Thursday, March 08, 2012

Hyundai i20 Compact Debuts In Geneva


Hyundai dips its toes into the European-market pool more often than we think. The grossly underrated Elantra Touring is corporate-speak for the Hyundai i30, sold in Europe with a dizzying array of diesel engines—but in America, it is bunny-hopping on a more familiar nameplate.

Likewise, right now at the Geneva Motor Show Hyundai is showing off a product that’s very significant for them: the i20 supermini, a subcompact that competes against the likes of the Euro-flavored Opel Corsa and the Volkswagen Polo. Just 13 feet long, it undercuts the smallest Hyundai sold in America, the Accent, by a foot. Amidst soaring gas prices and knee-jerk reactions, could it follow Eddie Murphy and the Elantra Touring and come to America?

Rather unsurprisingly, Hyundai informed us that, as of now, and unless something horrible happens to the Accent’s reputation, there’s no chance of the i20 reaching our shores. “We’re pretty well represented in that bottom space,” said Hyundai spokesperson Derek Joyce. “You really get that small and you’re just splitting hairs.”

Hyundai does have a point. In Europe, the i20 maintains its four engines, and adds a new clean diesel—a 1.1-liter, 3-cylinder engine that generates an impoverished 75 horsepower. The largest gasoline engine has 126 horsepower out of 1.6 liters, which is the same one you’ll find in America, but under the hood of the Accent. And with the Accent being only a foot longer, it believes that it’s got small cars in America covered—no city cars like the Smart, nothing to slot in between the likes of the Mazda2 and the Ford Fiesta.

Still, stranger things have happened. Witness the cutesy Scion iQ, a car we recently spent a week with that looks like it could fit in the Elantra Touring’s trunk. The fact that that car is being sold in America, and being bought and paid for with—what we reckon are—real American dollars, could signify a trend towards smaller cars in our fair country.

Then again, small cars always give that impression.