I20 Cross front-drive but still four play

Hyundai’s Paddon-proven small car has finally hit the showroom. It's Cross ... but not angry.


THE car that has spearheaded Hyundai’s world championship rally campaign and put the spot light on an ace Kiwi pairing has finally now reached the local showroom.

While the i20 small five-door does not present in a hot hatch format to evoke the spirit of the WRC car that has been campaigned so strongly by Hayden Paddon and John Kennard it does nonetheless have a dirt-tuned styling twist, in the form of a variant with a crossover air.

The elevated Cross model is entering the market for $27,990, a $3000 premium over the regular edition on which it is based.

Both models run a common 74kW and 134Nm 1.4-litre petrol that provides an optimum economy of 6.7 litres per 100km.

They likewise kit identically, with the same level of safety and driver assistance aids, which run to six airbags, stability, traction and hill start controls, plus a lane departure assist and rear view camera, though no blind spot monitoring.

Even so, despite the assists, it lands with a four-star European NCAP rating, having been penalised for not kitting with autonomous emergency braking – a must-have now to take the optimum five star score.

Hyundai feels the car might have achieved that status had it been tested by our national regime, the Australasian New Cap Assessment Programme – but it won’t be, because Australia is not taking the i20.

The previous i20, which ended production a year but stayed in supply until July, and the Getz before that were strongly favoured by fleets, but Hyundai accepts this one won’t be as well accepted because of the score.

For one, the country’s single biggest biggest fleet purchaser, Government departments, will discount the because it only considers product that has achieved five star ANCAP.

The i20 also sits behind the industry norm by taking a four-stage gearbox. Most rivals have six-speeds or constantly variable transmissions with a higher number of change points.

Hyundai New Zealand defends its automatic as being particularly well-suited for packaging and performance but also admits says a six-speed is not available and the only other choice was a six-speed manual.

It’s a shame there isn’t a better box; a first drive experience on roads in around Auckland showed the four speed to be the most deficient aspect of the driving experience. It pulls back an engine that is hardly over-energetic to start with. A shame, because the Cross has appealingly sporty dynamics, with good steering feel and a confidence in cornering. It also rides well.

The Cross differentiates visually with all the usual crossover-themed appendages and an additional 20mm of ride height, to give 190mm ground clearance; the combined effect means it is taller, at 1529mm against 1474mm.

The SUV image does not translate to the drivetrain – like potential rivals the Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax and VW CrossPolo, it is front-drive only – but it does mean it runs on 17-inch wheels, against 16s for the standard car.

Hyundai New Zealand national sales manager Scott Billman won’t pick which variant will be dominant, but says the Cross has won immediate attention.

It also has a head start in the market, being available now whereas the regular hatch will not be here until February.

Both models come out of Turkey, a new sourcing point for Hyundai New Zealand but also the reason why it has not been available until now.

The factory in Turkey has been making the model for a year but it was prioritised to support the European markets, so we had to wait.

Hyundai believes the Cross should benefit from ramping consumer interest in crossover-themed variants but Billman is reluctant to speculate if it will outsell the regular edition.

He’s also cool about what label it should wear.

“I’m not comfortable with calling it a SUV,” he admitted at today’s media preview. He prefers that the Cross is considered “a pseudo option for someone who wants something with the attitude and air of a SUV.”