Up against the likes of the big-selling Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo in the hotly contested supermini sector, the Hyundai i20 has never had it easy.
Yes, it’s always been a sensible, value-for-money, practical choice with a long warranty, but it’s lacked that magic ingredient.
With striking new looks, generous equipment levels and a mild-hybrid engine, the all-new third generation i20 is the best yet, but does it go straight to the top of the class?
Available only as a five-door, it’s slightly bigger than its predecessor (longer and wider) and definitely boasts more kerb appeal, thanks to sharp creases, bold lines and a contrasting roof.
Inside, the cabin is attractive and well designed, and it’s been treated to a pair of digital screens (10.25 inches in Premium and Ultimate trims) – one ahead of the driver and the other in the centre console – with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
There’s just one engine on offer – a 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol turbo matched with a 48v mild-hybrid system, which boosts acceleration and is more efficient because it harvests energy that would otherwise be wasted under braking and deceleration.
Buyers can chose between a clever new six-speed manual gearbox, which Hyundai claims saves fuel, or a seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
We tested the former in a mid-range Premium spec car (the i20 range is priced from £18,800).
Capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds and a top speed of 118mph, on paper, fuel economy is 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions are as low as 118g/km.
Once you’ve worked out that you need to press both the clutch and brake before it will start, you’ll find an eager engine that is thrummy (like most three-cylinder units), yet also refined.
The manual transmission isn’t the slickest, but the powertrain combination works well and 45-50mpg fuel economy is achievable in everyday motoring.
Even though the i20’s ride is on the firm side and it lacks the agility of rivals such as the Fiesta, there’s plenty of grip, the steering is light and precise and it’s only when it’s really pushed that it loses some of its composure.
That said, visibility is good, making it easy to park and drive in town. All models also come with rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
The cabin is comfortable and there’s space in the back for adults, while the boot has room for a useful 352 litres of luggage (1,165 litres with the rear seats flipped down).
It’s well put together too, but the hard plastics used virtually throughout the cabin give it a disappointingly cheap feel, which is a shame because it’s loaded with equipment.
Entry-level SE Connect trim comes with an 8.0-inch central touchscreen and Hyundai’s SmartSense safety package, which includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist, forward collision alert and a speed limit warning.
Step up to Premium for the larger 10.25-inch infotainment screen, LED headlights, power folding door mirrors, privacy glass, heated front seats and steering wheel.
Keyless entry, blind-spot monitoring and a Bose audio system are among the Ultimate trim goodies.
Finally, the i20 offers peace of mind – not just because Hyundai has a reputation for reliability, but because it comes with the South Korean company’s generous five-year warranty.
Verdict: The all-new Hyundai i20 mild-hybrid is a solid all-rounder, offering a blend of economy and performance in a stylish, practical, well-equipped package. While it doesn’t go to the top of the class, it’s a step-up from the outgoing model and should definitely be on your supermini shortlist.