Automatics! They have been a boon for many a commuter. Be it in the scooter or car category, everywhere increasingly Indian buyers are adopting to them. Much more than before. The trade-off usually is lower fuel efficiency, however AMT as well as CVT ensures that most of the time, the efficiency is at par with manuals or in some cases, higher as well. Seeing this trend, Hyundai India has launched the Hyundai Elite i20 petrol with a CVT. The car, which was available earlier with a bigger 1.4-litre 100PS engine mated to a torque converter has gone in for the more modern option. The rivals like the Maruti Baleno and Honda Jazz have it too. So let’s see what the whole deal is about.
The Hyundai Elite i20 now has a lone petrol engine on offer, with the 100PS 1.4-litre unit being discontinued. The 84PS/115Nm naturally aspirated 1.2-litre motor is mated to the CVT. There is a manual triptronic mode too that lets you shift the gears at your insistence. There are six ratios to play with in the manual mode. Be it automatic or manual, you notice one thing instantly. The shifts are barely perceptible and the Hyundai i20 petrol automatic moves with a certain urgency in regular traffic conditions. I absolutely love the fact that you spot a gap in the traffic and the i20 will have your back covered and you’ve already filled up the gap in no time. However, the same cannot be said on the open highway where the car loses steam easily.
You press the accelerator for instant acceleration and there is a slight lag before the car picks steam. Keep the throttle pressed and you realise that the tacho needle is climbing without any significant momentum on the speedo side. This is referred to as rubber band effect – typical to CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission. Its better to maintain part throttle where the engine and gearbox iron out the power deficiency nicely and make a smooth progress. Special note must also be made of the engine refinement. It stays very calm and composed most of the time, however when the tacho needle is hovering around 5,000rpm, you realise that there is significant engine noise inside. This can be downright due to the lack of engine soundproofing in the bay and some sound deadening material can definitely be a remedy Hyundai India can look at. With a full complement of passengers, the i20 petrol struggles a bit to start off but noticeably lower than that demonstrated by the Baleno automatic.
Efficiency wise, the Hyundai Elite i20 petrol automatic returned a mileage of 10kmpl in the city and 13.9kmpl on the highway. In bumper-to-bumper traffic, the number drops to as low as 8kmpl.
I have said this before and do not shy away from repeating this – the Elite i20 is one of the best looking cars in its segment. However, the immediate change you see in the automatic is that the fog lamps is now divided and while the upper part constitutes the bulb, the lower region is the LED DRL. In the manual, the DRL is located within the headlight bracket. Speaking of which, there are no projector headlights available even on this top-spec Asta trim and the headlights especially in this monsoon season appear to have a short throw which isn’t confidence inspiring. On the right side fender, you will notice the the Auto badging and the smaller 15-inch gun metal alloy wheels. These are not only a size smaller than the Asta (O) but also have a different yet pleasing design. At the rear, you will not find any changes.
The cabin of the Hyundai Elite i20 automatic Asta is again similar to its manual counterpart. Except that the steering wheel controls have been changed. The scrolling through the menu option isn’t available and you will have to press the trip button to toggle. Additionally, there is no OK button in the middle to reset or accept any setting. Hard pressing the trip button does the trick here. You will also notice the gear lever position on the multi information display between the clocks. It will display the speed digitally but in a smaller font than the manual optional trim, distance to empty and some other information. The 7-inch touchscreen system still feels nice to use but some better graphics wouldn’t hurt either. While its functions remain the same as in the manual, it loses out on the Auto Link which is Hyundai speak for connected car technology. This will not only help you out in a roadside emergency but will also keep a tab of your driving habits and also schedule service for you. Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link still are available depending on the smartphone one uses.
The cabin is reasonably spacious but there are no height adjustable seat belts for the front passengers. The rear too is good for three but they will end up brushing their shoulders. There are no adjustable head rests for the rear passengers and the middle seat passenger doesn’t even get one.
Ride and handling
I quite like the way the Hyundai Elite i20 feels to drive, especially the diesel. The lack of punch from the petrol engine somehow downs the experience. Don’t get me wrong here. There is adequate power for the city but not from an enthusiast point of view. The steering is very light and is a boon in the city but on the highway, it becomes a bit lifeless at anything over 130kmph. The overall stability is very good and lane changes can be executed quickly without upsetting the composure of the vehicle or the occupants.
The low speed ride quality is decent but could have been better. The suspension does let you know that it just went over a pothole or a rut but isn’t as audible. The high speed ride quality is a tad better especially with a few passengers on board. What I would have liked is better feel from the brakes. They are better in comparison to the Tucson’s units though these are only discs in the front and drums at the rear. However, some more communication from the brakes will definitely be appreciated. They work alright but if the feel will improve, it will sweeten the deal.
Hyundai gives two airbags and ABS as standard across the range for the automatics. There is no Hill Assist for the automatic trim.
The Hyundai Elite i20 automatic is now better equipped than before to take on the competition. I have driven both its competitors before and feel that the i20 transmission feels a bit sorted than both the others. Especially in the city. The Jazz has the slight advantage on the highway as one can use its paddle shifters to row through the ratios. In the city, which will be the domain of the i20 automatic, there is no beating it. The news that the price tag is lower than the previous automatic that Hyundai offered and is slightly down on what the competitors are priced at just makes it an even better buy. There are two trims offered with the automatic variant – Hyundai Elite i20 petrol automatic Magna Executive at Rs 7,10,900 and the Asta at Rs 8,22,500, ex-Mumbai.
Things we like about the Elite i20 automatic
Smooth and hassle free commuting ability, space and audio system
Things we don’t like about the Elite i20 automatic
No rear wiper, fuel efficiency and weak headlight
Trivia: This is the first time in its Indian history that Hyundai is offering a CVT with its car. Hopefully there will be many more CVT offerings in the future
Image: Donald Dsouza