Hyundai i20 VS Suzuki Swift
- Cracking exhaust
- Fun rather than ferocious
- A hoot on a track or (we expect) a winding road
- Too soon to properly judge it
- Manual only will deter shoppers
- Lacks the out-and-out punch of bigger hatches
- Great looks
- Good safety package
- Nice to drive
- GLX is on the pricey side
- Halogen headlights on lower-spec cars
- Slow steering
After we spent what felt like an eternity with the Hyundai i30 N being an only child in Australia, the lauded hot hatch is finally getting a smaller sibling, with the Korean brand confirming the i20 N will debut in Australia next year, likely in the first six months of 2021.
On paper, at least, the city-sized hot hatch promises to deliver the performance thrills of the N brand to a whole new demographic, given its utterly family-proof dimensions and what will obviously be a more affordable price point.
But is it truly worthy of the N badge? We put an early prototype version to the test on the track to find out.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
For almost thirty years, Australians could stroll into a number of dealerships and have their pick of cars - obviously small ones - for under twenty grand. And I mean twenty grand in the modern sense, not the early '80s Mitsubishi Sigma GL with no power steering or...you know, seats that didn't give you a third-degree burn in summer.
Suzuki is hanging in there, along with Kia and, oddly, MG. But I'm not here to tell you about the Swift Navigator because, frankly, I don't think you should buy it. It's not the best-value Swift and for the same money you can get a better-loaded Kia, the top-of-the range Picanto GT. Not far over the $20,000 mark, though, is the Navigator Plus which makes a lot more sense. As part of the Series II Swift updated which arrived in September, The Plus in Navigator Plus has taken on a whole new meaning.
Read More:How does the 2019 Suzuki Swift stack up?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
We'll reserve full judgement until we've lived with a production version of the i20 N, but after our short, track-based taste test? We like it a lot.
Fun rather than ferocious, it's the kind of hot hatch you can have an absolute blast in without feeling like you're going to kill yourself or your licence, and you can't help but climb out smiling..
It was a tough call, but I did settle on the Navigator Plus as the pick of the range. For an extra $1500 over an automatic GL Navigator, you get all that extra equipment and a subtle lift in spec that would be well-served with the inclusion of the GLX's LED headlights.
All Swifts are good to drive, with a supple chassis tune, acceptable performance through to quite good from the 1.0-litre turbo and a good after-sales package. I do think, however, that Swifts are a tad over-priced, especially considering the big jump to the GLX. But if you want a Japanese-built hatch with a bit of character, fantastic looks and a good mechanical package, the Swift hits all three.
Again, this more an arbitrary score here, as the only i20 N we've seen to date was dropped in camouflage inside and out.
That said, you can tell from its silhouette that this a wide, hunkered-down hatch, with bulging arches and 18-inch blacked-out alloys, a domed bonnet, and little roof spoiler jutting out from above the rear windscreen.
Hyundai tells us the i20 N will also serve up a new air intake on front bumper, unique side sills, a new radiator grille, and a new rear bumper with a diffuser, as well as new rear lights. You can get the i20 N in seven colours, one of which will be the Performance Blue that's become the signature of the brand.
Inside, Hyundai says you'll find a "high-performance driving space" (whatever that means) with a host of N stuff, like a sports steering wheel and shifter, metal pedals, sport seats up front and blue highlights throughout the interior trimmings.
Ah, this is where things get interesting. The Swift is such a cracking-looking car, even though it hasn't changed a great deal over the past three generations. But that's how good the Swift's rebirth was sixteen years ago. The details have, obviously, been refined but it really does look brilliant.
The Navigator Plus, when you get close, does look a bit cheap here and there, but plenty of far more expensive cars have weird cheap details, like the odd textured plastic chrome on the tail-lights of the Lexus LC.
Inside is a but more in keeping with its price point than the Swift Sport. There's nothing especially eye-catching in the cabin apart from the fetching new patterned inserts on the seats and the nice leather steering wheel which is, oddly, flat-bottomed.
Not particularly practical, to be fair. While Hyundai is yet to confirm the specification details of the i20 N, it is based on the brand's existing city car, so expect similar dimensions here.
It does, though, have four doors, which puts it ahead of some of its hot-hatch competition, and means climbing into the backseat isn't as hard as it could be. Once there, though, you won't be spoiled for space.
For reference, the regular i20 serves up twin cupholders up front, and bottle storage in each of the doors.
That car also stretches some 4035mm in length, 1734mm in width and 1474mm in height. That's enough to squeeze 326 litres (VDA) into the boot, or 1042 litres with the 60:40 split rear seat folded flat.
If you're in the front seats, you're golden. Apart from being slightly too high for my liking, they're very comfortable and the previously-mentioned upholstery is very pleasant. You get two shallow cupholders and a tray not quite big enough for a larger-sized phone but fine for standard-sized ones.
