We certainly love our crossovers here in the UK – but while we are attracted to their chunky, go-anywhere styling, not too many of us actually go off-road – unless you count the occasional foray into an Ikea car park, that is. That would certainly appear to be the thinking behind the new Hyundai i20 Active, which the manufacturer can fairly state combines a new, rugged design with the space, style and quality of the i20 five-door. So, it's a small, smart SUV and it's got a new downsized and turbocharged engine. It arrives in UK showrooms next week. But is it any good?
What is it?
For anyone needing a quick refresh, the i20 is the capable and attractive B-segment hatchback from Hyundai, which has been a staple of the range for eight years now. Hyundai has long been a busy performer in the B-segment, having sold more than a million cars in that part of the market since the introduction of the Getz in 2002. (Remember that?) Since the replacement of Getz in 2008, the company has sold more than 500,000 i20s across Europe, with 94,000 shifted here in the UK. What the manufacturer has been lacking, though, is anything with a crossover feel – this is a car that plugs that gap, although there isn't a four-wheel-drive option.
What's under the bonnet?
The i20 Active is only available with Hyundai's new three-cylinder 1.0-litre T-GDi 99bhp engine. The car offers buyers impressive performance with reasonable running costs and boasts combined fuel economy of up to 58.9mpg and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km. And the car has been designed to be fun to drive too – its three-cylinder unit features direct petrol injection and a matched compact turbocharger with an electrical wastegate actuator. Never heard of one of those before? Well, it's designed to help the engine and turbo form the perfect partnership and work as efficiently as possible.
What's the spec like?
Hyundai has a pretty good reputation in terms of the spec levels it offer customers – and in the case of the i20, there's certainly lots on offer. Key to the Active's appeal will be its outdoorsy exterior appearance. In fact, more than half the Active's external parts differ from the standard i20 model, and to give it that authentic crossover feel, revised suspension settings elevate the car's body by 20mm compared with the five-door, with the driver's sitting position correspondingly higher. Those external features include front and rear bumpers with integrated skid plates, circular fog lamps front and rear and a good-looking rear spoiler. There's plenty inside to make life convenient and comfortable too, such as a new DAB radio, parking sensors, cruise control and Bluetooth with voice recognition, not to mention plenty of those all-important bottle/cup holders, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors and electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors. The model we drove was finished in attractive Aqua Sparkling metallic paint (£550 extra).
The i20 in general has lots of rivals – chief among which is the all-conquering Ford Fiesta, which has been sitting pretty at the top of the sales charts for ages. Hyundai will also be trying to attract people who are currently driving cars such as the Citroën C3, Dacia Sandero, Peugeot 208 or Volkswagen Polo. The Active in particular will have cars such as the Mini Paceman, Suzuki Vitara or Renault Captur in its sights.
What's it like to drive?
We thoroughly enjoyed testing the i20 Active on a range of Cotswold A and B roads – the car is certainly fun to drive and the engine is responsive and ready to do whatever is required of it. There is a bit more body roll than on the standard i20 (not surprising as it's basically the same car but a bit further off the ground), and the suspension has been firmed up a bit. The seats are comfortable and supportive; visibility is excellent; the tech is found easily to hand and the whole package feels very accomplished.
The AOL Cars verdict
The B-segment is a notoriously crowded part of the UK car market, and as we've seen, the i20 generally is not short of rivals – and pretty well-established ones at that.
Having said that, Hyundai's profile is increasing all the time in the UK. It's been lacking a crossover-based offering, and as we've said, this car could be just what the doctor ordered. It should do well for the brand, and if you want crossover looks but don't want to spend the earth or actually drive over it, it's a car that comes highly recommended.
Model: Hyundai i20 Active 1.0 T-GDI
Engine: 1.0-litre, 3cyl petrol
Power: 99bhp / 171Nm
Max speed: 109mph
0-60mph: 10.7 seconds
MPG (combined): 58.9mpg
Author: Dave Brown