TRIPLE TEST: Fiat 500 vs Toyota Aygo vs Hyundai i10

Originally Published: July 2019
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Three popular city cars go head to head… to head as we bid to find out which is best.

In today’s market, city cars are a popular proposition. They offer relative practicality, frugality and are sized accordingly to make driving in tight streets and monotonous multi-storey car parks as easy as possible. They also often offer the cheapest route into new car ownership. So, which of these front runners is the best?

Cabin

In budget cars, the interior is often the place to suffer most from the cost-cutting process that allows a manufacturer to name a list price that works for both them and the paying customer. Each of these three vehicles has a different approach to overcoming this.

Inside the Fiat there’s a suave combination of retro details, good colouration and textiles. The dash is predominantly the same smooth mint colour as the exterior bodywork and features cream accents and seating. A trendy tartan material for the seating offers both comfort and style, as the base and back support are both plush and comfortable to sit on. However, there are a few things which do feel very budget. Chief among these is the plastic used in making the stalks on the steering column – it feels cheap and scratchy and has a tendency to bow slightly when the switchgear is used. On the subject of the stalks, it is also irritating to find the cruise control stalk positioned below the indicators, making it easy to confuse the two. A set of buttons on the wheel would work much better. The infotainment screen, however, sits proud and centre and the overall design is clean and neat. Adding a panoramic roof into the equation means that it’s a pleasant and bright place to be.

Toyota’s Aygo doesn’t bring too much to the fore in these stakes. There is very little to the interior, other than the flashes of Magenta Fizz panels along the doors and the dash. Everything else is black and with the tinted rear windows it can be a gloomy haunt. It feels very basic and borderline dated – not helped by the LCD driver information display.

Hyundai have toed the line between the simplicity of the Toyota and the statement of the Fiat. The i10 has a very tidy and functional interior, comprising good materials and a layout that doesn’t push the envelope. The seats are welcoming and supportive cloth numbers in a conservative dark grey that feel hard-wearing and should stand the test of time. The dash is similarly inoffensive, with a touchscreen dead centre and a small storage tray beneath it.

On balance, there isn’t too much in it between the Fiat and the Hyundai with the Toyota behind them both. The design is more eye-catching in the 500 and it has a greater sense of identity, however the quality of the materials and the simplicity of the layout in the i10 put it ahead in our books here.

Cabins

Practicality

Whilst the trio are similarly proportioned, each are packaged differently – so pose different practicality perspectives.

Being little city cars, this isn’t a strong point for any of these three. The i10 makes the most of its longer wheelbase and offers more rear legroom and boot space than its adversaries here. The number of litres of luggage space on offer in the Korean mini-hatch are 252 with the seats up and 1,046 with them down, compared to 168 to 812 in the Aygo and 185 to 550 in the Fiat. Whilst we applaud the 500 for the heritage-inspired design it possesses, being the only three-door hatch here and shaped to look dinkier than it is, you’re pinched for space – although once you’ve fell into place in the back there is a tad more leg room than in the Aygo, but the headroom suffers because of the sloped roofline.

With a stylish, blacked-out rear window that also fulfils duties as a boot lid, the Aygo’s boot is a strange shape. You can comfortably fit a smaller weekly shop in the back of it, but you have to lower it all down over the massive lip that makes up the rear bumper.

Door bins in all three models are usable, but biggest in the i10. On either side of the centre console, the 500 has netting to store things in but no compartment to easily chuck your phone or house keys. It’s the opposite in the i10, with plenty of compartments that extend as far as a central armrest with a cubby box.

Equipment

When talking about the equipment on the vehicles as tested and the equipment that comes as standard there would be two different outcomes.

The Hyundai, being a high-spec Premium model, comes with lots of gear out of the box, whilst the Aygo doesn’t offer too much. If you do or don’t pay for them on the 500, it decides which of the two it’s on a par with.

As we drove it, the Fiat had an upgraded 7” touchscreen with sat-nav, automatic climate control, rain and dusk sensors for the lights and wipers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a 7” TFT instrument cluster – for a combined total of £1,275.

On a few counts it beats the i10, which doesn’t get auto air-con or dusk and rain sensors, but does have everything else the 500 is tricked out with – as standard – plus it adds cornering lights, hill-start assist and a brake assist system.

The Aygo has minimal extras, with a speed limiter, reversing camera and a touchscreen infotainment system making up the notable functions on the equipment list. It does get DAB radio and have Bluetooth connectivity, but the basic Fiat would still have more with stop-start, a leather steering wheel, electric and defrosting door mirrors, rear parking sensors, a leather steering wheel and cruise control – not just a speed limiter.

The Fiat does have the best equipment of the three here, with a few neat tricks up its sleeve, however they do come at a price and some of them don’t quite work – such as the 7” driver’s display that is marginally bigger than the gap in the steering wheel through which you view it. You wouldn’t necessarily need all of the extras selected on the test vehicle, but you’re not asked to pay more for the toys in the Hyundai. But having said that, you could easily pay much more for fewer extras elsewhere in the market.

On both the 500 and the i10, the only aspect in which you could ask for more would be in upgrading to heated seats, adaptive cruise control and more automatic and autonomous features – but they are typically found on more luxurious vehicles sitting higher up in the marketplace.

