Hyundai really set the cat amongst the pigeons with the i20, making it the benchmark premium hatch on key metrics like ride quality and premium cabin feel. The Elite i20 picked up the size and space of the predecessor and pushed up that score even higher with its suave design, excellent material quality in the cabin and sported premium features from a segment above. In fact, the Elite i20 put a lot of pressure on the competition to pull together their act and deliver as much bang for the buyer’s buck as it managed to.
It is another matter altogether that the i20 Active couldn’t manage to deliver the kind of appeal and the numbers that the Elite i20 managed. In fact, none of the SUV-style versions of premium hatches across brands have managed to really turn the attention towards themselves beyond a point; just goes to show that buyers are clear about what level of change in body style is acceptable to them and what is not!
Maybe that is the reason why Hyundai has been overcautious with the modifications that it decided to make on the Elite i20 facelift (launched at the Auto Expo last month). This is a mid-cycle refresh and though there may have been room for more significant modifications, Hyundai has chosen to keep it subtle. In fact, it is so subtle that when you walk up to the new Elite i20, you may completely miss seeing the changes to the front. There is a chance that some less clued-on fellow road-users may think that this is a unit that has undergone some after-market modifications.
Take your time to stare at the new Elite i20’s features more and some of the changes start becoming obvious. The headlamps now feature new LED daytime running lights (DRLs), though overall the lamp units are essentially the same. The bonnet grille is different now with the slightly curvy design replacing the previous version’s rather sharp hexagonal shape. The front fender is also different with new triangular cornering fog lamps and an air intake duct on either side. The new i20’s aerodynamic efficiency is said to be better thanks to some of these changes. A couple of hood character lines also break the bonnet slab’s swathe of metal. The change most evident when you view the side profile are the new, swanky 16-inch alloy wheels shod with the same 195/55 profile tyres.
The changes at the rear of the new Elite i20 include the new tail-lamps, which feature nearly the same overall shape and design as the outgoing model, but now sport a different combination of lamps. The brake lights now look like LED tubes and are simple horizontal lines, giving the i20 a very different look in the dark. The new combination also breaks the i20 away from the family tail-light signature that it shared with the Verna, Elantra and Tucson. The dual-tone rear fender is also new and manages to visually highlight the width of the car. There is also the option now of getting the car with a contrast black roof finish, though in my opinion this just doesn’t sit right with the i20’s design.
The new Elite i20’s cabin also gets a few changes, most of which are about as subtle as the changes to the exterior. The addition to the cabin that in my opinion really boosts its appeal is the new touchscreen for the infotainment system. Mounted on top of the centre stack is the new, much more responsive 17.7cm touchscreen, which combined with the multi-function steering wheel really keeps all the functions within your reach. Some other materials in the cabin seem to have been improved. The instrument cluster and digital display gets the addition of some more real time driving information. Rear seat occupants will now get the addition of a centre armrest with in-built cup holders. The cabin otherwise remains unchanged and stays a perfectly attractive cabin to be in.
My test mule last week was the Elite i20 diesel with its 1.4 CRDi engine. Hyundai hasn’t made any major changes to this 1,396 cc mill. This continues to be one of the most usable and refined engines in its class. Minor tweaks to the mapping are said to have enabled a little more low-end torque availability, making this engine even more usable in slow-moving city traffic. The engine continues to deliver 90 PS of peak power and about 220 Nm of peak torque. The six-speed manual transmission the engine is paired with continues to be very smooth to use and features a progressive clutch.
The Elite i20’s ride quality has always been a benchmark in the segment and that continues with the facelifted version too, despite a mild increase in firmness to the suspension. Overall, the changes to the i20 don’t take away any of its appeal, though whether it substantially improves it is debatable.
But, the very likeable bit is that the i20 gets a big jump in safety focus and now ABS and dual airbags are standard across all five trim variants of the car. Prices for the new facelifted Elite i20 range from ₹5.35 lakh to ₹9.15 lakh.