As with the front, rear-seat dwellers get a pair of small bottle holders in the doors and not much else apart from a seat pocket in the left-hand seat. Common with the front seat, there's no armrest which is a shame because the back seat is so flat that there is nothing but your seatbelt to stop you clattering into your neighbour in the corners. There is a squared-off cupholder between the front seats which would be hard to reach for smaller folk.
Three across the back is obviously a distant dream for adults, but two back there are in reasonably good shape with plenty of headroom and surprisingly good knee and legroom if you're roughly my height (180cm) behind someone else of similar height.
The boot is predictably tiny at 242 litres, which is a little below the standard for the segment, with a seats-down capacity of 918 litres. The Swift Sport's boot is slightly larger at 265 litres because it doesn't carry a spare, but weirdly, has the same seats-down capacity as the other versions.
With three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points, you're covered for baby or child seats.
Price and features
This is a tough one to answer, without yet knowing the pricing details. But Hyundai has told us that it will be priced on or around the money for the segment, which should see it land around the early $30k mark.
In terms of exactly what you get for that money, well, that remains to be seen. But here's what we know so far.
Expect 18-inch alloys wrapped in Pirelli rubber, a digital driver's display and a second, central touchscreen that will deliver both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote unlocking with push-button start, power windows, and...
Well, that's about all we could glean from our very camouflaged car. But you will also get a whole heap of performance kit, which we'll touch on under the Engine and Transmission section.
For everything else, though, you'll just have to watch this space.
Down at $18,990 is where Swift range starts with the GL Navigator manual, adding $1000 for the CVT automatic. For Series II, the base model picks up rear speakers over the old spec, 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, reversing camera, cruise control, cloth interior, remote central locking, auto-down power windows and a space-saver spare.
For $21,490 the Navigator Plus has a lot more to offer than the GL Navigator. Which makes sense, given the Plus, but I'm no marketing genius.
For your money you get power folding and heated mirrors, reversing camera, active cruise control, sat nav and leather steering wheel as well as a bunch of extra safety features over the GL Navigator.
The GLX Turbo builds further on the lower specs with a six-speaker stereo, gear-shift paddles, LED headlights and the 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder. That car lands at a fairly sturdy $25,290 but is not without its own unique charms.
All Swifts share the 7.0-inch screen that's in almost everything with a Suzuki badge and has the same basic software that isn't all that flash but more than makes up for it with a built-in sat nav in the Navigator Plus and GLX Turbo (I'm assuming a certain demographic buys this car and insists on it) as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Annoyingly there's only one "free" colour and it's white. The rest of the colours (Super Black Pearl, Speedy Blue, Mineral Grey, Burning Red and Premium Silver) whack you another $595. By contrast (see what I did there?), you can choose from five free colours on a Mazda2 and the three premium colours are $100 cheaper.
Engine & trans
I like the engine. A lot. Not the most powerful in the class, sure, but not underpowered in my opinion, either.
That's enough grunt, Hyundai says, to deliver a "class-leading" power to weight ratio of 126kW per tonne.
So how does it stack up? It puts the i20 N about a touch under segment standard, power-wise, with cars like the Polo GTI making 147kW and 320Nm, while the Fiesta ST makes 147 and 290kW. Unsurprisingly, it’s also comprehensively shaded by the Toyota GR Yaris, which makes a whopping 200kW and 370Nm.
We have managed to extract some other key details surrounding Hyundai’s newest hot hatch, too. We know, for example, that there’s torsion-beam rear suspension, a mechanical LSD, Sachs dampers, dual-mode exhaust and, like it’s i30 N big brother, the i20 N should get Pirelli rubber wrapped around its 18-inch wheels. It also weights just 1250kg.
More? Well there's rev matching for the manual gearbox, launch control and the brand's N Grin Control System which allows you to dial through Normal, Eco, Sport, N and N Custom drive modes.
The chassis and suspension have been overhauled, too, and there's bigger performance brakes fitted.
The non-turbo Swift's very modest 66kW and 120Nm comes from its 1.2-litres and four-cylinders. It is not a lot of power, even with variable valve timing. To make the most of these figures, Suzuki fits a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, to send power to the front wheels. The manual is $1000 cheaper, a five-speed unit that you'll only find in the $18,990 GL Navigator.
Step up to the Turbo GLX and you get a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with healthy power outputs of 82kW and 160Nm, with a six-speed torque converter auto, unlike the lesser versions' CVT.
Thankfully, the Swift weighs next to nothing in modern car terms, so even the 1.2 offers reasonable pace without having to thrash it.
That I can't tell you, at least not yet. We were driving pre-production cars exclusively on a race track, and so taking an computer reading would have been grossly unfair, and Hyundai hasn't dropped an official figure on us yet.
We do know that the i20, in regular guise, is fitted with a 50-litre tank.
The official combined cycle figure on the sticker is listed at 4.8L/100km. The dash display indicated I was getting 6.5L/100km and to be fair to the Swift, it had almost no highway running during my time with it, so it's not too far off the 5.8L/100km urban figure.
With its small 37-litre fuel tank that means a real-world range of around 500km and probably another 100km if you're cruising the motorways.
