Burning up in new i20; HYUNDAI HAS FEATHERWEIGHT PEDALS IN HEAVY CAR.
THERE'S a pungent smell of burning clutch drifting into the Hyundai i20's cabin.
No, I'm not at the Santa Pod dragstrip or trying to race someone in a hot hatch away from the traffic lights. I was pulling out of a junction onto a main road.
Hyundai makes straightforward family cars and family cars should be easy and comfortable to drive. Which is why the clutch pedal on our test car is incredibly light.
It's so light you can barely feel when you're getting near the biting point, which is why I accidentally slipped and cooked it.
I only did it once because after that one smoke-up I concentrated harder. The steering is similarly light, although it firms up at speed to give a rather vague idea of how hard you're pushing the front tyres.
The i20 is made by a South Korean company, engineered and developed in Europe and put together in a factory in India.
Hyundai has just launched its second generation i20 and has given it a more distinctive Hyundai family style than the old car.
There's also been a lot of work done to the interior to give it a posher feel.
Simple stuff, like a little sliver of smarter trim and a better switch or button here and there. Plus Hyundai's beautifully simple USB/iPod and power sockets that are placed exactly where you need them and not in the glovebox under the owner's manual and hidden by a tin of travel sweets.
We're testing the 1.2-litre Active model with five doors. A three-door is also available but it seems the world is agreeing with me and realising that three-door family hatchbacks are a bit of a nuisance.
Here's an interesting fact: the Mini Countryman, the soft-roader Mini that I hate, outsells all the other Minis on its own. It's more practical because it's a proper five-door car.
The 1.2-litre petrol engine looks to be the best bet because the diesel is a bit harsh and the 1.4-litre doesn't offer significantly more performance than the modest 84bhp 1.2.
The only drawback is that the smaller engine only comes with a five-speed gearbox. Not that the i20 is noisy on the motorway. Most modern cars get lighter with each new generation. That's the idea anyway because light weight equals lower fuel consumption and emissions.
Not a fatty i20 then. It's over 100kg heavier than a 1.4-litre Ford Fiesta. That said, the i20 comes with stability control and six airbags as standard - and our Active model has air conditioning.
has Another area in which the Hyundai scores over the Ford is interior space, especially in the back. You can fit four proper-sized, bigger-thana-Hammond adults in the i20. Even people as unnecessarily tall as six foot.
The boot isn't massive but the opening is wide and the sill low enough to make loading easy.
The i20 is meant to be simple, unfussy family transport, which with high equipment levels and a fantastic five-year warranty will be very affordable transport. It isn't designed to be a smilegenerating machine. All the same, I wish the engineers had given the controls rather more effort so I didn't have to drive to Gloucester with the smell of burnt clutch in the car.
The throttle is very light, too.
While a grasshopper would probably have enough upper leg muscle to operate it, co-ordinating clutch and throttle for a smooth takeoff is not easy. And the brakes are over assisted.
Our Active trim i20 (Classic is the most basic model, with Style at the smart end and Blue doing the eco honours) is good value when you look at the kit included in the price. You even get a leathercovered steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake.
But I'd save a bundle and go for the Classic because it still has air conditioning and the full complement of safety features. All Hyundai needs to do for the next generation is make it more interesting to drive and sign it up for WeightWatchers.
THE RIVALS Ford Fiesta 1.25 Style Far better to drive but less space in the back and less kit for the money.
Volkswagen Polo 1.4 Match Top quality but you pay for it. Check out equipment level, too.
Seat Ibiza 1.4 SE New model looks stylish and is a Polo with different clothes.
The new i20 leg has been given a distinctive Hyundai (as style smart the when you THE FACTSs Hyundai i20 1.2 Active Five-door hatchback Engine: 1.2-litre fourcylinder, 84bhp 0-62mph: 12.7sec Fuel consumption: 57.6mpg
VALUE n: Simple family transport PRACTICAL n i20's five door body ROOMY JBigger than a Fiesta