Who would have thought that in 2014 the Koreans would come to Europe and kick the the big manufacturers in the nads, exactly where it hurts – the small, cheap, supermini segment. But look what happened, when the Hyundai I20 II landed with a speed comparable to the speed with which Clarkson’s fist flew towards Morgan’s face. Calculate the applied pressure, taking into account the surface area of Piers Morgan’s face and the fact that we will ignore external factors such as air resistance.
In fact, I think I should modify the equation a bit and I’m not referring to the physics problem, nor to Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan, I’m referring to the Korean manufacturer. After the wild success of the i30 in 2012, the Koreans realized that if they want to compete with the European manufacturers then they have to launch European cars. So the Hyundai i20 II was designed, assembled and tested in Germany and then launched internationally.
Sure, it’s built on the same shared platform with the Kia Rio and the Kia Stonic, but it is clear that Hyundai and Kia have made a strategy for their cars and learned from the mistakes of VW who launched the same car 3 times for many years (Skoda – Volkswagen – Seat) and over time they ended up cannibalizing each other, because why should I buy a Golf when I can buy an Octavia which is bigger and cheaper, even if it is slightly lower quality?
The idea is/was (still applies to this day) that the Hyundai i20 II was built mostly for the European market and was also sold in India, while the Kia Rio took care of the international side of things. Kia Rio was designed for example in California and used older but more reliable technology and hencefort more accessible and suitable outside the EU, where customer expectations are lower as long as the price is good enough.
So the Hyundai i20 had to do the heavy lifting in the EU and open the doors for the Kia Rio and pave the way for the Stonic. A difficult mission given that it had to compete with Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Skoda Fabia, Seat Ibiza, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 208, Dacia Sandero, Renault Clio, Citroen C3 and the rest of non-European manufacturers such as Suzuki Swift or Toyota Yaris. They brought a new look, a new concept, a new haircut, they retired the old 4 speed torque converter automatic gearbox and they brought automatic gearboxes much closer to European standards, they pulled it and lengthened it, they brought the first turbocharged petrol engine and gave the interior a complete makeover. All of this and combined with the famous 7-year warranty and prices that placed it comfortably between Corsa and Polo. More expensive than Sandero but cheaper than the 208 and the key word was “utility”. It’s a car that feels very practical and that looks best in the standard appliance-white paint. Maybe in 2023 the color white is back and it’s in vogue, but for 2014 it was quite a feat to look good in work overalls.
Hyundai I20 II Engines
- 1.0 Kappa II T-GDI of 100 and 120 horsepower – The 1.0 T-GDI village bicycle engine debuts on the Hyundai i20 II and it’s all the engine you need. Yes, they removed a cylinder and made up for it by adding a turbo and as a result reliability suffers in the long term, but at least this engine can pull itself outside the city gates. Yes, and it is the only engine with the 7DCT automatic transmission, which is not known for its reliability.
- 1.2 Kappa II of 84 horsepower – If you are however terrified of the new technology and do not stay on the Internet because that way “they” cannot monitor you, then my question is “how did you get here??”. Just like the Suzuki Swift, the Hyundai i20 II was one of the last cars with a naturally aspirated 4 cylinder petrol on sale. Launched to replace the legendary 1.25, this engine is excellent if you want to keep it simple and reliable and you know you won’t drive out of town too much.
- 1.25 Kappa II of 75 horsepower – I will talk about the engine issues of both the 1.2 and 1.25, because they are mostly the same engines with the same issues. They sacrifice performance for reliability, but may still occasionally require coil packs. But it is unlikely that they will ask too often, considering that the mileage of such engines and superminis in general stay quite low.
- 1.4 Kappa II of 100 horsepower – It fared as good as it could on the Stonic, where it was somewhat the balance between reliability, performance and fuel economy. But nobody actually bought it on the i20 because it’s a relic of the past that drinks too much fuel and doesn’t really justify its existence because a 84 horsepower 1.2 does exactly the same thing, for the regular i20 user atleast, but cheaper. Cheaper in taxes, cheaper in insurance (important on our little island). I’m not against it, it’s just that the sort of person who looks for a cheap, appliance-white supermini, will look at the cheapest engine that does the job decently enough. Which is the 1.2 Kappa in this scenario.
- 1.1 U-Line CRDi of 75 horsepower – I’m not really sold on why you would buy a Hyundai i20 II diesel or any car of this kind with a diesel engine, but you can pick this engine because the first units do not have a particle filtre installed, so you can also drive it around town.
- 1.4 U-Line CRDi of 90 horsepower – The 1.4 CRDi, on the other hand, only comes with a particle filtre and this makes it that much harder to justify buying. Unless you want to buy an i20 and do regular B-road and highway motoring, in which case you’ve bought the wrong car. And it’s got a dual mass flywheel, which will wreck yourself before you will check yourself.
Hyundai i20 II Common Issues
- The legacy of the munchies for the clutchies carries on from the previous generation, in the sense that it lasts less than you would expect and costs more than it should. If it were a politician, it would’ve complained all the time about the heavy legacy left by the predecessors. I still don’t know where the Brexit NHS money went.
- Poor quality paint which peels off if you don’t use moisturizing cream with the Q10 coenzyme. However, given that most i20s have the basic appliance-white paintwork, it shouldn’t be a cause of concern for most owners.
- The interior is like the Swiss flag – a big plus. You can feel the teutonic influence in the interior design and everything is logically placed and easily accessible. The issue is that the materials used are a bit cheap because, guess what, the Hyundai i20 II was a cheap car.
- If your i20 comes with tire pressure monitoring sensors then get some ibuprofen and/or brandy as they will give you headaches constantly and frequently.
Hyundai i20 II Verdict
The Hyundai i20 II took the supermini car market by storm and punched its rivals in the nads. And it was a simple car, relatively cheap, useful and sturdy. Gary Snegaroff probably wouldn’t give it any awards for style and fashion, but the average person would certainly appreciate how practical it is. And it has grown light years from the original Hyundai supermini, the Getz.
Which engines do I recommend? I can’t really decide between 1.25 75 horsepower and 1.2 84 horsepower petrols, just as I can’t decide between 1.1 CRDi and 1.4 CRDi diesels either. I think I will drink some fine brandy to build up courage and decide.