Hyundai's popular i10 is definitely going up a gear but perhaps a little too slowly, writes James McNamara.
You would be forgiven for not knowing the Hyundai i10 has been in production since 2007. But while it certainly couldn't be described as a head-turner, it has still managed to win over generations of motorists.
From the elderly on the Mass run, families on the school run and teenagers looking for an affordable run, the i10 has something for everyone.
The damning term 'A to B car’ inevitably springs to mind. Reliable, safe, economical and, well, boring. All these characteristics combined to ensure the i10 was named ‘Car of the Year 2008’.
Hyundai gave the i10 a ‘facelift’ in 2010 and followed up with a slightly beefed up redesign in 2013.
Fast-forward to 2020 and the third-generation i10 has been given a serious nip and tuck. And unlike an ageing celebrity who has overdone the botox, the latest incarnation of the city car has transformed it into an attractive supermini.
The i10 has increased in both length and width and is considerably enhanced now the roof has been lowered by 20mm. With slick spotlights framed by a stylish grille, underscored by eye-catching 15in alloy wheels, for the first time in its existence the i10 is daring to stand out from the crowd.
Hyundai has done a cracking job inside. There’s decent legroom achieved by a slight increase in the car’s length. The same extension of the wheelbase and improved steering makes it just as solid on the motorway as it is weaving through city backstreets.
As you might expect, there’s an abundance of interior plastic, but it’s tastefully done. The chequered flag effect in the dashboard dials adds a sporty ambience amplified by a streak of red fabric in the smart upholstery.
There’s also great visibility in every direction and an 8in infotainment screen seamlessly flows into the natty dashboard.
There’s no change to the i10’s 252-litre boot but that’s more than respectable for a car of this size.
Once behind the wheel, you’ll find an embarrassment of tech. There’s the kind of gadgetry you’d find as standard on a high-spec saloon car or family crossover - wireless smartphone charging, sat nav, lane assist, DAB radio, air conditioning, electric windows, cruise control and a rear-view camera. Remarkably, this model has rear privacy glass.
Then there’s the economy. At over 50 mpg, the 1.0 litre petrol i10 really does what it says on the tin. Throw in Hyundai’s generous five-year warranty/roadside assistance and this pocket rocket becomes a very attractive proposition.
But there’s a problem. The model I’m driving has an automatic gearbox and to say the transmission is sluggish is an understatement. As the engine labours from one gear to the next, the driver nods forwards and back again when the clutch bites following what feels like an interminable interlude.
Furthermore, in the ‘drive’ position you are never too confident the engine will give you what you need, particularly when slowing to turn right into an uphill climb.
When you do need the engine to be more responsive, you can flip the lever to the right and shift through the gears manually, which does generate a much more satisfactory performance. However, it’s never really clear which gear you are in - and what to do next.
I test drove the Deluxe Plus Auto model that will set you back €18,495. The good news is a cheaper manual version of this car is available and, based on my experience of using the manual override, should be much better suited to the engine and car size.
Meanwhile, there are industry whispers that Hyundai could have fully electric versions of the i10 in the pipeline. Could this be the moment the mini marvel finally comes into its own?