Introduced in the early months of 2016, the i20 Active brought the number of body styles in Hyundai’s supermini range to four, if you count the ix20 MPV derivative along with the more conventional hatchback and Coupe. This one is a sort of SUV, though Hyundai wisely prefers to use the term “crossover”. It has front- rather then four-wheel drive, so it won’t get as far up, say, Ben Nevis as a more serious SUV, but its greater ride height and extra body protection compared with other cars in the range means it’s not so forcibly restricted to being driven on tarmac.
The raised centre of gravity compromises the i20 Active to some extent on public roads. There is more body movement than you would expect of a straightforward supermini. It’s quite well controlled, though, and you don’t notice it much unless you happen to encounter a sudden dip when you’re hoofing along through a corner, or some such eventuality. Since you’re unlikely to do this very often, and the results are not too disturbing if you do, this is not a major problem.
Otherwise the car handles very well but rides less so. As standard, it’s fitted with 45 section tyres on 17″ wheels, and these are simply wrong. Larger sidewalls and smaller wheels would allow the i20 Active to soak up bumps far better than it does.
Despite its modest SUV pretensions and significantly altered appearance, this is at heart just another i20 five-door. Nothing wrong with that, I say. While most people in the market for this sort of thing buy Fiestas and Corsas, and many may be unaware that much else exists, Hyundai offers an exceptionally good product in the class.
326 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up, for example, is pretty good going, as is 1042 when they’re folded. The load sill is perhaps a little high, but adjusting those seats is a piece of cake. They go up as easily as they go down, which is by no means always the case, and in the latter position they provide a completely flat floor.
Passenger room in the back isn’t quite class-leading (based on sitting there rather than getting out the tape measure), but it’s very good for a car only slightly over 13 feet long. If you need to take four six-foot adults from A to B, you can do it in this.
Rear three-quarter visibility is, however, a disgrace. Put some bloody windows back there, for God’s sake.
If you still consider Hyundai to be a budget brand, as it undoubtedly was a few years ago, think again. The interior design, the instruments and in particular the low-resolution graphics on the radio display may look like they’ve been taken from a pre-2010 car, but the plastics are nicely grained and soft to the touch.
The major controls are well weighted, the steering and gearchange especially being so smooth that you could easily believe on this evidence alone that you were driving a car costing £25,000 rather than not much over £15,000. You might not think that a small Hyundai could possibly feel like a premium model, but in many ways this one does.
At about the same time as it was launching the i20 Active, Hyundai also introduced its new one-litre three-cylinder T-GDI turbo petrol engine, a format which seemed outlandish when Ford put its similar EcoBoost unit in the Fiesta but has since become familiar, and even expected, in the class.
Producing a sturdy 99bhp, the T-GDI is very good. Sure, it idles quite lumpily, but most of them do. It isn’t the quietest engine of its kind on the market, because Vauxhall’s one-litre three-pot is, and unlike, for example, Suzuki’s new Boosterjet, its sound effects never fully retreat into the background. All this really tells you is that manufacturers are generally making a fantastic job of these engines. Taken on its own, the T-GDI is very refined, and one of the best things about what is on the whole a very appealing car.
Engine size 998cc
Top speed 109mph
0-62mph 10.9 seconds
Fuel economy 58.9mpg combined
CO2 emissions 110g/km
Towing capacity 910kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2015) Overall 4 stars Adult occupant 85% Child occupant 73% Pedestrian 79% Safety assist 64%
Information correct at publication date