Hyundai Elite i20 review: Beauty is in the 'i' of the beholder

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 23 2014, 18:56pm hrs
Hyundai Elite i20Hyundai i20 Elite is priced between Rs 4.9 lakh to Rs 7.67 lakh.
What makes a car beautiful Is it futuristic lines, sleek upscale appearance, ultra-modern looksor is it a bold, understated and ageless design Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. The first-generation Hyundai i20 was one such carpeople liked its design, yet some felt it didnt look bold enough. But then design is an ever-evolving process. So when Hyundai decided to enter a new design phasecalled Fluidic Sculpture 2.0it chose the i20 to embody that language in India and gave the car a new name, the Elite i20.

Exterior

Sleek, but not over-the-top. Curvaceous, but not bulbous. Futuristic, but not ahead of its time. The Elite i20 is one such car that will elicit unanimous praise and approval. Why Because, looking at it closely, you wont find a line or a curve wrong with this car. Its styling is mature and restrained, and the car has an element of boldness that was missing earlier.

While a single-frame 3D hexagonal grille is a key styling element at the front, the elongated sweptback headlamps and trapezoidal fog lamps complete the look. The large bonnet imparts the Elite i20 a big-car feel and the front three-quarter glance makes you realise how premium the car is. Looking at it from the sides, the 16-inch wheels give it a slightly raised stance and what especially attracts attention is the black C pillar. At the rear, the tail-lamps have an artistic feel to them. The outgoing i20 had these daytime running lights (DRLs) but the Elite i20 doesnt get DRLsprobably a good thing because anyway those DRLs looked too Audi-esque.

(While the top-spec Elite i20 gets 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, the entry-level models get 14-inch wheels. How gracefully small tyres fill the large wheel arches remains to be seen.)

Interior

Hyundais have been feature-rich cars. The Elite i20 takes the bar higher. The first thing you will notice is a driver-focused cabin. The multi-function steering wheel comes with audio and Bluetooth controls, and the music player gets 1 GB internal memory. The car gets something called the FATC (fully automatic temperature control), which essentially is a one-touch ambient cabin temperature command. Both the driver and front passenger get a console armrest with storage box, and the drivers seat can be adjusted for height. The central locking button has been moved to the centre console and thus even the front passenger can use the button. The outside rear-view mirrors are auto-folding ones. The space is the best in class and, because of the increased wheelbase, the rear seating area is generous. The car gets rear AC vents but there is the surprising omission of the rear centre armrest. While the boot gets a 285-litre space, we found the loading area is slightly on the higher side, which means placing heavy luggage into the boot can be a bit of a problem. Overall, the quality of plastics is very good and the levels of fit and finish are as good as they can getthe Elite i20, unarguably, redefines premiumness and packaging.

Safety

Among the safety features the car gets are dual front airbags (top-end Asta variant), driver airbag (Sportz variant), ABS, impact-sensing door unlock, and rear parking camera and sensors. It also gets anti-pinch driver-side power window (the glass automatically rolls down when an obstacle is detected) and smart pedal (during simultaneous operation of the brake and acceleration pedal, the smart pedal overrides the accelerator pedal and applies brakes only). However, considering the fact that its direct competition is the Volkswagen Polo, the Elite i20 at least should have emulated Polos example by making front airbags mandatory across all variants!

Performance (diesel)

The proven U2 1.4 CRDi diesel produces a maximum power of [email protected] and a torque of 22.4 kgm. It gets a 6-speed manual transmission. The power delivery is linear and at engine speeds above 2,000 rpm, if you floor the accelerator pedal in third gear, the car simply shoots ahead. The engine has enough grunt for highway cruising and the Elite i20 can happily cruise at three-figure speeds all day long. Hyundai has worked well on the NVH levels and all you hear in the cabin is a murmur of the diesel motor.

Performance (petrol)

The petrol motor is the 1.2 Kappa Dual VTVT that generates a maximum power of [email protected] and a torque of 11.7 kgm. It has been tweaked a bit to offer more low and mid-range power. It gets a 5-speed manual transmission. There is no automatic gearbox option as yet, but we expect Hyundai will launch one soon.

Handling

If the first generation i20 behaved like Usain Bolt on heelsfast but shaky at high speedsthe Elite i20 is a hugely improved handler. The steering now gives you much better feedback and the car confidently changes lanes even at high speeds. The body roll, too, has been contained to an extent. Further, you get a big-car feel on the move. The tweaked suspension and a ground clearance of 170 mm ensure that driving on poor roads isnt much of a challenge either.

Verdict

The Elite i20 petrol is priced from R4.89-6.46 lakh, which is very competitive, considering the overall package you are getting. But the diesel, from R6.09-7.66 lakh, we feel, is slightly on the higher side (prices are ex-showroom, Delhi). But the segment-unique features the car gets and the big-car feel it gives you is priceless. You only have to ask yourself: Do you need that compact sedan or a compact SUV when you can have a premium small car that is surprisingly big on space and high on luxury