We never were fans of the previous i20, but the new-generation Elite i20 changed all of that. While its predecessor was more of a town car, the Elite can put a smile on your face even when driven enthusiastically. We were impressed with the car during our road test. Turns out it's as exciting to drive even on the racetrack. The i20 displays great mechanical grip. In fact, the chassis is one of the best when compared to the rest in this test. Dynamics has improved several notches and Hyundai seems to have taken feedback seriously. Overall grip is better than the others through vital corners, especially C1, C2 and the bowl at Kari Speedway. Body roll is controlled and the suspension is well-balanced making the car ride nicely over the kerbs and bumpy sections of the track.
However, the i20 petrol's gearing isn't best suited to the track. Power bogs down rapidly when shifting at redline from second to third gear. It's also the heaviest naturally aspirated petrol car in this test. The lap time could have been a few seconds quicker if it wasn't for the weak motor and gearing. This is where the diesel i20 steps in. The added torque from the 1.4-litre CRDi engine and better power delivery means one doesn't have to shift gears that often. Power delivery from the turbocharged motor is stronger and corner exits are a lot faster. Aditya found that the inner tyre gripped better in the diesel, thanks to the added load. These points make the diesel Elite i20 quicker than its petrol sibling by a whopping 2.6 seconds around Kari. It's also one of the quickest diesel hatchbacks in this test.
However, brake feel and performance isn't impressive every other car you see here offers superior braking. The ABS kicks in much earlier than expected, and one needs to modulate the brakes to find the right balance. Another negative is the steering. There is hardly any feedback from the unit and there's quite a bit of play as well. Seating position is fine but support could have been enhanced.
Bertrand D'souza: I went with the assumption that the i20 would be quite disappointing. But I came away thinking this was easily the silkiest car I've ever driven on the boil on a racetrack. With one of the best chassis set-ups, the only drawback is a lack of serious horsepower to give it that edge. Here's an idea Hyundai, drop in the 1.6, then see it fly!
Rishaad Mody: I've always been a fan of this chassis. It corners with remarkably little roll, and the front end somehow finds mid corner grip where the others simply cannot. The petrol engine, however, is far too weak and it bogs when shifting from the redline in second to third. The diesel is far better but feels far less powerful than the 10PS difference to the diesel Figo would suggest. Lifeless steering is the final nail in the coffin for the i20's track aspirations.
All hatchbacks in our track test were running on JK Tyre Vectra tyres and were using Mobil1 synthetic oil