Greener shade of Blue from Hyundai

THE Hyundai i10 has been a very strong contender in the city car segment offering impressive standards of quality and design backed-up by the generous specification you expect from Hyundai and that famous five-year warranty. Now the facelifted little car is on an efficiency drive with an all-new 1.0-litre engine, start-stop technology and a fashionably eco-tweaked green version called, naturally enough, the Blue.

THE Hyundai i10 has been a very strong contender in the city car segment offering impressive standards of quality and design backed-up by the generous specification you expect from Hyundai and that famous five-year warranty. Now the facelifted little car is on an efficiency drive with an all-new 1.0-litre engine, start-stop technology and a fashionably eco-tweaked green version called, naturally enough, the Blue.

The i10 replaced the Amica, a car that was retired from the UK market in 2003 before being brought back from the grave for a 2006 swansong. It wasn’t particularly appetising during its first stint and rather like last night’s mackerel carbonara, it hadn’t improved much the next time we saw it. The i10, however, has proved to be a thoroughly different proposition and came as close to anything as being a no-brainer purchase during the Government’s sadly-missed scrappage scheme. Hyundai was at pains to remind us that its i30 family hatchback was designed and is built in Europe around European tastes. The i10 city car is targeting the top performers in its sector in a similar way, except it’s screwed together in India.

While the i10’s 1.2-litre petrol engine continues in improved form (13% more power, 9.2% less CO2, 8.7% better fuel consumption), the 1.1-litre unit that was the staple of the original i10 range has been replaced by a brand new three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine that powers the Blue and claims a combined consumption of 67.3mpg. No one looks happy on UK petrol forecourts these days but at least the i10 should ease the pain inflicted by the extortionate pump prices. Exploiting the full planet saving potential of the efficient new 1.0-litre engine, the Blue emits just 99g/km of CO2 and so exempts itself from VED and the London Congestion Charge. It’s currently the only sub-£10k five-seater car on the market to achieve this, and the first of a family of Blue models that will feature similar environmental technology.

With just 68bhp at its disposal, the new 1.0 i10 Blue just about wings ‘frisky’ in the confines of an urban environment but its rather feeble looking 0-62mph time of 14.8s is actually a whole second quicker than the old 1.1 could manage. Like that car, it struggles a bit out of town but the new three-pot motor is a sweet engine with an engaging off-beat soundtrack that’s fun to work hard. And the precise action of the five-speed gearbox means it’s no chore keeping it on the boil.

The i10 has one of the longest wheelbases in its class. At 2,380mm, it’s 65mm longer than the Aygo/C1/107 trio, which are largely identical bar the badges, and over 80mm longer than the Fiat’s Panda. This should aid ride comfort and handling in the i10, while also maximising interior space. The long wheelbase has been achieved by pushing the wheels right into the corners of the car so as not to increase overall length by too much. At 3,565mm long and 1,595mm wide, the i10 remains usefully compact. It’s actually 166mm shorter than the Toyota Aygo and around 25mm longer than a Fiat Panda so parking shouldn’t be too problematic. The exterior design - freshened up with reprofiled headlights, bumpers and grille, is marginally more adventurous than before. The city car market was once riddled with non-descript wheeled boxes whereas modern offerings tend to lay on the cheeky style as thick as possible and the i10 falls somewhere between these two stools. The gentle curves around the front end work well and the rear is a little sharper with its angles but the overall shape is neatly integrated.

The i10’s cabin design has also been subjected to some tidying but remains simple and appealing. The vibrancy and ingenuity that characterises the best small car interiors doesn’t appear to be in evidence but Hyundai looks to have concentrated on getting the fundamentals right. The safety-first approach should help maintain the brand’s steady forward momentum.

The designers have employed a dash-mounted gear-lever but it’s mounted on a bit of the dash that extends down so low that cross-cabin access isn’t really on the agenda. The rear bench is set-up to take three passengers unlike the pair of moulded seats you find in the rear of some of its rivals and the i10 is a five-door only model. Practicality should be a strongpoint.

The revised range is divided into four trim grades - Blue, Classic, Active and Style. As before, all models get air conditioning, four electric windows, power steering, central locking, tinted glass, four airbags and a six-speaker CD/radio stereo, but new to the standard kit list is a dedicated connection for your iPod as well as non-Apple MP3 players. The items that make the Blue ‘Blue’ consist of low rolling resistance tyres, an Eco Drive indicator that tells you the most efficient time to change gear, and Hyundai’s ISG stop-start system. These aren’t thrown in for free, though, and at just over £9000, the Blue is £1000 more than the considerably nippier (but not that much less eco-friendly) 1.2 Classic. In other words, pitched against its direct rivals such as the Aygo/C1/107, Fiat Panda, Ford Ka, and Smart ForTwo, the Blue doesn’t look so hot while the 1.2 Classic is something of a bargain.

The wisdom of offering diesel engines in city cars is always open to question. They bump the price up by quite a margin and this extra outlay isn’t easily recouped through an oil-burner’s superior fuel economy because of the short distances that city cars typically travel. To buy a diesel city car, you’ve got to really like the extra torque and way it drives. Fortunately, the i10 doesn’t even give us the option, the 1.0-litre Blue - with its near-70mpg economy and sub-100 g/km CO2 emissions - taking care of business at eco’s cutting edge very nicely, thank you.

The other major trick up Hyundai’s sleeve is its five-year unlimited mileage warranty. This remains a strong card in a market where keeping costs down is of paramount importance for the majority of buyers. Only Hyundai’s sister company Kia can match this package and if you’re after peace-of-mind motoring, it will prove a tough one to pass up on.

City car buyers aren’t going short of choice at the moment. Small, economical vehicles that can help motorists sidestep the worst of the environmental taxation burden are very much in vogue and if they can do so with some design flair and a little bit of cheekiness thrown in, well, so much the better. Hyundai’s refreshed i10 might lack the sparkle to seduce the nation’s urban trendies but it continues to put a definite tick in the boxes marked quality, practicality and value. The addition of this Blue model not only sharpens the little car’s eco credentials but, with its characterful three-pot motor, gives an extra dash of fun to the driving experience.