Text and photos Eric Tipan
Let’s face it. The traffic these days makes driving the last thing you want to do and driving a manual transmission the worst situation you can put yourself in.
More and more motorists are making the bland and plain, but safe and easy choice of getting an automatic transmission for their daily drive.
Most days and with majority of the units I test-drive, I’d say you’d be nuts not to, but every once in a while a model comes along with a great package of engine, performance, size, handling and efficiency that makes getting behind the wheel so much more exciting.
The latest hatchback from the Korean automaker, Hyundai i20 Cross Sport, might be currently flying under the radar but if I know the Filipino consumer, not for very long.
Aside from the standout color, the Hyundai i20 has a look inimitably its own. Its unique hue helps to attract attention but you’ll keep ogling partly to try and figure out what it is and because you can’t seem to take in all the details in one glance.
The badge says Korean but the styling and shape is boldly European. An understated emblem finds itself coolly repositioned above the grille and gives off a striking contrast against the bright-eyed large projector headlamps with ‘cornering’ function.
The two-tone orange and black treatment adds a more active, on-the-go character to the i20, making it appealing to the youth, or anyone with a more adventurous personality.
To complete the look, the i20 comes with silver roof rails that boost its aesthetic appeal while also increasing its capability to carry gear and equipment for a multitude of outdoor activities.
With ‘prettiness’ being such an overrated aspect of current vehicles, it may not be the ‘fairest of them all’ but if you want to see how ‘enthusiasm’ can be physically expressed, take a look at the i20.
If it is true that hanging out with kids makes you feel younger, sitting inside the i20 will make you feel like you’re 20 all over again. Maybe it’s because of the two-tone implementation inside or the size and how well it makes the i20 move on the road, but more on that later.
First the important stuff. The i20’s interior comes complete with everything. Unassuming on the outside, inside it has Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, a backup monitor on the rearview mirror and even Hyundai’s Clean Air feature integrated into the climate control system to purify the cabin air.
The steering wheel comes complete with buttons to handle hands-free calls and manage the audio system. As I’ve previously mentioned with current Hyundai models, the layout isn’t rocket science but it is cleverly designed to make each button easily seen and within reach.
There was one issue I had to deal with in the beginning. Getting used to the Asian design of having the ‘master lock’ switch on the driver’s door panel, took me a while to hunt it down to its new position above the 2-DIN infotainment system, right on top of the hazard lights button.
Fun in a manual
The best part about the i20 is actually how small the engine is and yet how much fun it provides in relation to its size. Hyundai’s 1.4L U2 CRDi WGT engine is plugged under the hood, sending 90 PS and 220.6 Nm of torque to the wheels via its six-speed manual transmission.
The motor-driven power steering has a bit of slack but because of its short dimensions, the effect isn’t as pronounced. This trim comes with a smart key that doesn’t leave your pocket at all, since it also comes with a button Start feature.
Aside from getting used to stepping on the clutch to start the engine, and getting the gear in reverse via the pull-up knob on the shift lever, everything else is rather elementary. The clutch engages pretty smoothly regardless of how shoddy your left leg is with a manual transmission.
Because of its petite dimensions and the amount of torque available even at low RPMs, it is such a joy to handle in the city. The low RPMs pulled me along and kept me from riding the clutch, which is a vital key to preserving clutch components. It also gave me the short bursts I needed to get in and out of tight situations without having to downshift, which saved me precious fuel.
Its size made making a U-turn, parking backwards or ‘facing the wall’ so easy you’d barely need more than a two-point turn to get by.
The small displacement will obviously come up short on the highway but that’s what you give up to get an average of 14.2 kilometers per liter in pure city driving.
Hatch’ed in the city
With an eye-catching exterior and features on the inside that ticks the ‘basic’ checklist of any techie; a performance that’s not only enjoyable but also extremely fuel-efficient – that says a lot for a model that faced-off with EDSA traffic for four days – the i20 will be difficult to ignore.
The diesel trim with a six-speed MT has an SRP of P1.048-million, and considering the amenities and the overall performance it offers, it is definitely value for money.
Just when the AT was slowly becoming a necessity, Hyundai makes it fun (and idiot-proof) to drive a stick again.
A spunky engine, appealing exterior and a drive that makes you fall in love with the manual all over again, that’s the Hyundai i20 Cross Sport 6MT Diesel.