IT WAS the test to which the household was most looking forward. Not because it was going to be the most exhilarating, highly specced, comfortable or fastest car that I would be testing this year. But rather it would be in direct comparison with the car whose garage it was sharing for a week; its predecessor and a vehicle that real money had and is still being paid out on.
Not that the new Hyundai i10 wouldn't have been special in its own right; it arrives as the Korean marque is likely to break into the top three importers here for the first time. And the car has already drawn an immense amount of praise with one renowned commentator saying it "drives better than a car of this price deserves to". The New Generation i10 comes at a time when the marque is making massive leaps forward in terms of market share and could probably edge out Ford this year in the top three. Models like the iX35, i40, Santa Fe and i30 have given it massive presence which has been bolstered by the marque having a very wide-ranging five-year warranty when many rivals were still stuttering about with one and two-year programmes.
The new Hyundai city car is wider, lower and slightly longer than its predecessor and you really notice the extra space throughout. This really takes the car out of the smallest category and sets it up against cars like the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta. And in this company it won't be found wanting. Its looks, performance and comfort are a massive improvement on the old model which is saying something as this was the car I judged five years ago that my partner should buy as part of the then scrappage scheme and she followed by trading her 09 model for another i10 two years ago.
I had first been really impressed by the last generation i10 when I saw five rangy tourists getting out of one in 2008. They will be even more comfortable in the latest model although four would be enough for long journeys. And in this regard, the new model is a far better proposition as it really is now a motorway car as well as a city runabout.
Its more aerodynamic lines and lower profile give it a confident presence even at 120kmh, although it will take a fair working of the gears to get you there. From 0-100kmh from the three-cylinder one-litre petrol engine is 14.9 seconds At lower speeds, the gear ration needs to be improved as it again needs a lot of stick work. There is an automatic but it is slower, less economical – Hyundai claims 60mpg for the manual – and has a €2,000 premium. The drive is precise and well-balanced against that of its predecessor which was rather harsh. However, it is still rather noisy.
The dark interior of the old model has been changed for a lighter scheme with attractive fascia, coverings and inset panels. Everything is exceptionally well made and reeks of real quality that wouldn't put a premium class model to shame. In fact, my partner thought the interior and the really beautiful driveability of the new model were the main improvements.
However, don't bother with the entry level or Classic model at €11,995 – unless you want to show Dacia how to make a really good bargain level car – but the Deluxe at €13,495 plus p&p is worthwhile. Circumstances have changed in our household, otherwise we would be hightailing it down to Hyundai for a trade-in.
The car is brilliant and really adds something both to the Korean marque's range and the sector overall. Well done. The car has already picked up a number of awards. I expect Hyundai's shelves to be groaning by the end of the year.