Volkswagen’s Cross Polo was the first model to bring the faux crossover look to the B-segment of the market, offering a slightly raised ride height, plastic appendages and roof rails over its conventional sibling, but engines and overall capability remained, well, exactly the same.
However, the model opened itself up to an audience that aspires to the outdoorsy, SUV-type vehicle, but not necessarily with the price tag nor the running costs that come with such vehicles. It offered owners something a touch different from the garden variety model on which it is based. In fact, it is a trajectory that Volkswagen has continued with the Polo Vivo Maxx — essentially the outgoing Cross Polo — as it awaits to launch the latest Cross Polo based on the most recent iteration of its bestselling model.
Now Hyundai is trying its hand at the fad with the i20 Active, which essentially takes the run-of-the-mill model and spruces it up with a number of exterior items that include front and rear scuff plates and roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The interior is peppered with black and red trimmings on the seats and door panels that might not be to everyone’s taste, but the rest of the cabin is standard i20 architecture with good quality materials and contemporary tech features.
The latter includes the infotainment screen — an optional item as we first experienced in the Creta crossover and also an item found in the Tucson, which includes navigation as standard and has a relatively crisp resolution and is easy to use.
Under the bonnet still resides the company’s familiar 1.4-litre engine that pushes out 74kW and 133Nm through a six-speed manual. While the engine itself might feel less sprightly than its turbocharged rivals, it is a smooth operator with a slick gearbox that makes for relaxed everyday driving.
During the test tenure, the model returned a fuel consumption figure of 7.4l/100km, which was acceptable for the most part, provided you do not wring its neck to compensate for the lacklustre power delivery on offer. Instead what the i20 Active brings to the table is a spunkier version of the already respectably good i20, but now with better connectivity and a more contemporary interior while offering good build quality and peace of mind thanks to an industry leading seven-year/200 000km warranty.
As far as standard equipment goes, the model comes well equipped, but where the i20 and the Active variant truly shine is in the refinement stakes where the model feels more grown-up and composed than, say, the Honda Jazz or Toyota Yaris, which bodes well for those looking to buy within the Korean marque’s fold.
You get a fairly decent boot at 285-litres (1 001-litres with the rear seats folded) and there is more than enough leg and headroom up front to accommodate most body frames, while the rear quarters are fairly generous for the segment.
At R279 900 the model does have to contend with some good propositions in the segment, including the Volkswagen Polo and even the recently launched Nissan Micra, which both punch with three-cylinder turbocharged engines. while the Hyundai’s engine will perform relatively well at the coast, it struggles at the rarefied altitudes of Gauteng and, as a result, you end up pushing harder on the throttle to overtake or gain any meaningful momentum.
Then there is the fact that the i20 seems to pander more to a mature buyer profile than many of its rivals, which in contrast seem to have an edgy, youthful disposition that will crack a nod with those that rate styling at the top of their list.
I am not taking anything away from the i20 Active, but it does lack the real cool factor if it needs to take on the establishment, which is a tall order in a segment where connectivity is equally as important as kerb appeal.
You would do well to look at other offerings in this segment, which not only offer better styling but also punch well above the Korean offering in the power and performance stakes. – Lerato Matebese