Multimedia

Multimedia

The two systems in the Fiat and Hyundai feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and that means there is little to choose between them. The 500’s system does have its own pre-programmed navigation system, that works well enough, but using the full mobile connectivity does work in a smoother fashion. The Toyota system doesn’t feature either sat-nav or supported mobile systems, however if you plug your phone in, rather than connect via Bluetooth, it offers a slicker and more cohesive experience – but only for phone calls and playing media.

All three have cleanly laid out, easy to use controls on their steering wheels, with none of them overcomplicating things. The Fiat has the simplest layout, but those on both the Hyundai and the Toyota are as you’d expect with nothing to ring alarm bells.

On the Road

On the move

With two 1.0-litre and a 1.3-litre engine – all petrol – none of this trio are what you’d call fast. The Fiat, boasting the bigger engine, romps to 60mph in 12.9 seconds – nine tenths of a second faster than the Aygo and quicker than the i10 by the same margin again. It is the second most powerful, and the torquiest too, but on all counts, there isn’t too much variance in the figures.

With all three of the cars, gear changes – both premature and belated – can cost precious momentum. But, despite having the weakest engine on paper and being the heaviest, the Hyundai feels the nippiest out of the trio, at least to around 40mph.

In any of these city cars, you’ll find that you work the gearbox quite a bit, and all three of them have nice manual five-speeds. Both the Toyota and the Hyundai have very slick, easy-going changes, whilst that in the 500 may be a tad behind in its sweetness, although the placement of the shifter on the centre console means it is equally enjoyable to manage.

The Fiat is the quietest out on the road, with the Hyundai not too far behind and the Aygo being somewhat susceptible to noisy intrusions from the wind and road. City steering in the Fiat is a nice feature around urban areas and especially when manoeuvring, and whilst the i10 and Aygo don’t have the same option, both are still nimble and easily piloted.

Out on country lanes, the Toyota’s agility becomes evident thanks to having the lightest mass of the trio. The i10, with the longest wheelbase though, sticks to the road more convincingly and is the sweetest to drive – both in general and on occasions where verve can be applied. Despite the stats leaning towards an Italian victory in terms of dynamism, the 500 actually feels heavy and doesn’t match the Toyota’s chuckability and the ride isn’t as fine-tuned as the Hyundai, either. On twisty roads, we also found the seats lacking in lateral support.

Safety

The 500 received a three-star Euro NCAP rating when tested, scoring 66% for adult occupant safety, 49% for child occupant safety and 53% for pedestrians. It lacks extensive safety tech, so the safety assistance score came in at 27%.

The Hyundai and the Aygo scored an extra star overall, with 79% and 82% for adult occupants, 71 and 64% for pedestrians and finally 56 and 57% for safety assistance. The biggest difference was for child occupant safety, with the Hyundai scoring 80%, which is notably higher than the Aygo’s percentage of 63.

Buying and Owning

We set a benchmark of £13,000 as a reasonable price for a modern city car before assembling this test. Only two of the three come under that threshold, as tested, but we still don’t feel that any of them offer poor value.

Coming closest to this is the Fiat. It does come in over budget – even without the £1,775 of extras – but it is marginal and there is a feel-good factor about the retro styling and brightness of the cabin which means you wouldn’t grumble.

Clocking in as the cheapest, with the most kit as standard, the Hyundai is easily the one that offers customers the best value. Add in Hyundai’s famous warranties and you’re looking at assured value, too.

The Aygo also gets in under target – albeit with not too much change from the target figure – but doesn’t keep up with the other two in many categories. But, the frugality here is a winner down the line. Quoted mpg is 68.9 on a combined cycle, but after a week with the pedal pretty much flat our average was 49.8mpg.

Neither of the others matched the Toyota here, but the Hyundai went close with 48.5mpg, which is closer to its quoted figure of 55mpg. The Fiat, however, averaged 44mpg, sixteen digits below its cited combined digits.

The Verdict

In a few of the testing categories, the running was close, however being near the front for every category, the Hyundai comfortably wins this shootout by our reckoning.

The Fiat does ooze charm, with its ditsy retro styling and has as many toys as you can expect from a car in this class. However, it trips up when it comes to practicality, value and whilst the driving experience isn’t bad, it isn’t as dynamic as either of the other two and feels lardier than it is.

Toyotas offering feels the most budget of the trio with the least toys and a somewhat lacklustre interior. However, it does have most things you would need, it feels the most agile on the road and the engine’s reluctance to burn gasoline is something to be applauded.

But the Hyundai just doesn’t put a foot out of line. It might have the least adventurous styling of the trio, and wear the badge with less history, but look past that and you’ll want for nothing that is reasonably expected in this class. Plus, you’ll get the most change from the target price, too.

                                    

   AyGO   

    500    

   i10   

Cabin

6

7

8

Equipment

6

8

7

Multimedia

6

7

7

Practicality

6

5

7

Performance

6

5

5

Handling

7

6

7

Ride

6

6

7

Economy

8

7

8

Safety

7

6

8

Value

7

7

9

Total

66

67

74

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