The test of the i20 Cross was pretty timely for me. We’ve been looking at selling our Honda Odyssey daily driver, and getting something a bit taller, so it’s much easier for my father-in-law to get in and out. He struggles with the Odyssey and anything else of ‘normal’ height.

The recent test of the Kia Soul showed that a small SUV could be the answer for us as a family, but the funky Soul didn’t quite do it for me in some areas.

The i20 Cross seems to tick lots of boxes. I spotted one on display at the airport recently, and loved the styling. With some great pricing, great looks and a reasonable list of standard features, could the i20 Cross be our next family car? Only one way to find out.

The Range

Well, this is going to be a short section. There’s a total of one model in the i20 Cross range, so what you see is what you get. It’s based on the i20 hatchback, naturally, but with a different body (including roof rails, wheel arch surrounds and different front and rear bumpers), 17” alloys (in place of 16”), and a 20mm higher ride height.

At $29,990, Hyundai have done well with list of standard features, including Bluetooth, auto lights and wipers, front and rear fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring, climate A/C, A/C to the glovebox, auto-dipping rear view mirror, leather wheel and gearbox gaiter, passive Lane Departure Warning, projection headlamps, hill start control, 6 air bags, 6-speaker audio, cruise control with speed limiter function, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, heated electrically folding mirrors, DRLs, cornering lights and adjustable headlights. That’s a fair whack of goodies for the money.

Mechanically, things are pretty much carried straight over from the standard i20. You get one engine choice: a 1.4 VVT with 74Kw@6000rpm of power and 134Nm@3500rpm of torque.

According to the Hyundai, the i20 Cross has a “Clever” automatic transmission. I’m not sure what’s clever about it – it’s just a 4-speed automatic. Yes you read it right, only a 4-speed.

First Impressions

Onto something better than the 4-speed auto (more on that later): the looks. The photos do not show you just how good looking this small SUV is, especially in our test car’s colour of Passion Red. People love it. It looks a lot bigger than it is, but on looks alone? That will equal sales.

I’m glad Hyundai hasn’t tried to make it a mini Santa Fe; sometimes that just doesn’t translate to a smaller car. You can still see the family resemblance, but the Cross stands alone and stands out. Partly this may be because it’s an all new model and there aren’t any others around, but at any angle it’s pleasing to look at.

I do like how they’ve made the front fog lights the same physical size as the rear fog lights, and about in the same position, with the DRLs nicely integrated below the headlights. This car turns heads.

When I picked up the Cross, someone a bit taller than me had last driven it, and rear legroom looked to be about 50mm. Not a great first impression. Still with the seat adjusted for my much lower 5’7 height, rear legroom is much better – probably average for the class. But we need to keep in mind this is a small car, and not made for Auckland-Wellington jaunts 4-up.

The Interior

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. The interior is well laid out, especially for the driver. All controls fall to hand nicely, the steering wheel controls are logical, work well and general ergonomics are good.

But it’s just so dark in here. Lots of black plastic, and black cloth seats with dark grey inserts. So I thought, I’ll click on ‘build your own car’ on the Hyundai website and see what the options are for the interior. There aren’t any – in fact ‘build your own car’ lets you choose an exterior colour and that’s it. A shame as it is a nice interior for such a small car, but so very dark.

The plastics themselves are ok – it’s not all hard plastics in here, but you can tell by touch it’s been built to a price. Nicely done though, and there is some two-toning; the pillars and headlining are a lighter grey.

General visibility is going to be high on a Cross buyer’s list – I expect most of them will spend their time in city streets. So what’s it like? Pretty good looking out, only that thickish C pillar gets in your way. I was surprised to see Lane Departure Warning as standard equipment – very welcome, and makes lane changes on the motorway that much safer.

The Cross does have a reversing camera, but its display is built into the interior mirror. I say ‘but’, however some people don’t mind this – keep in mind it’s a small display, around 3 inches diagonally.

The normal Hyundai media system works fine, and I like that it has a single button to turn the display off if you want to, this is always a welcome feature for me. The audio system is better than expected, with little distortion at higher volume, and you get AUX and USB inputs at the front of the car for it. That should keep the teenagers happy.

Of course there’s also Bluetooth, and everything is controlled from the steering wheel. Speaking of the steering wheel; leather wrapped, and a quality feel to it. Nice.

One annoying thing the Cross does is forget it was set to Bluetooth every time you start the car – it reverts to AM radio…not even FM. Then you need to press the Media button multiple times to get it back to Bluetooth. We’ve seen other cars do this and it’s always annoying.

You get keyless entry in the Cross but it’s not a proximity system, so you’ll need to hit the remote button on the key fob to lock and unlock the car, and also it’s not keyless start so keep that key handy. Feels almost old school to not have keyless start but at this price point that’s not uncommon. At least the key shaft flicks back into the fob to save stabbing yourself through your pocket.

There’s a space-saver spare in the boot, which is under a false floor. The compartment under the main floor is quite spacious – not deep, but usable. The actual load area is very shallow, with just 326 litres of space with the 60/40 split rear seats up, but a decent 1042 litres with the seats down.

The seats are surprisingly firm, but never uncomfortable. Rear leg room with me in the driver’s seat is also acceptable. It’s no Honda Jazz, but it’s roomy enough.

