At next month’s Frankfurt Show, Hyundai will unveil a replacement for its smallest car, the i10, that’s not only more European to look at, touch and drive, but which will also be built in Europe for the first time.
Production of the i10 for Europe is being switched from India to Izmit in Turkey in September. Capacity there has been doubled to 200,000 cars a year to allow the new model to be built on the same line as the i20. Once the switch has been completed, 90% of the cars Hyundai sells in Europe will be made in Europe.
Strictly speaking, the factory is in Asia as it is located east of the Bosphorus, but Hyundai regards Turkey as a European country. India will build a different version of the new i10 for the domestic market.
The UK is by far the leading European outlet for the current i10, and was one of two countries where the new version was subjected to customer clinics. The other location was Italy, which leads the way for small-car sales and is also regarded as a style capital.
The i10 came out top in every one of the comparison tests against the Volkswagen Up!, Fiat Panda and Kia Picanto, according to Christan Looer, head of product marketing for Hyundai in Europe. The clinics featured customers of other brands as well as current i10 owners. “In Italy it gave us our best response in seven years, but it also did well in the UK,” Looer says.
The new i10 will offer 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre petrol engines, plus 1.1-litre and 1.4-litre turbodiesels in some markets, like the present model. But it is based on an all-new platform which makes the car longer, wider and lower than the current model, with a slightly greater wheelbase. Hyundai claims class-leading passenger and boot space.
The current car’s suspension has been extensively reworked to improve ride comfort, agility and braking stability, and there has been a major upgrade in quality. “We have focused our investment on the touch and see parts,” says Looer.
The new i10 features an evolution of Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design language while trying to emphasise sophistication, according to designer Jochen Werner. “Some rivals are almost comical,” he says.
It is also likely to offer a greater level of personalisation than other Hyundais, though nowhere near as much as the Up! or the Fiat 500. Upmarket features that will be available include a heated steering wheel, a smart entry/ignition key, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning and cruise control with a speed limiter.
European sales of A-segment cars like the i10 are expected to reach 1.4 million a year by 2016 – only just short of the record 2010 figure, which was achieved during the heyday of scrappage schemes following the 2008 banking collapse.