City cars used to be the grimmest form of transport short of taking the bus but these days, with CO2 being public enemy number one, they’re suddenly cooler than the ice age that scientists predicted was imminent in the mid-70s. My, how times have changed! The new Hyundai i10 is the latest to arrive, joining the Smart ForTwo, Fiat 500, Suzuki Splash and Opel Agila on the crest of this all-natural, pollution-free, dolphin-friendly, low CO2 wave.
The i10 is based on familiar Kia Picanto underpinnings but is a big step forward in terms of style and interior execution. The 'I'm a big boy' front end never ceases to amuse me and I'm also quite taken with the tidy proportions and careful detailing (including standard 15-inch alloys and rear disc brakes), which helps make the i10 look like a proper car rather shrunken double-decker.
The i10's 65hp, 98Nm 1.1-litre four-cylinder is more than enough engine for something that's rarely going to venture further than the local Dunnes and, although it’s not particularly charismatic, it does like to rev and is a willing companion for the daily commute. The gearbox has a neat, if slightly notchy, shift and the brakes are equally sharp and responsive. The steering is sharp and pretty accurate, there's not too much body roll and there's enough front-end grip. It's even up for a little throttle steering – very unlike most city cars, which tend to understeer everywhere. It's also lively off the lights and it rides well, too, even along country roads. The only real downside is cabin noise, which is a bit intrusive on the open road.
Inside, the i10's is simply laid out and straightforward in execution but it's not without its neat design details. More importantly, it's ergonomically spot-on comfortable even for 6-footers, thanks to the wide range of seat adjustments and the well-judged position of the steering wheel. Interior space is surprisingly generous as well, while standard kit includes an MP3-player socket, four electric windows, heated electric mirrors and remote central locking, four airbags and ISOFIX child-seat mounts. No ESC or curtain airbags are available, though, and air-con and a leather-covered steering wheel (the plastic on the steering wheel feels like sandpaper) would be welcome options if Hyundai Ireland would let you order them.
Still, it's a cracking little package and at twelve grand with €100 annual road tax, ultra-low insurance, a long warranty and solid resale values, it could be the smartest city car buy of them all. Shame you have to endure your own personal greenhouse effect to own one.