stylish superminis on the market, but Hyundai has decided to up the ante with a three-door version it calls the i20 Coupe. Now before we go any further, we know that there are a decent proportion of you snorting in derision. An i20 'Coupe'? We'll readily admit it sounds a bit of a stretch and when you see the pictures, the only real coupe attribute it has is that there are three doors. It's got something though. It looks the part, and with Hyundai's World Rally Championship entry with an i20, it's bolstered by some serious credibility. So while there might be some chuckles at the audacity of the Koreans at first, it's not going to take too long for those chuckles to turn into nods of appreciation.
So what's under the bonnet? Well, a bit more than there was at launch. The feeble 84PS 1.2-litre petrol unit that was offered then still remains, but the previous 1.4-litre diesel option has been dumped in favour of two more palatable powerplans, 100 and 120PS versons of Hyundai's latest three cylinder 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol unit. The T-GDI is a good powerplant but if Hyundai wants this car to establish any kind of sporting presence in the market, it needs a 200PS fast version and we can't see that one in the pipeline. Not for the foreseeable future at least. The underpinnings of this i20 Coupe have been fettled by a team in Russelsheim, Germany to suit European road conditions. It gets a MacPherson strut front suspension and semi-independent coupled torsion beam axle at the rear. The steering system is a brushless a/c electric motor-driven steering system that requires just 2.7 turns lock-to-lock for a tiny 5.1-metre turning radius - making the car easy to navigate with in town.
Design and Build
The i20 Coupe leaps right up into the forefront of the most dynamically-styled three-door superminis. There's a lot that's very right about the styling. The profile view is especially striking with the glasshouse and pillars being completely different to the five-door car, giving the Coupe a more rakish appearance. The grille is different as well, with a reverse hexagonal shape inset into a more aggressive front bumper assembly. It's those bulging rear wheel arches that are the key design flourish though. Despite its sloping rear glass, the Coupe retains respectable practicality, carrying 336-litres of luggage in the boot. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to grab attention at launch if you're a bit short of power beneath the bonnet is an eye-catching exclusive colour scheme and the i20 Coupe duly delivers with a Tangerine Orange exterior colour and a matching orange interior colour option for the Coupe. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but we reckon the 17-inch alloy wheels and rear spoiler will elicit broader approval.
Market and Model
The i20 Coupe starts at around £13,000 for the SE model with a 1.2-litre petrol engine, but the revier 1.0 T-GDI petrol engine you'd ideally want costs another £1,000 more. To get this unit in 120PS form, you need the 'Sport' trim level and around £15,500. As for equipment, even base 'SE' trim comes with some decent kit such as 16" alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors and a rear spoiler. Step up to 'Sport' and there are 17" alloy wheels, automatic lights, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, climate control with auto defog as well as privacy glass. At the top of the range is the 'Sport Nav' version which adds integrated satellite navigation with a 7" touch screen, a rear view camera and DAB radio. The Sport Nav package adds about £700. Safety equipment includes six airbags on all models, hill start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, stability control, emergency stop signals and impact-sensing door unlocking.
Cost of Ownership
The i20 Coupe offers some refreshingly low carbon dioxide emissions, with the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine emitting 119g/km and the 1.0 T-GDI petrol unit doing even better at 104g/km in 100PS form, or 112g/km in 120PS guise. Those figures don't change, even if you go for the bigger wheels of the Sport versions. The latest chassis has been developed using more lightweight, high-strength steel to yield stiffer torsional rigidity. The body structure is composed of 42% lightweight, ultra high-strength steel, compared with 16% in the outgoing model. Efficient electrically-assisted steering also negates the requirement to run a pump at all times. That award-winning five-year warranty will also attract a generation more adept with a smartphone than a spanner.
The i20 Coupe looks a bit of a masterstroke from Hyundai. It's a good-looking car that will do much to build a more dynamic image amongst younger buyers. One trick the company seems to be missing is the addition of a properly sporty model in the range, to take advantage of the i20's World Rally Championship connection. Perhaps that will come. In the meantime, this three-door offers a cost-effective way for younger drivers to land a really sharp-looking hatch that's not going to cost the earth to run. It lands in a section of the market that's currently a bit underpopulated too. Renault's latest Clio would traditionally be a dominant force here, but that's no longer offered with a three-door body. Hyundai looks set to capitalise very smartly, but we think we've only just scratched the surface of the i20 Coupe's potential.