Monday, July 04, 2011

20,000 km Hyundai i10....

Photobucket19 months ago, I bought a brand new 2009 Hyundai i10 for use as a daily driver to replace the aging 1994 Nissan Sentra I've been driving for several years now. Well, after 20,000 km, I'm pleased to report the car has exceeded all my expectations of Hyundai in general, and of a small city car in particular.

To be perfectly honest though, the Hyundai i10 was not really my first choice for a new car. I've always driven subcompacts before, and I've never driven a car as small as the i10. Like most people, I assumed a city car would be tight on the inside, slow on acceleration, low on power on inclines, and basically full of compromises all throughout. I would have preferred to buy another subcompact, but alas, like most other people, I gravitated to what I could afford and not necessarily what I wanted. Fortunately, it all worked out in the end.

The i10 is roomier than looking at it from the outside would suggest. It's at least as roomy than the old Nissan Sentra I used to drive, probably roomier. Four average size adults would fit in with no problems, and a fifth passenger could be squeezed in the back seat should the need arise, with not many complaints. Hyundai accomplished this feat of maximizing interior space by pushing the wheels out to the very corners of the car, utilizing a cab forward design, raising the roofline, and mounting the gearshift lever on the dash instead of between the front passenger seats. What you end up is a box on wheels with a very airy and comfortable interior which at first glance doesn't seem to jive with small size of the car when viewed from the outside. Of course, it isn't all roses though. The i10 has a rather small luggage compartment. It could be maximized though, by lowering the rear seatbacks. While the limited cargo capacity may prove to be a liability, it's not a deal breaker by any means considering that the i10 is a city car, and was never really meant to transport huge items. That hasn't stopped me from trying though, as I have successfully transported a computer table, a washing machine, and a personal refrigerator (not at the same time, obviously), when the need came up.

Performance-wise, the i10 is a revelation. Under the short hood is an all aluminum four-cylinder 1.2 liter DOHC 16-valve electronic fuel injection engine which Hyundai calls it's Kappa engine. It produces about 75 hp at 6,000 rpm and 11.8 kg/m of torque at 4,000 rpm. At first I was a bit doubtful about the capabilities of modern small displacement engines, but nowadays, a smallish engine isn't as bad as you might think. Output-wise, it is actually as powerful as some older larger displacement engines, sometimes even more so. Couple that with the i10's low curb weight, and you get a very nippy car. When forced, the engine has enough grunt to take you from zero to a hundred kilometers per hour in 12.8 seconds, and a maximum speed in excess of 160 kph. Nope, those aren't performance car figures, but perfectly adequate for a city car used occasionally on highway jaunts. Besides, with it's 5-speed manual gearbox, you get on average about 12 km/l of fuel in city driving, and upwards of 16 km/l on the highway. I've heard automatics get a lot less though.

As for comfort, the i10 is full of features which used to be unheard of in entry level city cars like power locks and windows, motor driven power steering and airconditioning. For no additional cost I also got keyless entry and alarm, a rear spoiler, door visors, rear backup camera, and a CD/DVD/USB/SD/iPod/TV/AM/FM head unit with a 7" touchscreen.

Safetywise, there's a driver's airbag, seatbelts all around, front foglights, a center high mounted stop light and rear wiper and washer, among the other usual standard safety features.

Okay, so it's cheap, roomy, comfortable, and relatively safe. So how does it hold up after 19 months and 20,000 km?

Mechanically, it's been bulletproof, only requiring typical engine maintenance every 5,000 km. The only trouble spots fixed under warranty were a faulty brakelight switch which occurred after nine months and replaced after about three weeks, an airbag clock spring, and the head unit screen tilt mechanism which both failed after sixteen months and replaced also after about three weeks.

Nitpicks? Aside from the small cargo capacity, the ride is a bit choppy on broken or uneven pavement, though that's to be expected for a small car with a relatively short wheelbase. The stiff suspension however, makes it handle surprisingly well on smooth roads. There's an annoying blind spot by the A-pillars, and Hyundai seems to be rather slow when it comes to procuring spare parts.

All in all, the 2009 Hyundai i10 has proven to be a worthy daily driver and comes highly recommended if you're looking for a cheap, reliable, comfortable and economical city car.

Good points:

  • Inexpensive to buy;

  • Spacious interior;

  • Good fit and finish;

  • Durable mechanicals;

  • Quality interior;

  • Excellent forward visibility;

  • Feisty engine with good fuel economy;

  • Lots of standard features;

  • Good high-speed stability;

  • Solid ride and handling on smooth roads;

  • Good ground clearance;

  • Five-year warranty.

Bad points:

  • Small cargo capacity;

  • Blind spot at the A-pillars when cornering;

  • Choppy ride on broken or uneven pavement;

  • Manually adjustable side mirrors;

  • Rumbly OEM tires (Kumho Solus KH17);

  • Cheap plastic wheel covers;

  • Small, hard to read tachometer;

  • No passenger-side airbag and ABS;

  • Minor electrical gremlins;

  • Periodic maintenance is every 5,000 km instead of 10,000 km, can get expensive;

  • Slow turnaround for replacement parts.

Competitors:

Chery QQ (cheaper, questionable quality);
Chevrolet Spark (more power, less torque);
Kia Picanto (smaller engine, more expensive, no airbags)
Suzuki Celerio (with airbags and ABS, smaller engine, cramped interior, manual rear windows).

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