Hyundai i20 Cross: Budget motoring
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This isn’t a new trick, but it’s an effective one. Ever since Audi bolted on some ruggedised-looking bits to its otherwise staid A4 wagon back in 1999 — and created the newspaper sub-editor-infuriating allroad — it seems we’re never without a manufacturer giving one of its urban models some go-anywhere credibility.
In fact, the first “Cross” — Volkswagen’s first generation CrossPolo, which arrived 10 years ago — sort of birthed the crossover segment; a small car with a higher ride height and designs on growing up to be an SUV one day.
It’s a formula that seemed a bit odd back in 2007, but took flight and is now a lucrative segment of the market.
The Hyundai i20 Cross follows the same template. Underneath the sheet metal it’s an updated i20 hatch, but there are plenty of additions to — literally — raise it above the norm.
The car features a 20mm higher ride height than the standard i20, with standard rugged bits including a stylised front end featuring a moulded bash plate/nudge bar arrangement, silver detailed running boards and wheel-arch mouldings.
Above, silver roof rails complete the look, with attractive 17-inch alloys (wrapped in Pirelli rubber) adding some genuine style.
The i20 Cross also features a “very now” fashionable blacked-out c-pillar to give the roof a floating look, although it’s a little hard to see this on our black test car.
So then, a good-looking little hatch.
But the i20 Cross comes with the stand-out limitation of having to put up with a four-speed automatic transmission. I’ll pause while you mop up all that coffee you just spat everywhere ...
It’s true, though, and — in this day and age — is a positively medieval set-up. What’s more, this from a company with an enormous pedigree in top-notch engineering. Come on Hyundai, you have a perfectly good six-speed auto deployed elsewhere in the range (even the Accent 1.6 Elite — the next car up the food chain from the i20 — gets six cogs).
So, though perfectly happy pootling around the city streets, the dire need for an extra ratio or two becomes apparent the moment you put your foot down on a motorway slip road. Ask the i20 Cross to travel out of town — or even into a hillier suburb — and you’ll see the tachometer arc round into the three-and four-thousands without any real prompting. Which is a shame.
In line with the remainder of Hyundai’s fleet, the i20 Cross comes with a heap of other specs, though. It’s essentially an i20 with hiking boots on, remember, so while it’s based on the Korean manufacturer’s smallest model, it isn’t lacking in comfort and convenience fare.
You’ll get stuff such as Hill Start Assist, a reversing camera embedded in the rear vision mirror, six airbags, Lane Departure Warning, Tyre Pressure Management System, rear parking sensors, projector headlights with Daytime Running Lights, cruise control and a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming.
The boot gives you 326 litres of space, which is good (more than a Volkswagen Polo, slightly less than a Toyota Yaris) and there’s a clever removable shelf in there which gives you a false floor for hiding valuables out of sight when you’re off biking and hiking and all those things driving an i20 Cross makes you look like you should be doing.
Speaking of interior space, there is plenty of head and elbow room front and back and, for a small car, you don’t feel hemmed-in.
The i20 Cross features an 850kg braked two rating although, again, even a hire trailer from your local service station is going to tax that gearbox. The manufacturer claims a combined fuel economy figure of 6.7-litres/100km.
That figure will disappear quickly if your travels take you beyond the regularities of the school/mall/office run though; I was getting closer to 8.0-litres/100km during a fortnight spent driving the car.
Incidentally, the standard i20 boasting the same feature set as this car, minus the gravel monster accessories and with 16-inch alloys, will arrive here next month. It’ll cost a reasonable $26,990.
For now, the Hyundai i20 Cross is a decent wee city car at a decent enough price, especially when you factor in the lengthy list of standard specs.
Its Achilles’ heel is that four-speed automatic trannie. On the road, it feels like a budget-friendly car from an emerging market, dressed up to better suit Kiwi tastes.
Hyundai i20 Cross
ENGINES: 1.4-litre petrol (74kW, 134Nm)
PRO: Exterior looks; standard specification list, apart from ...
CON: A four-speed auto transmission? In this day and age?