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First drive: Hyundai i10 emerges as post-Getz favourite

Likeable: The i10 will give its competitors a run for their money if imported to Australia.

No discounting on i20 as Hyundai says i10 may shape up when Getz ships out

18 Oct 2010

HYUNDAI’S burning issue of how to replace the wildly successful Getz in the bottom end of the light-car market may be resolved soon in the shape of the i10.

To slot beneath the premium-priced i20 (now starting from $15,490 for the three-door and $16,490 in base Active five-door guise), the i10 could be imported into Australia before the end of next year at the same $13,000 level as Getz.

It must bridge the volume gap between the outgoing Getz and the i20 newcomer.

1 center imageLeft: Hyundai i10. Below: Hyundai i20, Kia Picanto.

Hyundai’s gamble to price the i20 upmarket against the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta and Honda Jazz has yet to pay dividends since its July launch in Australia, with 466 sales in September for 4.3 per cent of the segment.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia CEO Edward Lee said the company will not relinquish its hold on the lower-end light car class, and nor would the i20 be discounted when the Getz is discontinued, as price dropping will not benefit the brand in the long term.

“I don’t want to compete on pricing I want to compete on value,” Mr Lee told GoAuto on the eve of the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney. “My goal is to grow the brand.

“When the Getz goes, HMCA will need that Getz volume. We will not discount the i20, but add more value and increase its promotion. But we can survive on 500 i20 sales per month (until then).”

Mr Lee revealed that supply out of India has so far curtailed i20 sales in Australia, but this will free-up from this month.

“If we do not have supply problems with i20, then we will get there.”

Curiously, Mr Lee suggested that a revised version of the i20 might be in the works for Australia, with a lower entry price, but that it would not skimp on safety or features.

In the meantime, he believes the existing i20 will eventually attract the same number of customers as the Getz does on a monthly basis.

“Getz is number one and we’re going to do the same thing with i20,” he said.

Mr Lee added that only when the i20 is established and firing in Australia would the i10 be introduced, and that it would only take three months to get it in.

The diminutive five-door from India – a development of the Kia Picanto – has been on HMCA’s wish list for a while.

Another light-car option in Hyundai’s line-up, the recently announced replacement for the Accent, is also “under consideration” but does not stand as strong a chance as the i10.

Drive impressions:
HYUNDAI’S Indian-made i10 is a surprisingly capable sub-B-class five-door contender, and certainly one of the company’s most impressive products to date.

Launched in 2007 and based on the lauded Kia Picanto, the upright two-box five-door hatch we drove recently was a pre-facelift, top-of-the-line 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol guise, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.

The cosy interior is adequately spacious for four adults of around average size, with good cabin access and ample seat-height and steering column adjustment (albeit tilt only), and without clanginess or flimsiness to opening or shutting the doors.

The dash is as grown-up as you would expect from a contemporary supermini, with clear, good-looking and well-lit instruments, sufficient ventilation, easy controls, lots of spaces to store stuff (including a handy drawer beneath the front passenger seat) and a pleasantly presented steering wheel.

In the top UK spec we sampled over 1000km, equipment levels were great – Bluetooth, sunroof, 6-stack CD player, ABS, 14-inch alloy wheels, leather wheel, air-con, heated seats, fog lights, three overhead grab handles, rear spoiler, five inertia-reel lap-sash seat belts, remote central locking and four power windows impressed, though the lack of intermittent adjustment for the wipers jarred and a trip computer would have been nice.

Apart from the hollow black plastic door linings and the awful feel of the seat trim, there was nothing to suggest cost-cutting, which is more than can be said of the Indian-made Suzuki Alto.

Over a long drive, the front seats proved flat but supportive, helping compensate for the fatigue caused by incessant road noise intrusion from the tiny tyres.

The rear bench makes do as far as comfort is concerned, but is no worse than the average light car back there. At least the back windows go down all the way and the back cushion is split, allowing the split-fold backrest to fall down flush with the boot floor.

Three other neat points about the reasonably sized boot – the hatch opens VW-style by lifting the badge there is a pair of child-seat anchorages just behind the backrest so as to minimise cargo space intrusion and a space-saver spare lives beneath the fake floor.

Driving continued to impress, with a strong yet sweet-revving 1.2-litre powerplant, providing a healthy spread of useable torque at even low engine speeds as well as low fuel consumption.

It is matched to what might be the best-shifting manual gearbox Hyundai offers, with effortless feel and well-chosen ratios.

It was not exactly fun to drive, but the i10 is not a drag, with response and sharp steering that is well-weighted at highway speeds yet sufficiently light for manoeuvring around town, aided by a tight turning circle and well-sorted body control.

Faster cornering reveals plenty of understeer, but the Hyundai remains faithful and predictable. Only the choppy ride on bad or uneven road surfaces disappoints.

Overall, the littlest Hyundai exceeded our expectations in terms of refinement, performance, dynamics and quality, while admirably fulfilling its job as an inexpensive city car.

If the Koreans decide to import it into Australia, the i10 could give the Alto, Holden Barina Spark and Kia Rio a real run for their money. It ranks right up there as one of the most likeable Hyundais we have driven.

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