Whenever the phrase downsizing crops up in the news, it’s filed under bad news. No-one wants to see jobs being outsourced or workforces being trimmed, but it’s a shame that the very word, downsizing, has been given so many negative connotations. After all, it can be, at a personal level, a very useful thing to do.
Many of us, after all, could do with downsizing our waistlines a little. More than a few of us would be well served by a quick downsizing of our wardrobes or ‘man-drawers’. And downsizing your motoring costs is ever more of a necessity.
Previously, trading down to a smaller car from a bigger one was a recipe for losing out. You were sacrificing purchase price and running costs, certainly, but space, refinement and especially comfort usually also went out the window too. Now though, there are small (and I mean properly small, not new Mini small) cars out there which can serve as viable, pleasant daily transport even for those used to much bigger machinery.
Take the all-new Hyundai i10. It really is properly small (just 3.6 metres long and weighing an admirably trim 933kg at the kerb) and while engine capacity has dropped 100cc to 1.0 litres, power remains more or less the same at 66hp. Not a lot, and neither is the 95Nm of torque, but both prove sufficient.
Where the new i10 seriously starts to deviate from its predecessor – and from most other similarly sized cars in general – is when you sit in it. The seat and driving position (even with the lack of reach-adjustable steering) are just exceptionally good, and the whole cabin that surrounds you smacks of high quality and attention to detail. Yes, you will find some scratchy plastics around the place and when you tap the centre of the dash, it’s hard and unyielding, not squidgy and soft-touch. Even so, this is a nice place to be and suddenly the prospect of a long journey in a very small car doesn’t feel like such a chore.
Normally with a town car, it’s the smallness of engine that precludes any ventures onto long motorways, but once again the new i10 confounds your expectations. True, it’s no ball of fire and also true, you have to work it hard through the gears to get a serious response, but the beauty of this engine (and indeed the slick shifting gearbox) is that it’s willing to work with you. In fact, the little three-pot will happily sing its warbling, raspy tune all the way to the 6,000rpm cut-out and a 120km/h cruise feels no more bother to it than sitting still in traffic.
Of course, do that a lot and you’ll knacker the fuel consumption. Hyundai quotes 4.7 litres per 100km and we got an average of 6.0 litres/100km. Blame the frequent motorway trips we were doing, and the fact that, with just 500km on the clock, the engine was still loosening up.
Comfort was clearly the priority when it came to the chassis development and here at last we find the i10’s one weakness. Not the ride, which again is exemplary for a car measuring and weighing in such small figures, but the steering. It’s just too detached, which sounds like a typical, road-tester-y complaint, but actually you notice it in town as much as in fast corners – there’s just not enough information about what the front wheels are up to. Still, it’s surefooted enough and never gave cause for concern even in windy, wet weather.
Our Deluxe model came with alloy wheels, air conditioning, Bluetooth telephony and an iPod connection amongst other toys, which make its €13,495 price start to look reasonable. There is a cheaper Classic version, but it’s far barer inside and most i10s sold in retail are likely to be Deluxe spec.
If you’re in the market for a small hatch (say, a Fiesta or a Clio) then you really should consider the Hyundai i10. Aside from outright boot space, it’s a match for cars from the class up when it comes to refinement, quality and even rear seat space, which is far better than expected. The Volkswagen up! has a slightly classier looking cabin and the Fiat Panda has nicer steering, but the i10 hits back hard with that brilliant five-year warranty and the brand’s twin reputation for vehicle longevity and customer service. It is, quite simply, a brilliant little car where for once the ‘little’ part is actually the bit you notice least.