City cars are a dying breed, and that’s a shame – especially when they’re as accomplished as Hyundai’s i10. Why are they facing extinction? Consumers’ ever-hungry appetite for larger SUVs is one factor, which combined with car makers’ desire to focus on pricier and more profitable models for business survival, means many of these diminutive motors have already disappeared from many brands’ showrooms. For now, at least, the i10 continues, and a good thing, too, as it’s one of the best all-round city car packages available.
Tiny cars are inherently engaging to drive because their lightness and small footprint generally equates to fine handling. Despite its tall, sober-suited appearance, the Hyundai is an amusingly pleasant steer, especially when maintaining momentum through a series of sweeping B-road bends.
This Premium specification model rides on 16-inch alloy wheels, which when combined with fairly shallow tyre sidewalls, tends to result in poorly surfaced roads transmitting their imperfections through the whole of the i10’s body. Incidentally, they also conspire to produce a lot of noise – more sound-deadening in the wheel arches would dampen that down.
Adding delight to the i10 package is the sprightly 1.2-litre engine. It’s not turbocharged, which means you have to use the gearbox effectively to make the best progress – and what a slick, fun to use transmission it is. It has a relatively short to and fro action, plus it’s smooth in operation, and manages to embarrass more expensive manual-transmission cars in the process. Ironically, the gearbox is also the source of the biggest gripe with the i10 – specifically when you’re trying to find reverse. There’s no physical gate you have to negotiate the gear lever around to select reverse, instead you simply pull it back to where a sixth forward ratio might otherwise be. Fine in theory, but in practice there’s a recalcitrance that becomes annoying. Successfully engaging reverse often requires a couple of goes before it will slot in neatly.
Driving with such vigour naturally has a knock-on effect on fuel efficiency, but even when driven harder than usual it’s tricky to get the Hyundai to average below 40mpg. With more consideration on the throttle and a sedate pace, it will happily tootle along at 45mpg, eking out a smidgen over 400 miles from a tank of unleaded.
Premium specification is in the upper half of the i10’s trim levels, and although the specification is generous, it’s inevitable that there’s evidence of cost-cutting here and there. Yes, you’ll find heated front seats and steering wheel, but the material they’re swathed in feels cheap to the touch. It’s a similar story with the multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay that is part of a £1,000 tech pack option; it’s good to have, but the screen resolution looks like it is from 2012.
While well-assembled, the interior is very plasticky, with little to lift the ambience save for some hexagonal relief of some surfaces and flashes of white, but they’re not enough to lift the cabin and give it some much-needed pizazz. Despite the darkness’s best effort to make it feel claustrophobic, it’s actually impressively roomy, easily accommodating two six-footers in the back, behind front seat occupants of similar stature. Plus, there’s the bonus of rear windows that wind down electrically, rather than pop out, like some rivals.
There’s plenty to commend the i10 on, as a thoroughly competent all-rounder in the city car segment, but it’s missing one key ingredient for me: a sense of fun. It’s all just a little bit too sensible, whereas surprise and delight needn’t be too costly. Come on, Hyundai, sprinkle a little Ioniq 5 fairy dust further down the range.
Date arrived 3rd May 2022
Economy (combined) 51.4mpg
Economy (On test) 46.4mpg