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Mirror MOTORING: The Hy life; Instant Korean classic.

Byline: Richard Hammond

IPROBABLY couldn't have chosen a worse week to test drive the Hyundai i10.

With its high sides, narrow track and light weight, this new Indian-built, super-cheap hatchback doesn't enjoy a crosswind.

As you know, Mother Nature chucked around some pretty hefty sidewinds last week. I thought I might be reduced to tacking my way along the M4 like a sailboat in a series of three-lane zig-zags.

But that is not really the car's fault. This is a lithe, nimble little city car and I dragged it out on the motorway for a lengthy, crosscounty trek in conditions that would leave a Whitby fishing boat struggling to make headway. But when the winds dropped, I found I was tooling about in a pretty special little car.

This is the Classic version, which is the basic, entry level model. Well, that's what it said on the piece of paper that came with the car.

I thought they had issued me either with the wrong piece of paper or the wrong car.

Because the car I drove had air-conditioning, electric windows, a six-speaker CD player with MP3 connectivity and airbags all over the shop.

In a rare piece of journalistic thoroughness I checked, and yes, these are all standard on the i10 Classic. This then, represents very, very good value for money. And it marks the point at which all versions of every Hyundai will come with air-con as standard.

It will do a claimed average of 56.5mpg thanks to its 1.1-litre engine and efficient little tyres. Of course it's no sports car, clearly aimed at city handling and squeezing the last out of every drop of fuel.

So I was not expecting the thrill of a lifetime when I set off.

According to the piece of paper it would take 15.6 seconds to hit 62mph, so I figured I would have plenty of time to sit back and get to grips with it.

And I did. That 1.1-litre engine makes just 65bhp - my computer printer has more than that.

But the i10 weighs less than my printer, so 65bhp is enough. There's little point thrashing it, in fact it's best to let it lope along on what is a surprising amount of grunt available from lower revs.

It's happiest when you don't hustle it. But it feels great to pilot around. It nibbles gamely away at corners, dives into fast turns and settles down contentedly into what might be called a motorway cruise.

Though the pretty intrusive road noise and the fact you're sitting in a budget Korean hatchback makes words like "cruise" a bit inappropriate.

That said, I "cruised" it a hundred or so miles out on the M4 and not once did I struggle to keep up with the rest of the pack.

And the six-speaker CD arrangement means you can drown out the road and wind noise.

I found Motorhead worked very well, but that's a matter of personal taste. Also a matter of taste is the look of the thing.

I don't think it looks half bad. It's no low-slung cruising tool, but I don't think that's the intention here.

The five-year, unlimited mileage warranty sticker on the back window tells you more of what this car is about.

The emissions are low enough for it to qualify for lower tax and it will be exempt from London's congestion charge by October. That's if your ever driving over here in Britain.

It sips fuel, it's fun to drive, the interior is simple and if anything goes wrong, you've got that warranty. It's got more than enough kit to keep you comfortable and safe, even in the basic version.

If you're fussy, there's the "Style" model with alloy wheels, heated front seats, sunroof and a rear spoiler.

Yes, it will be hit hard by the big stick of depreciation, but hold on to it for five years, enjoy the security of the warranty, enjoy being able to stay away from the fuel pumps and never have to worry about how you're going to get somewhere.

For a lot of people the i10 is going to make a lot of sense.

TECH SPEC

MODEL: Hyundai i10 Classic

BODY: Four-door hatch

PRICE: Contact dealer

ENGINE: 1.1-litre four-cylinder, 65bhp

0-60MPH: 5.6 sec

FUEL: 56.5mpg

THE RIVALS

FIAT PANDA 1.1 ACTIVE European Car of the Year four years ago. Roomy and fun to drive but Hyundai wins on performance, standard kit and price.

TOYOTA AYGO 1.0

Room for four adults but very little boot space. Again the Hyundai wins on value for money.

CHEVROLET MATIZ

Definitely more stylish than the Hyundai, but much less oomph. Hence it's the only rival which wins on price.

CAPTION(S):

GOOD, CLEAN SENSIBLE FUN: The new i10
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2008
Words:802
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