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Hyundai i20 versus rivals

Hyundai i20 versus rivals

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Published by: star_neha_chopra on Mar 22, 2011
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06/07/2014

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The first iteration of the deadly fightbetween the big diesel hatches on amission to gun down gasoline sawthe
Swift
DDiS emerge as the mostlethal oil burner. The small gasolinehatches , in the meantime , areengaged in an intra-racial skirmish for survival. There¶s a new , extremelypotent killer on the block. Thishostile
Hyundai
hailing from SouthKorea is called the
i20
and it is readyto challenge the might of championsfrom Germany and Japan. It¶s going tobe one hell of a fight.To understand the magnitude of the
i20
as a new contender , we need to rewind about five years back in time. Those of you who havea profound interest in cars would recollect that Korean cars were considered in a league of their own when it came to aesthetics. Theywere crowned the ugliest cars on the face of this planet almost unanimously. Like that was not a big enough accolade , these carsfeatured poor technology , were flimsily put together and drove like metallic incarnations of disappointment itself. That was also thetime when Hyundai was emerging on the global automotive scene as a powerful player , and even though the company didn¶t have anauthentically well-engineered car to its credit , most small and midsize Hyundais were known to do their job reasonably well. Yet for most international auto journalists , bringing out the topic of Korean cars still meant that it was time to crack jokes. And it wasn¶tvery different in India either , where there weren¶t too many quality offerings to begin with. Hyundai¶s small cars went down wellwith the market because of their low cost and economical running , but nobody was confident about the more expensive offerings of the company ± a segment where technology and sophistication take prominence over economy. Somehow Hyundai cars didn¶t quitematch the high European standards of quality , technology and design.Circa 2007 ± the
Hyundai i10
specifically designed and developed for Europe changed the way people looked at the Korean marque.The i10¶s clean sweep of the Indian Car of the Year awards was unprecedented. Be it any department ± design , comfort , space or refinement; the
i10
bettered its competition in the country on every count and by a good margin. The i10 was a contemporary ,quality product , ready to take the fight to the biggies. The fact reflected on the growth of the company. Local sales and exportssoared , and the Korean giant posted exceptionally healthy figures throughout 2008 when all the other auto players were feeling theheat of the recession. Hyundaihad proven its authority in the smallcar market. This , however , was notthe segment where we doubted theKorean company¶s capabilitiesanyway. The i20 is a very importantcar because it¶s the next link in theprogression. Presenting products asimmaculate as the
i10
in higher segments (the i30 in Europe) willprove Hyundai¶s aptitude as acomplete carmaker and the i20 is thenext logical step in that direction.What makes this comparo interestingis the fact that we havethe
Skoda
Fabia ± a car that was designed for the demanding European market and has met with great success there. The
Swift
, theother contender in this shootout , is the car that was the biggest deterrent in the success of the
Getz
. Evaluating the i20 against itscousin¶s nemesis will be interesting.
 
To start with , the new Hyundai shatters the earlier perception about the design of Korean cars to pieces. The i20 exhibits exceptionalflair and flamboyance. It doesn¶t need any discussion or argument to emerge as the best looking car of the trio , one look would beenough. The sleek and slim twin grille at the front flanks the Hyundai emblem. Twin creases on the bonnet converge under theHyundai insignia to form a U. The vertically tapering headlamps end into a ridge that runs all through the flanks of the bonnet andmerge seamlessly into the A pillars of the car. The big central air-dam with slightly popped out headlamps completes the front whichmanages to blend aggression , funkiness and elegance in just the right proportions. Somehow , standing behind the ORVMS andlooking at the swollen headlamps reminds me of the A-star. The windscreen is sharply raked and further accentuates the i20¶ssportiness at the front. The slant reaches its peak soon after the windscreen ends and dips back sharply again to lend the car that racyroofline ± a popular trend these days. An extremely strong crease starting from above the front fender and ending in a curve parallelto the rear wheel arch along with an equally pronounced dip in the lower part of the doors give the i20 a distinctive profile.The tail lamps of the i20 somehow remind me of the S-class. The latter too has a band of two parallel red glass strips separated by awhite glass band. The huge tail lamps extrude the rear end and enter the side area of the car between the C pillar and above the rear fender. Full points to Hyundai designers who have managed to pull out a perfect blend of cheekiness , sporty stance and elegance.The i20 is by far the best looking B segmenter out there. In comparison , the
Fabia
is more of a conformist and looks somewhatfeminine , even , from certain angles. The Swift¶s oddball form was almost revolutionary at the time of its launch but it¶s beginning toget boring now.Inside the new Hyundai¶s cabin , aclean , uncluttered and pleasing layoutwelcomes you. The central console isa big departure from the minimalistcentral units in this category of cars.Big buttons for easy access , wellsorted controls , use of good qualityplastics and a distinctive design ± thei20¶s dash reminds you of some muchmore expensive cars. Above thecentral console , that has a seatbeltwarning for all the five seats asstandard , you have a digital readoutfor trip , odo and other info. Wethought that the i20¶s readout willdisplay data like distance to dry ,instantaneous fuel efficiency , etc. like the Fabia , but to our disappointment , that was not the case. Aspi wasn¶t too fond of thechocolate brown-beige interiors. He was very critical of the colour choice especially as Hyundai could have chosen a classier colour without any extra cost overheads.
i
found the brown colour nice enough though. The
Civic
and
CR-V
style three-spoke steering wheelwith aluminium inserts spells jazz. With steering mounted audio controls , the car looks too good to be true for its segment. A closer inspection and a few taps on the aluminium finish panel reveal that some cost cutting has gone into that beautiful look. Thealuminium bit may feel slightly cheap but it looks smashing. The leather wrapped wheel , however , feels as nice as it looks. Theclean dash of the i20 augments the feeling of space. The instrumentation layout is conformist in a good way ± black dial , big , whiteand clear font. The speedo and odo flank the temperature and fuel gauge. Panels in the cabin meet seamlessly , the finish of theinterior is splendid and the immaculate execution witnessed in the i10 seems to have been further improved. The quality of materialused for the brown dash isn¶t exactly bad or disappointing , but it still feels harder to touch than it ideally should. The way it looks ,one would expect it to feel softer and suppler. Even the lower beige panels feel slightly scratchy and brittle. Overall , the qualityinside the cabin is commendable and good enough to give the Fabia , the hitherto class leader in that department the heebie-jeebies.The Swift is showing its age on the interiors front and the amenities that you get as standard even in the i20 Magna trim (bottom of the line) overshadow the Swift¶s higher spec variants¶ list by a humongous margin. Automatic climate control , tilt and telescopicsteering wheel , rear aircon vents , height adjustable driver¶s seat , seatbelt warning for all passengers , the list of features in the i20keeps going on and on. The Swift is totally outclassed here. The Fabia , offering a contemporary , high quality , European standardinterior seems comparable with the i20¶s cabin. However , the i20 pips the Skoda by offering a much superior stereo system with
 
