Cross variants of hatchbacks have been around for quite some time now. The current scene has pretty much seen the most action with quite a few manufacturers getting into the scene. You already have the Volkswagen Cross Polo and the Toyota Etios Liva Cross battling it out and now Hyundai has decided to get into the scene as well. The new Elite i20 came across as a huge success for Hyundai and the Korean giant has decided to cash in further on its success by bringing in a cross variant of the same as well. We take the car for an extensive first drive to find out if its just a cladded hatchback or is there more than meets the eye!
By now everyone knows what to expect when you talk about a cross variant of a hatchback. Plenty of side cladding, skid plates, raised suspension, skid plates etc etc. Is the Hyundai any different? No actually. But do all the addons add to its already good looks? Hell yes!! The i20 in its new Elite avatar was already the best looking hatch in the market and now the Active is definitely the best looking cross hatch in the market.
Starting with the front, Hyundai have made quite a few changes to add the skid plate and the chin cladding. The hexagonal grille is all new and nicely blends with the big silver skid plate up front. The skid plate sports a little honeycomb grille in the centre too. To go with the butch look, the Active gets big round fog lights making it more purposeful rather than just concentrating on aesthetics.
The biggest change though are the headlights which the Elite owners will definitely list after. The swept back headlights not only look brilliant but also boast projectors and incorporate cornering lamps as well. Of course headlights today are not complete without DRL's and the Active sports them too.
Moving to the side, the cladding continues all throughout the length of the car. Further adding to the tough looks are thick door cladding as well. Along with the silver roof rails, alloys are new as well and the Active gets 16 inch diamond cut alloy wheels which compliment the design well, but we would have preferred it in a gun metal finish which would have added more character. Hyundai have really concentrated on the details and even made changes to the fuel cap which gets a tough cut look.
Competition the brilliant design is a well designed rear. The 3-step LED tail lamps looks yummy and really boasts a very eye catching design. The cladding and the bumper are held together by 2 large round reflectors at either end out of one doubles up as a reversing light. Balancing the design is a nice compact tailgate spoiler and a skid plate that finishes up the rear. Putting all things together, the i20 Active is sure to turn a lot of heads and make plenty of Elite buyers green.
Just like the exteriors Hyundai have managed to jazz up the Elite's already brilliant insides. While the basic layout is the same, Hyundai has just managed to spice up the insides enough for you to sit up and take notice. The first thing we noticed once we opened the door was the blue tinge on the dash and the door pads. While on most of occasions these would end up looking garish or cheap, Hyundai has managed to make it look absolutely funky.
The dashboard and other bits are identical to the Elite but you get an option to choose between the interiors with a blue accent or with orange inserts, both which look absolutely smashing.
The dashboard design is extremely ergonomic and everything is very easy to reach. The seats are very good too and offer very good support all around. Moving to the back even with a six footer in the front, there is ample legroom. Hyundai has managed to package the interiors quite well. Seating for three at the back is perhaps the most offered by any hatchback, since the i20 is indeed a plus sized car. The only slight hindrance is the air con vent at the rear which can be a tad bit uncomfortable for the centre passenger.
The boot too at 285 litres can swallow a decent amount of luggage, however, it does have quite a high loading bay which will require quite a bit of effort to slide in a heavy bag.
The Active also gets a cooled glovebox which I think is a very thoughtful feature. Apart from that you get auto headlamps, sporty aluminum pedals and a brilliant 8 speaker music system which is equipped with USB, aux (which are illuminated), Bluetooth and a 1GB internal memory.
The speedometer binnacle gets additional info in the form of an advanced supervision cluster which gives out the steering position reminder, service reminder, auto door unlock and a parking sensor display. Funky, loaded and boasting top notch quality, the Active's interiors clearly look and feel the best in its segment.
Engine and Performance
This is one area where crossed hatchbacks end up a little lacking. While they definitely look the part, the engines and the power trains don't really do justice to the looks. We feel manufacturers should go the whole hog and provides an AWD option as well which would hike the prices for sure but at least offer a true blooded AWD compact hatch for a whole lot of enthusiasts out there. So while we keep our hopes alive for such a phenomenon, the Active in the meantime is powered by the same engines powering the Elite hatch.
Starting with the petrol first, the same 1.2 litre Kappa dual VTVT unit is retained. While the engine pushes out an impressive 83 PS @ 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 115 Nm @ 4000 rpm, I have always thought that this unit is at best suited for the i10 and feels out of place in the larger i20. And now more so thanks to the Active's portly 15 kg weight increase over the standard car. While its happy to potter around in traffic, its the highways where it feels lackluster. Now Hyundai has taken the effort to tinker around with the final drive hearing, however there is only so much that can do. There is just not enough punch in the engine and this comes to the fore when you need a quick overtaking maneuver. Hyundai please plonk in a better petrol engine in there soon.
The diesel on the other hand is an absolute stonker. And right after the petrol feels like its running an extra engine. The 1.4 U2 CRDi engine pushes out 90 PS @ 4000 rpm and importantly a very impressive 220 Nm of torque from as early as 1500 rpm. The diesel also gets a 6-speed manual gearbox again with altered final drive ratios unlike the 5-speed manual in the petrol.
Performance as expected is fantastic. There is strong surge every time you mail the throttle and no matter what gear you are in, the diesel has enough torque at all times to keep you going without needing to downshift. The gearbox is slick and a joy to shift when you are caning it. Without doubt the diesel is the better bet if you are considering the i20 Active.
Ride and Handling
This is the department where the cross variant differs the most from the standard car. The first time you look at the car you immediately notice the highish stance. Along with 16 inch wheels, the Active also gets 190 mm ground clearance compared to the standard car which gets 170 mm. Now Hyundai hasn't just raised the suspension and left it at that. There's plenty of tuning that's gone into the new setup and it shows. It feels a tad bit stiff but then the moment you go over a bad section, the suspension gobbles it all up without any complaints. Its almost a European feel, very solid, very reassuring.
The added ground clearance hasn't affected the handling too much either. Of course the raised stance means there will inevitable be body roll but not enough to raise any alarms. Hyundai has also worked on the steering. While at low speeds there is still that elastic feel, it gets much better as speeds start to increase. The Active will happily sail through a rutted stretch as it will be on your nearest ghats. Don't expect to be a corner carver because it isn't one, but what it is, is a hatch that can easily take the rough with the smooth and then some.
Clearly, the i20 Active comes across as more than just a cladded variant of the Elite. For starters it looks brilliant and Hyundai has managed to give it just the character it needed to carry off the cross look. The interiors are the best of the lot too and with those radical color tones all its missing is matching ambient lighting. Its got a bunch of features too which definitely give it an edge over not just its immediate competition but also the Elite variant. Hyundai has managed to do a top job with the Active and it looks like this car will serve as the cherry on the cake which is the Elite. What remains to be seen is how well Hyundai manages to price the the car considering it has more features than the Elite which is already an expensive car. Keep watching this space for the launch soon!