The bad news about Hyundai's facelifted i20 supermini is that it still lags behind the best-in-class for powertrain performance and driver appeal, and it's still rather expensive compared with many of its rivals.
The good news is that the i20 now looks quite sharp, and while Hyundai New Zealand hasn't been able to negotiate the price down to a more competitive level, it has added a lot of value through a wealth of extra equipment – especially on the flagship GLS model.
The Indian-built i20 is no spring chicken: it was launched in late-2008, even if it didn't reach New Zealand until early-2011. It predates all of Hyundai's ‘fluidic sculpture' styling ethos, although the latest facelift has done a reasonable job of bringing it a bit closer to the rest of the family.
It's a comprehensive makeover: new front bumpers, bonnet, grille and guards. The door mirrors are also new and the rear bumper and lamps have been redesigned.
The 74kW/136Nm 1.4-litre engine has benefitted from minor tweaks and is now more economical: 5.3 litres per 100km for the manual version and 5.9 litres for the automatic.
The three-pedal model has gained a six-speed gearbox, which contributes towards that improved economy and some extra driver appeal. Sadly, the mainstay automatic is still a four-speed unit.
Prices have not changed: they start at $25,490 for the GL manual and rise to $25,990 for the GLS automatic.
However, the i20 now carries a great deal of extra equipment. The base model has gained electric folding mirrors, tinted glass, steering wheel controls and a trip computer.
The GLS adds new features such as reversing sensors, automatic headlights, daytime running lights/fog lamps, cruise control with speed limiter, climate air conditioning and a new instrument cluster. The extra kit at least makes the i20 competitive.
Hyundai New Zealand argues the i20's more traditional body configuration, with a high cabin and large glass areas, is a point of difference for practically minded buyers compared with the likes of the sporty Suzuki Swift and Ford Fiesta. Same goes for the now-generous equipment levels of the GLS in particular.
It's a point, but the driving experience is disappointing. The powertrain lacks verve in four-speed automatic form (Fiesta and the Holden Barina both have six-speeders), the chassis is safe but only modestly talented and the revised electric power steering system has worryingly inconsistent weighting under load. This is a car that will sell in the showroom (or perhaps on the very strong Hyundai brand), not on a test drive.
Hyundai boasts that i20 sales have increased over 130 percent compared with last year. However, the car still claims a modest supermini-market share of just 6.1 percent, trailing the Barina, Mazda2, Fiesta, Toyota Yaris (18 percent) and top-ranked Suzuki Swift (29 percent).