How should the success of a city-sized hatch truly be measured? Raw power and out-and-out pace? I don’t think so. There are bigger, more powerful vehicles for that.
Price? Well, at least a little. This segment forms the stepping stone to the performance vehicle world, and so they really can’t be too inaccessible, right?
If you ask me, the biggest - and possible only - criteria a car has to hit in this segment is that it’s fun. Plain and simple. Does it make you want to take the longer, twister way home, emerging at the other end of a winding road with a face-splitting grin and fighting the urge to turn around and do it again in the other direction? Or does it make you want to stick to the freeway?
Well, it’s safe to say that in the i20 N - in prototype form at least - the answer is definitely the former.
Yes, the light hot hatch segment has been in something a power arms race of late - one now won by the GR Yaris - but the i20 N doesn’t really step into that ring. Its 150kW and 275Nm puts it at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of pure outputs.
But damn if it ain’t fun. The numbers on the page only really tell half the hot hatch story. The rest of it is how it feels, or how big a smile it paints on your face, and I can tell you this car painted a plenty big grin on mine.
One of the things I like about the i20 N is that it feels a little Mazda MX-5-like, in that you don’t need to be traveling at warp speed to feel like you’re having a good time behind the wheel. It means you can unleash it on any twisting road you come across, and have a whale of a time, without risking your entire driver's licence.
There are some cars where you really need to be travelling at pace to feel like you’re having a good time in them, but this isn’t one of them. It feels fun all the time.
It feels really connected to the track, too, like you’re in control of the vehicle, And I think the mark of a hot hatch is one that makes you feel like a better driver, and this does that. It forgives you mistakes, it urges you to push a little bit faster, a little bit further, and all of which results in a pretty good time behind the wheel.
Now a caveat, of course. This is a pre-prod car, and this test also took place on a race rack, so how this thing drives on the streets near your place, and what it's like to live with, is anyone’s guess, but as a taste test, it certainly seems to continue the N legacy of building cars that are simply a ton of fun.
Luckily I drove two cars for this review. The first was the one I think most people will end up buying, the 1.2-litre Navigator Plus. One of my favourite things about Suzukis - including my Vitara Turbo long-term test car - is the decent tyres fitted to all but the cheapest of their cars.
What that means is when combined with a very impressive suspension tune which delivers an excellent ride and handling balance (especially for such a small car) it's also fun to drive, if that's your thing. If it isn't your thing, it's comfortable and feels good on the road.
The steering is perhaps a little slow for my liking which I found a little odd. The spec sheet says it has variable rack steering which means you get more steering angle at a faster rate the more you turn the wheel, but it seems to only accelerate usefully when you're parking or moving around at low speed. It always felt like it need another quarter-turn or so for the same effect compared to most other small cars I've driven. Most owners probably won't mind, I just think it would be even better if the steering was a bit quicker.
The dreaded CVT makes the most of the 1.2-litre's limited power and torque, which is what CVTs are good at. I dread CVTs - and this is purely personal - because I don't think they're very good in most of the cars fitted with them. This one can whine a bit as you're driving along, but I'll take that because it has a good strong take-up from standstill that feels almost like a good dual-clutch transmission. Some CVTs are far too soft off the lights and you end up getting swamped by delivery riders on pushbikes.
Moving up to the turbo GLX, the main difference is the extra power and torque. When I first drove it I thought, "Why wouldn't you buy this one?" While the extra oomph is welcome, it's really not a deal breaker and really not worth an extra (almost) four thousand dollars unless you're really wedded to the idea of a turbo or LED headlights. Both of which are good things.
More mysteries here, I'm afraid. Hyundai is yet to confirm full safety specification for the i20 N, but we would expect it to get most of the brand's advanced safety kit.
The Navigator Plus' Series II safety upgrades add blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert and you get forward AEB with both low and high speed operation, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning as well as six airbags and the usual ABS and stability controls.
These features are also on the more expensive, turbo-powered GLX but not on the down-spec Navigator, which is one of the main reasons for me telling you in the intro that this is the better car.
The Swift features three top-tether points and two ISOFIX anchors for fitting child seats.
In 2017 the base GL scored four ANCAP stars while the other grades, offering things like forward AEB scored five stars.
Suzuki offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive.
Worth noting is the fact that the 1.2-litre's service intervals (12 months/15,000km) are a little more generous than the turbo's (12 months/10,000km). The 1.2 will cost $239 for the first service and then $329 for the next three. The fifth service is $239 or, if it's travelled over 90,000km, climbs to $499. If you stick to "average" mileage, that means a five-year service bill of $1465, or just under $300 per service. Not bad, although a Yaris is cheaper than that by quite some margin while a Rio is about double that (however it has a longer warranty).
If you go up to the GLX turbo, along with shorter intervals by distance, you'll pay $1475 or $295 per service, which again, is quite good and cheaper than the Rio and Picanto GT's servicing by quite a margin. The turbo triple obviously has more complex servicing needs and if you go over the expected milage, the final service will cost anywhere from $299 to $569, which is still reasonable.