Take a break from the long, drawn out story of my life. Learn instead about a rental car that I drove two years ago. Originally posted June 13, 2017.
I had been given a company car to use while in the UK, so I figured why not write a review of it? When booking I requested a minicar as I much prefer small cars and wanted to see what Europe had to offer. For some background, Avis defines “minicar” as “Fiat 500 or similar” and the next size up, subcompact, is “Ford Fiesta or similar.”
The styling is pretty standard Hyundai. There is nothing here to write home about, although like their other recent vehicles it manages to be slightly aesthetically appealing while still remaining completely anonymous. The car may seem diminutive to Americans, but make no mistake: this is not a minicar. It has five large doors and four completely usable seats. And for some reason, this car is obnoxiously wide. It is the same width, in fact, as the parking spots at the hotel and at work. I have to park on the end of the row just to give myself enough room to get out, and I can’t park anywhere but the top level of the parking garage at the hotel because the i10 doesn’t fit between the concrete columns on the lower levels. Both mirrors on my rental have the scuff marks to prove that.
The interior room is on par with the Fiesta and other similar vehicles sans most of the trunk space. When traveling with my luggage, I was forced to use the back seat instead of the hatch. As I prefer to sit pretty close to the steering wheel, there is a surprising amount of legroom in the rear. And it has 5 doors, so I may end up with passengers in the back at some point. I am curious to see what they might say. The bucket seats (more on those later) are quite wide. There is plenty of room between the edge of the seat for all of your valuables to get lost (my phone loves this hole) and it is the same story for the area between the seats and the center console. In contrast, the center console is quite small and, unfortunately, placed on the floor of the car. It is wide enough for two cupholders but mystifyingly too narrow to hold my phone. Anything placed in the tray on top would be level with the bottom of your seat, making it too inconvenient for pretty much everything. Storage in the car is limited to the glove box and a small open compartment below the radio. There is no center armrest or console storage. Outward visibility is superb. It puts cars like the Fiesta to shame in that aspect.
There is an AUX port and a USB port that can access music on a storage device. The car comes with steering wheel controls for the radio, which is, surprisingly, equipped with Bluetooth. I never turned on the radio, however, so I cannot comment on the quality of its four speakers. Cruise control is standard, as is a shift indicator and a completely useless LCD in the cluster that tells you the number 3. Always. No matter what. The gauges are large and the white ticking over black gauge face is easy to read. 30mph is marked with a red line and I don’t know why.
The car comes with auto stop-start, which is transparent and unobtrusive. A dedicated light on the dash tells you that the car is off and ready to be restarted at the push of the clutch pedal. Conceptually I am not sure why so many people complain about this feature in the Focus. However, Hyundai’s implementation has an issue. A very large issue. Sometimes the car shuts off at a stop like it is supposed to but the start-stop light does not come on. Instead, the light indicating that the key is still in the ignition and you shouldn’t forget it when you get out of the car illuminates. Pushing the clutch does nothing; the car needs to be restarted with the key. This is a pretty big issue while next in line at a roundabout when timing is everything.
The first indicator of sporting intentions comes from the seats. These bucket seats are amazingly supportive. The side bolsters are surprisingly hard and tall, making ingress and egress more difficult than necessary for people with short legs or who sit close to the steering wheel. The exhaust has an interesting note that instantly gives away the monster hiding under the hood: a Hyundai Kappa II 1.0L three cylinder making a massive 66 horsepower and a neck-breaking 70 ft. lbs of torque. And while I am poking fun at these numbers, they are more than sufficient for this car. I have no problems getting up to speed in city driving and have broken the tires loose on more than one occasion. It is pretty much impossible to stall. My only embarrassing situations have come from the aforementioned stop-start functionality.
This engine has a collection of modern tech in it, but my favorite part is how the whole engine and transmission weigh a combined 180 lbs! And speaking of transmission, this one is a 5 speed manual. The shifts are long and confident. It is the perfect setup for someone who is just learning to shift with his left hand, although a long-term owner of this car might prefer a shorter throw. The shifter feel is surprisingly good if a bit numb. No notchiness here. The gears ratios are incredibly wide, a configuration that is well-suited for the midrange torque output of the engine. The transmission is amazingly smooth and takes clutchless shifting like a champ (don’t ask). The steering, on the other hand, has absolutely zero feel. There is not even an attempt at feedback from the road, no matter your speed. The wheel is hilariously light and feels completely disconnected. Turning radius is mediocre for a car of this size.
I grew rather fond of this car during its time in my possession. It got locked in a parking garage, parked on sidewalks, nearly rear ended in a spectacular crash involving an overturned E38 7-Series, and hunted down by a violent and rather intoxicated man in a Mercedes. It was good to me, and even though it perfectly embodies the bland monotony that describes modern vehicles, I was left with plenty of memories of my foray into RHD vehicles. Perhaps the most unsettling memory of the car, however, is how we parted ways.
While at work one day, I got a call telling me that my Hyundai had become to subject to a recall and that I needed to return it to the rental agency. No urgency or expected timeline was given, so I planned to return the car as scheduled three days later at London Heathrow. Rather surprisingly, an Avis representative showed up at my office to hand me a new set of keys and to reclaim the ones to the Hyundai that same day. I mindlessly swapped keys and resumed work without question, only to realize upon exiting the building at the end of the day that:
- I hadn’t had the opportunity to take all of the pictures of the i10 for this review, hence the proliferation of crappy, washed out photos from Autocar.
- I had no idea what my replacement key was to, and the battery in the remote turned out to be dead.
- The fuel tank on the Hyundai was nearing empty because I had not yet gotten gas during my stay in the UK, and Avis charges an arm and a leg for gas.
- In preparation for a short trip after work, I had emptied my hotel room and kept all of my belongings in the Hyundai’s trunk.
Fortunately, the key came with a tag indicating that it belonged to a Peugeot 208. The lot at work was pretty big, but I managed to find the appropriate car. Sort of.
With half of an answer to only question 2 and a British guy agitated by the fact that I was trying to break into his Peugeot, I opened the trunk to a rather welcome sight.
A similarly-sized trunk full of my personal and business possessions, although awkwardly, the Avis representative had consolidated my laptop full of confidential software and a pack of adult diapers that Amazon had accidentally sent me into one box for easier transferring.
Avis never charged me for the fuel that I had used in the Hyundai. Since I never paid for gas during my stay in the UK, I cannot comment on the economy of the i10, although it says enough that I could drive it for 10 days around Birmingham and Warwick without needing to fill up. And Amazon never reimbursed me once I returned those diapers...