Hyundai ix20 thinking outside the box

Scrappage winner Hyundai aims to woo more buyers with its new ix20 MPV, says Andy Russell.

'The best advert you can have for your cars is cars on the road.' So says Hyundai UK managing director Tony Whitehorn who is confident that the Korean car-maker's vehicles satisfy what consumers want and need.

Judging by its success during the government scrappage scheme – it sold the most cars at nearly 44,000 – he's pretty upbeat about the future.

So much so that while it is being predicted that the new car market will fall by seven to 10pc next year he is saying that, against the gloom and doom, Hyundai is looking to raise its UK sales by 5pc. That's a brave prediction but you get the feeling that he has total confidence in his model line-up.

And it's well founded for the bread-and-butter i10, i20 and i30 models proved big attractions under scrappage and the ix35 crossover is certainly in demand, while next year will see the Ford Mondeo-sized i40 estate and then saloon and a sporty new coupe, code-named Velosta.

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Until then the newest addition to Hyundai's line-up is the ix20 – a smart, stylish compact multi-purpose vehicle, cleverly combining a small-car exterior and a big-car interior, and like the ix35 adopts the marque's new fluidic sculpture design.

Three engines are offered – 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol and turbo diesel with five and six-speed manual gearboxes respectively and a 123bhp 1.6-litre four-speed automatic petrol.

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The two 1.4s, offering class-leading economy and emissions, will be the big-sellers but only the diesel, which costs a hefty �1,400 more than petrol, was available at the press launch. With maximum torque available between 1,750 and 2,750rpm and 90pc from 1,500rpm the turbo diesel is flexible enough to take high gears at low speeds to maximise fuel economy but on the open road needs to be worked to get a spurt on but, in its favour, it's quiet and refined.

In a first for Hyundai, the ix20 underwent extensive chassis testing on the worst of UK roads to fine-tune the suspension so it strikes a happy balance between ride and roadholding. And it has paid dividends with the ix20 soaking up bumpy B-roads and cruising comfortably on motorways while the well-mannered handling is safe and predictable with body lean kept in check through corners and well-weighted power steering.

If you're looking for a small car with a lot of space inside the ix20 should be on your shopping list. Not much bigger than a large supermini on the outside, it's surprising how much room there is inside. Much of that is down to the long wheelbase between the front and rear axles which means generous legroom in the back, made all the useable by sliding rear seats to tailor rear legroom or boot space to your needs.

The ix20 is not only geared up to passengers' comfort for the well-shaped 440-litre boot is as good as many mid-size estate cars and easy to load with its bumper-level floor and there's a shallow storage compartment beneath. Rear seats backs split 60/40 and fold flat for longer loads, increasing maximum capacity to 1,486 litres.

For the money, the cabin has a pleasing quality with soft-touch plastics on top of the dashboard and the top two specification models are given a lift with piano black and metallic effect trim around the centre of the fascia. The clean, modern instruments look good in their shapely binnacle and controls are easy to find and use, especially the heating and ventilation system with combined rotary controls for the temperature and fan and buttons around them to direct airflow.

The ix20 comes in Classic, Active and Style trims and all are well equipped. Classic models, from �11,595 include air-conditioning, stability and hill-start assist control, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, automatic stop and go system to cut the engine in stationary traffic, USB and auxiliary ports, electric front windows and remote central locking with alarm. Big-selling Active, from �12,695, adds 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connection, reversing sensors, electric rear windows, heated door mirrors and steering wheel audio controls. Range-topping Style, from �13,695, gets an electric tilt/slide panoramic sunroof, darkened rear privacy glass, front fog lights and electric folding door mirrors. All models come with a five-year warranty and five years of RAC roadside assistance and annual servicing.

In a tough economic climate, Hyundai is building on its sales success and strengths of style, space and value and the ix20 shows it is thinking outside the box.

Hyundai ix20

Price: Petrol from �11,595, diesel from �12,995

Engine: 1,396cc, 89bhp four-cylinder petrol or turbo diesel

Performance: petrol, 0-62mph 12.9 seconds; top speed 104mph. Diesel, 14.5 seconds, 104mph

MPG: petrol, urban 42.8, extra urban 55.4, combined 50.4; diesel, 60.1, 67.3, 65.7

Emissions: petrol, 130g/km; diesel, 114g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: petrol, 15pc; diesel, 13pc

Warranty: Five years/unlimited mileage

Will it fit in the garage? Length, 4,100m; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,765mm; height 1,600mm

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