Diesel supermini comparison test: Hyundai i20 vs Skoda Fabia

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Author: | Updated: 27 Apr 2015 13:33

More superminis are sold in the UK than any other kind of car and with four of 2014’s top ten best selling cars being superminis, there’s clearly plenty of appetite for practical, dependable, efficient runarounds.

Hyundai’s second generation i20 and Skoda’s third gen Fabia represent two of the most recent updates to the bulging supermini market. We find out which is better.

Grey Hyundai i20 SE with Blue Skoda Fabia SE-L 2015 front three quarters

Lease an i20: business / personal
or a Fabia: business / personal

Exterior:

Forget about the colour of the cars we managed to get hold of, the Fabia is easily the better looking car here.

Designers behind the i20 haven’t done enough to banish the shadow of the anonymous looking original and when placed next to the youthful Fabia, the Hyundai just comes across as a bit ‘granddad’.

The Fabia meanwhile incorporates much of the stylings that have shaped success for the Octavia, most notably the chrome-lined grille, pointed headlights and the central column on the bonnet. At the rear, the Fabia’s harder lines and c-shaped lights again provide plenty of character. The white gloss roof and accompanying pillars are a fresh touch too.

That’s not to say the i20 doesn’t have its exterior highlights; upon closer inspection, the Hyundai’s headlights are more interesting than at first glance and some will no doubt prefer the dark understated grille and rounded boot lid.

Grey Hyundai i20 SE with Blue Skoda Fabia SE-L 2015 rear three quarters

Interior:

Compared to the class-leading Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, neither the i20 nor Fabia come close to setting new segment standards for interior refinement.

In this particular Fabia, the exterior’s white gloss is carried into the cabin to freshen up what would otherwise be a distinctly unfunky interior. Combined with the light fabric seats, it works and we prefer it to the oh-so-beige i20.

Granted, there are other colour themes to choose from but to the touch, the Fabia’s fabric feels smoother and a higher grade to the scratchier i20.

Lay-out and build quality are highly similar but the Fabia just edges it on refinement with that VAG influence delivering a more assured finish. One minor gripe though, the open latch for the Fabia’s glovebox is narrow and flips upwards; it just feels needlessly awkward.

You’ll notice from these pictures that our Fabia comes with a touchscreen stereo while the i20 keeps it simple with a more traditional button-y system. It’s more of an aesthetic luxury than a practical advantage, they’re both super easy to use and it’s highly likely you’ll end up using the steering wheel-mounted controls anyway.

It might look like the Fabia’s touchscreen offers sat-nav functionality but you’ll have to link-up your smartphone and open a map app for a make-shift sat-nav; a method increasingly common with more compact cars.

Hyundai i20 2015 SE interior

Skoda Fabia SE-L interior 2015

On the road:

Both cars came powered by a 90PS 1.4 diesel engine but with the Fabia weighing almost 200kg less than the i20, it can complete the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 11.4 seconds, 1.7 seconds quicker than the i20’s 12.1.

That acceleration is as evident behind the wheel as it is on paper, but it’s in other areas that the i20 makes up for lost ground. The Hyundai’s six-speed manual transmission is slicker and more accurate than the Skoda’s five-speed and without a sixth gear, the Fabia is noisier with high-revving on motorway runs.

Handling is easy and trouble-free in both cars but the i20 has a touch more feel and makes for the more enjoyable drive, tackling speed bumps and potholes more comfortably although it packs more body roll than the Fabia.

This diesel Fabia also has the annoying habit of trying to force the driver into a lower gear. Try to keep moving at a low speed in slow moving traffic (say 10mph in second gear), the engine will stutter and stall. Dip the clutch quick enough and the stop/start system will just about grab it from the brink. Otherwise, it’s the embarrassing ordeal of hastily trying to restart it manually. No such bother with the Hyundai which proved more accommodating and user-friendly in its gearing.

Check out our full individual reviews of the i20 and Fabia

Running costs:

That 200kg weight difference does the Fabia favour again just like it did with straight line acceleration and the Skoda claims a stronger official fuel consumption, reporting 83.1mpg to the i20’s 68.9mpg.

The Fabia also emits less CO2, a road tax-free 88g/km to the i20’s 106g/km. That translates to £20 in annual road tax for the Hyundai but such meagre margins can make the difference.

Picking up an i20 is ever so slightly cheaper. On the road, the Hyundai is £1,026 less to buy outright, but the tables are turned when leased. For a business, the Fabia is a mere £6 cheaper on average, based on a three-year 10k miles p/a agreement (£193 to £199). We’ve spotted deals as low as £146 for the Fabia recently too; the most affordable i20 1.4 CRDi SE was going for £152 a month. Again, the difference is small change but the Fabia’s superior fuel economy wins this round.

Verdict:

Neither car does enough to trouble the Fiesta but both cars undoubtedly have their merits.

The Fabia does everything right except in one key area: how it drives. The Skoda looks better, features better kit, and is cheaper to run and cheaper to lease, but the i20 is the more enjoyable drive.

One battle does not win the war though so the Fabia has to be the one to go for here.

Skoda Fabia 64 plate 2015 SE-L blue front three quarters

In numbers:

Hyundai i20 1.4 CRDi 90PS 6MT Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI SE-L  5MT
Length: 4045mm 3992mm
Width: 1730mm 1732mm
Height: 1449mm 1467mm
Wheelbase: 2570mm 2470mm
Boot space: 311 / 986 litres 330 / 1150 litres
Combined fuel consumption: 68.9mpg 83.1mpg
CO2: 106g/km – VED B 88g/km – VED A
0-62mph: 12.1 seconds 11.4 seconds
Top speed: 109mph 113mph
OTR price: £15,220 £16,250
Average monthly lease rate*: £199 – business
£231 – personal
£193 – business
£229 – personal

*Based on 36 month, 10k mile agreement – all numbers correct as of April 2015

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