options for auxiliary and USB input , (much) better sound quality with four speakers against the Fabia¶s two-speaker audio systemwhich is a disappointment. Also , the Fabia doesn¶t have steering mounted volume controls ± a letdown for the price at which it¶sbeing sold here. Visually too , the i20¶s cabin looks more lively and jazzier than the Fabia¶s understated interior. The onlyfunctionality that theFabia has and thei20 doesn¶t , is the trip computer thatgives you data like instantaneousefficiency , average efficiency ,distance to dry and heaps of other info± very useful. The i20 is less spaciousthan the Fabia , but only marginallyso. The Swift doesn¶t stand a chanceagainst the two options here when itcomes to backseat space and comfort.Add to the i20¶s arsenal , an option of as many a six airbags for safety andthe Hyundai emerges as the clear winner among the three cars as far asinteriors go.The i20 rides on an all-new platformaimed to deliver the lively driving dynamics demanded by the European market. The car was extensively tested on European roads.Hot weather testing was carried out in Spain , cold weather trials took place in Sweden while high speed testing was completed inGermany. As a result , the i20¶s front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension manage to deliver a good blend of dynamicstability and ride comfort. The car behaves well around corners , feels poised and begs to be driven hard. The small 1.2-litre Kappaengine though doesn¶t really have the sort of power to let us test the dynamic ability of this car to the limit. With a 185 section rubber , some may call the i20 an over-tyred car but it aids grip around bends tremendously. The i20 can probably do with thinner rubber for better efficiency but then you should be ready for the Swift-like squeals the skinny tyres would make at every attempt to guide the car around bends even at mediocre speeds.The i20¶s new rack and pinion steering setup has also been tuned to deliver quick and accurate responses for easy
City
manoeuvring ,and great feedback around corners. Extensive use of advanced noise reduction materials , as Hyundai claim , has resulted in a quietcabin. In comparison , the Fabia , with its European focus is a terrifically poised car around corners. It takes a lot to unsettle thisSkoda from the chosen line. The wide tyres won¶t let the Fabia wag its tail unless you really want to test your luck. The steering feelsheavy and transmits a solid feel to your palms. It isn¶t as fluid and effortless as the i20 at low speeds but doesn¶t feel inconvenienteither. The ride quality of the Fabia , however , is slightly on the harsher side. Passing over undulations at low speeds makes youexperience a slight bounce while at higher speeds you can hear a distinct thud. While the stiffer setting helps the dynamics at highspeeds , comfort takes a slight hit. The i20 is suppler and more cushioned.On to the most important aspects then ± engine and gearbox. Why so late? Well , none of the engines on the three cars are convincingenough. We have experienced the 1.2-litre Kappa unit on the i10 earlier and really appreciated its smoothness and refinement.However , for a car that weighs more than a tonne and has a 185 section rubber providing grip , the i20¶s 80PS gasoline engine feelssomewhat disappointing. As one would imagine , the car doesn¶t feel too peppy or sprightly for its size. But there still is a sense of tractability and responsiveness about that Kappa unit. You put the right foot down and the engine will not feel overloaded or non-responsive. Of course , there is a lack of power reflected in the in-gear acceleration figures but the more important thing here is thatwhile the car doesn¶t push you back with a shove , it doesn¶t feel entirely breathless too at lower revs.
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