A crossover in the Philippines is like butter on bread. They just go together and as such they sell very well, making the case for even more crossovers in the market like this: the Hyundai i20 Cross Sport.
Just to get it out of the way, the i20 Cross Sport is a crossover version of the second generation i20; a Hyundai subcompact hatchback that we do not have in the market. The new generation i20 was launched in other markets in August of 2014, serving as Hyundai competitor in the B-segment.
In terms of design, the i20 Cross Sport is essentially the i20 albeit with some body cladding, revised bumpers, larger wheels, a sporty fuel lid and spoiler to butch up the look. It's actually quite a good looking little crossover, and does have some street appeal when driven around the trendier parts of town, especially in this shade of brown.
Size-wise it's somewhat comparable to Ford's Fiesta-based EcoSport, but only just as the Cross Sport is 3995mm long, 1760mm wide and 1555mm tall. Ground clearance has been raised from 170mm on the standard i20 to 190mm in the Cross Sport, making it worthy of being called a crossover. To put that in perspective, the EcoSport's ground clearance is 200mm.
The cabin of the i20 Cross Sport is actually quite nice, if not cool. The color combination is predominantly black with some orange accents on the trim for the A/C vents, the audio unit, the shifter, the seats and even the stitching. The dashboard is fresh and modern, though it's made of rather hard plastic.
The seats are more comfortable than what was expected, and that's always a good thing. It was actually easy to settle into the driver's seat. Seating in the back is also quite comfortable, and there's decent legroom to go around. The boot can accommodate 210 liters of cargo, though the rear seats can be folded somewhat flat to get even larger equipment in there.
For features the Cross Sport is actually fully loaded and then some. Hyundai's homogenous audio system takes up the center of the dash, while below it is an automatic climate control system for comfortable driving. There are two 12-volt sockets for your smartphone charging needs, as well as a port for analog audio cables and a USB port for your iPod or music-laden flash drive. Bluetooth is standard on this variant, along with steering wheel controls and a rather comprehensive drive computer with readouts for fuel economy, average speed and other data. Also, this i20 Cross Sport gets the typical convenience features such as electric power steering, power windows and a smart key with push-button ignition.
Start up the engine and there's an unusual sensation from the engine bay; the reason being that I didn't expect it to be powered by one of Hyundai's CRDI turbo diesels. The engine itself is one of the newest in the series, displacing 1.4-liters and producing 90 PS and 220 Nm of torque. Those who prefer petrol smoothness can opt for other variants with a 1.2-liter gasoline engine. Unusually, however, this turbodiesel version only has a 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.
In the city, the i20 Cross Sport is a surprisingly easy drive. The electric power steering may not be much for feel and feedback, but they're not that important when negotiating 90 degree city streets. All around visibility is good, and the steering is precise. The clutch is light and the gear take up is easy to get accustomed to. Fuel economy, however, has to be the best part about the i20 Cross Sport CRDI, as it returns 10.8 km/l in very heavy traffic (13 km/h average speed).
On the open road, the i20 Cross Sport offers a decent drive. Wind noise isn't too bad, and the 6-speed gearbox makes for economical driving as well, returning a superb 21.1 km/l at an average speed of 94 km/h. Most importantly, the suspension is smooth and absorbs much of the rough stuff.
One thing that I was left wanting in this i20 Cross Sport is how the powertrain performs. I've driven many of Hyundai's initial CRDI models like the 2006 Accent and Getz, both of which were rather lively and quick, but I didn't find much of that liveliness in the Cross Sport. There wasn't much in the way of thrust when I put my foot down in second gear. Yes, it's efficient, but I do miss the previous generation 1.5-liter CRDI; a motor that was not ashamed of pulling early in its rev range.
Overall, the i20 Cross Sport drives as it promises. Diesel efficiency, stylish looks, a peppy interior and a long list of standard features are its good points, but the problem is pricing. The Cross Sport a good little crossover but the PhP 1.1 million indicative price tag does make you think twice. Thrice, even. At that level, much better vehicles like top-spec compacts, entry level compact crossovers and even 4x2 pick ups come into play.
Good as it is, this 2015 Hyundai i20 Cross Sport CRDI 6MT is just too difficult to justify especially since its primary competitor (read: EcoSport) tops out at under PhP 1 million. The 1.4L petrol variant which would be priced around the PhP 850,000-900,000 mark (M/T and A/T, respectively) would make a lot more sense in the market.