Are kids today spoilt? OK so the default answer to this question is ‘yes’, but look at it in a motoring context. If you were fortunate enough to be young and buying a new car 20 years ago, your choices were almost non-existent: it was a cheap supermini or a camel. And even though it was brand new, with zero miles on the clock, shiny paint accounted for pretty much everything on the options list.
Fast forward to today, and the differences are astounding. This Hyundai i20 Active is the mid-range model, and according to a rough calculation provided by the internet, it’s current price tag of Dh67,000 (UK) would equate to Dh38,000 in 1990 — so bang on budget for a very cheap entry-level supermini.
But clap eyes on it from 50 metres away, and the last thing you get is a sense of cheapness. The i20 was not a bad-looking car to start with, but recent revisions have given it even more personality and style. There’s a hexagonal grille, new lights and bumpers and even front wings, all of which give the i20 a proper grown-up look, in line with the bigger models in the Hyundai range.
There are more subtle tweaks at the rear, but the redesigned bumper is better integrated into the overall design. It’s handsome and subtle rather than trend-setting, but has more than enough visual appeal for all kinds of buyers. There are updates on the inside too. The dashboard is broadly as before, but there is a sprinkling of piano black, which helps to lift the tone, while the ventilation controls are more substantial — pretty much everything you touch feels chunkier and more pleasurable to use.
There’s no increase in space, as the exterior dimensions are almost identical, but there was always plenty of room: the fuss-free dashboard gives plenty of legroom and a feeling of spaciousness, so whether you’re sat in the front or the back, there shouldn’t be any complaints. And the driver certainly won’t grumble with features like Bluetooth and air conditioning thrown in — something that was a total luxury on big cars in the past.
Up front, the engine range has been tweaked with the usual target of improved emissions and economy. The offerings have been slimmed down, but the two petrols and two diesels that are left are impressive. Grabbing the headlines is the 1.1-diesel, which is capable of 99g/km in standard trim, or a remarkable 84g/km with stop-start added to the mix.
But our fledgling new car buyer will be looking at a cheaper petrol model, which is where this 1.2-litre version comes in. Significant tweaks have raised power and simultaneously cut emissions, so the 1.2-litre i20 is down to 114g/km, while offering a healthy 84bhp. Like any good supermini motor, this 1.2-litre unit is quiet, responds accurately to throttle inputs and can also handle being revved hard.
If you’re young and behind the wheel, it is inevitable that you will wring your little car out for all it is worth, and while understandably the noise levels go up a bit, the i20 can certainly take a thrashing in its stride. Unlike the superminis of old however, this one is properly prepared to help you out in times of crisis. For starters, it has ESP as standard across the range, and as a car that could well be bought by young drivers, that is essential.
There are six airbags, and a strong safety cell too, which should go some way to reassuring angst-ridden parents when their offspring are out with their friends. The i20’s steering is accurate and light (thanks to the power steering), the brakes are strong and the driving position sound. An undemanding drive is exactly what you want from your supermini — the driver should be taxed as little as possible, and the i20 achieves just that.
This sums up the i20 in a nutshell. It’s a smart, attractive little car with good space, sound driving dynamics and value running right through it, from the initial purchase price to the impressive fuel economy. And whatever you my think about how it compares to rival European brands, the reassurance of a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty is not to be sniffed at. It’s a car you can buy for yourself, or your loved ones and be content that it will serve you well.
Specs and ratings
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder
Transmission: Five-speed manual, FWD
Max power: 84bhp @ 6,000rpm
Max torque: 120Nm @ 4,000rpm
Top speed: 167kph
Price: Dh67K (UK)
Plus: Value for money, three engine choices in the GCC
Minus: Four-speed auto