The Drive

For what it’s been designed for, the Cross drives well. The steering is light for all that city driving, almost too light, but weights up nicely at speed. The suspension is surprisingly compliant, with a good to above average ride, especially for the size and weight of this car. One welcome feature was the quietness of the suspension; it can be hard to get a small, light car to ride so quietly.

Part of this may be down to the tyres, some decent Pirelli P7s at 205/45/17. Another bonus of decent tyres? Pretty darn good grip. In fact around a few bends, the Cross is quite chuckable, bordering on a bit of fun. This car has a very competent chassis.

The engine too adds to the lack of noise. For a 1.4 litre, this is one smooth, quiet unit. Even at higher revs, it maintains its composure. On the motorway it’s almost inaudible on a steady throttle opening.

Speaking of higher revs, well that’s where the Cross is going to spend a fair bit of time. Simply put, it’s underpowered. I found myself using way too much gas on the motorway, and a trip through town and onto the motorway with four of us on board sealed its fate; it needs more power.

On the flat and away from the lights it’s acceptable, but hit a hill or get a load on, and a lack of power is instantly apparent. Changing lanes and then passing on the motorway even only with the driver (no passengers) means pushing that gas pedal down a fair bit.

Not helping in this department is the automatic; a 4 speed. Driving this car reminds me perfectly of the last gen Holden Barina 1.2 4-speed auto, and why I didn’t like driving that car. The Cross isn’t as bad as that model Barina, but it still struggles up the hills and often needs a good punch on the accelerator to get it to change down, or slip the auto into manual mode and flick it down a gear – or sometimes two.

According to the Hyundai website, it’s “an exciting 74kw”. Hmmm. There’s nothing actually wrong with the trans; it shifts smoothly and just gets on with it. But if there’s one car that needs more gears, it’s one with an underpowered engine. The Cross is only 20kg heavier than the i20 hatchback, so we can’t blame it for putting the beef on with the new clothes it’s wearing. Torque at 134Nm, is the lowest in our comparison chart, so there’s a good starting point.

Some uh, older people, might not care as much, and if you don’t carry passengers often or really care how much gas pedal you use, well it might not bother you.

This lots of gas scenario though is reflected in fuel consumption; stated combined rating is 6.7l/100Km. That’s pretty high for a 1.4-litre car. Check out the comparison chart below to see how the competition does. My actual fuel consumption over 450Km was 8.2l/100Km.

The Competition

Unsurprisingly, this is one crowded market segment. Plenty to choose from, if a small SUV is what you are after.

One thing is for sure, the 2008 Peugeot is looking good at only $3K more than the i20 Cross, and much more economical as well. In saying that, how about the Honda HRV with a 1.8-litre for the same price?

Brand/Model Engine/Trans Power/Torque


Fuel L/100km


Price Highest to Lowest
Renault Captur Dynamique 1.2-litre 4-cyl turbo/6-speed auto 88/190 5.4 $35,990
Skoda Yeti City 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo/7-speed auto 92/200 5.8 $34,990
Holden Trax LS 1.8-litre 4-cyl/6-speed auto 103/175 7.6 $32,990
Peugeot 2008 Allure 1.2-litre 3-cyl turbo/6-speed auto 81/205 4.8 $32,990
Nissan Juke 1.6-litre 4-cyl/CVT 86/158 6.3 $31,990
Hyundai i20 Cross 1.4-litre 4-cyl/4-speed auto 74/134 6.7 $29,990
Ford EcoSport Trend 1.5-litre 4-cyl/6-speed auto 82/140 6.5 $29,990
Kia Soul EX 1.6-litre 4-cyl/6-speed auto 91/152 8.2 $29,990
Honda HRV S 1.8-litre 4-cyl/CVT 105/172 6.6 $29,990
Suzuki S-Cross GLX 1.6-litre 4-cyl/CVT 86/156 5.9 $29,990
SSangyong Tivoli Sports 1.6-litre 4-cyl/6-speed auto 94/160 7.2 $27,990

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Smooth and quiet engine
  • Design
  • Equipment levels
  • Audio quality
  • Competent chassis
  • Tyre choice
  • Underpowered
  • 4-speed auto lets it down
  • Extremely shallow boot
  • Fuel economy
  • Audio power-on default

What do we think of it?

I’m not sure how many times I’ve decided I will 100% love a car before driving it. It’s never really worked out well, and this is an example of that. The i20 Cross is lovely to look at, especially in a brighter colour, but the engine…it needs a lot more oomph to make it more driveable.

Still, good equipment levels, surprisingly good handling and grip (thank you Mr Pirelli), good build quality and excellent looks.

Kia have almost hit the mark here, but “could do better” as teachers say.

DriveLife Rating: 3.5 Chevrons

Vehicle Type

Small hatchback
Starting Price $29,990 + on-road costs
Tested Price $29,990+ ORC
Engine 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder VVT petrol
Transmission 4-speed automatic with manual shift mode
Kerb Weight 1208Kg
Length x Width x Height 4065 x 1760 x 1529
Cargo Capacity 326/1042 litres
Fuel Efficiency      Advertised Spec – Combined – 6.7 L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –8.2L / 100km

Fuel Tank 50 litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings TBC
Warranty 3 years/100,000km warranty

10 years/200,000km body corrosion


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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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