Hyundai i10 tested: substance over style

2 October 2014

Hyundai i10 front view

Hyundai i10
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Quiet, comfortable, easy to drive
Bad: Not light, not speedy
Price: from £8,595
It’s ironic that Hyundai has applied an “i” prefix to its cars, given that the high-tech iMacs, iPods, iPads and iPhones that share the label are such fashion-conscious, ephemeral, style-driven consumer desirables.

The Hyundai i10, by contrast, is neither fashionable nor stylish, but it’s not without other forms of appeal. For one thing, there’s an engaging feeling of honesty about the car. It’s by no means ugly or ungainly, but it doesn’t look sporty, or rugged, or upmarket, or youthful, or pretentious. It’s not anything crossed with anything else.

The i10 is thus a car that makes no lifestyle statement (except, arguably, that you don’t care about lifestyle statements).

Hyundai i10 dashboard

The straightforward approach continues inside, where you’ll find no nonsense at all. The seats are firm and supportive, buttons are big and logical, the materials feel unapologetically solid, and nothing whatsoever squeaks or rattles or feels flimsy. In most modern cars you get a sense of trade-off, of distinct highs and lows – in order to afford a shiny aluminium door release, say, they’ve made the glovebox from recycled ready-meal trays. The i10, by contrast, seems all on one level. It might not delight but neither will it disappoint.

The instrument panel provides another case in point, where clarity rather than cleverness has obviously been the aim. Designer decoration has been limited to a ring of bright blue between the mile and kilometre speed dials. As a result it’s immediately obvious how fast you’re going and when you might run out of fuel.

Hyundai i10 instrument cluster

Jump in and drive, and it’s equally clear why the Hyundai i10 is such a popular choice at driving schools like the Excel Driving Academy, where instructors select their own model rather than having to live with a liveried Corsa or Micra. The i10 could hardly be easier to drive.

All-round vision is excellent, courtesy of the i10’s big windows. It’s the kind of deep glazing that was popular before the majority of cars adopted a shallow, rakish glasshouse to project a sporty image. More glass means a better chance of being able to see out at junctions, or being able to place the kerb when reversing around a corner. Short overhangs front and rear, which put a wheel at each corner, also help to make manoeuvring easier.

Hyundai i10 side view

The gearstick glides smoothly through its five well-defined forward slots, and you couldn’t be more sure of the biting point if the clutch pedal grew teeth. The i10’s pedals are also well spaced, and there’s ample room to rest your clutch foot when it’s not busy.

The steering is light and a little on the numb side, but far from the worst you’ll find today. The wheel adjusts only for height and not for reach, but it’s easy to get comfortable, albeit with a slightly upright feel.

Hyundai i10 front interior

The matronly seating position helps to liberate interior space, aided by the i10’s relatively high roofline – it’s taller than a VW Up or Citroen C1, though not quite as elevated as a Fiat Panda. Unfashionably small wheels also help to reduce the need for big arches that would otherwise intrude into the cabin. My test i10, in mid-range SE trim, featured 14-inch steel wheels. The alloys that come with the upmarket Premium trim are the same size.

The ride is forgiving and refinement is exceptional among cars of this kind, helped by the squishy sidewalls of 65-profile tyres. Tyre roar, engine rumble and wind rush are all kept firmly at bay, even at motorway speeds.

Hyundai i10 cupholders

The base engine, as fitted to my example, is a 998cc, three-cylinder petrol item developing a modest 65bhp and 95Nm of torque. From rest to 62mph takes a leisurely 14.9 seconds and you will need to drop a gear or two, and thrash it a bit, to maintain pace up steep hills.

Combined cycle economy is rated at 60.1mpg with a CO2 rating of 108g/km, for the 1.0-litre SE model I tested. Given the low performance on offer, it is a little disappointing not to be on the right side of 100g/km.

Partly, that’s down to being portly. At 930kg or so the i10 is roughly the same weight as a Volkswagen Up, whereas the new generation Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108 are all about 10% lighter.

Hyundai i10 rear view

A more economical SE Blue Drive edition of the i10 delivers a 98g/km score and 65.7mpg, with the addition of low-resistance tyres on 13-inch steel wheels, a stop-start facility for its 1.0-litre engine, climate control rather than manual aircon and, oddly, the removal of the middle rear seatbelt. The lack of a fifth belt is because the Blue Drive has a lower maximum weight rating, presumably due its eco tyres.

The Blue Drive costs from £9,910 on the road, a modest £300 increase over the £9,610 starting price of the SE I drove. All models of the i10 come with a 5-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, and fixed-price servicing plans for three or five years are available, at £349 and £649 respectively.

All told, the i10 makes a very rational case for itself as basic transport. It’s not glamorous, but it does feel like a well built, reasonably equipped city car at a sensible price.

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