Hyundai's improved ix20 supermini-MPV demonstrates that the Koreans have got the hang of reliability and practicality and that they're now working on bringing the style. June Neary reports.
Will It Suit Me?
Although I don't have children, it's almost as if the Hyundai ix20 was designed with me in mind. I like models that don't unnecessarily draw attention to themselves but, when you pause to give them the once over, reveal stylish touches. I also like practical cars. Up until fairly recently, those two demands proved beyond many car makers. If you wanted a car that could cart kids or, in my case, a pile of amplifiers and turntables about, you needed something that was shaped like a box and drove like a panel van.
The ix20 is one of the fresh breed of so-called 'supermini-MPVs' that prove small cars don't have to be like that. More familiar examples of this breed include cars like Nissan's Note, Ford's B-MAX and Citroen's C4 Picasso. In the case of this Hyundai, it looks as if a lot of effort has been spent in the design studio. The sculpted sides, the dynamic front end and the genuinely impressive interior quality and commitment to keeping things anything but boring are evidence of this. If you thought Korean cars were dull and you're shopping in this segment, you owe it to yourselves to have a good look at this one.
As I've said, this car is designed to compete with the likes of the Nissan Note and Citroen C3 Picasso, but this Hyundai looks a little smaller than both of these models, due in no small part to the fact that its styling is notably more curvaceous. The ix20 is flexible and spacious inside and despite its 'compact' tag, adults in the back have all the space they need thanks to the sliding rear seating. The car features an adjustable boot floor so that luggage can be slid in or, if that floor is lowered for extra capacity, dropped over the sill. Folding the rear backrest moves the cushion forward and down at the same time, resulting in a perfectly flat load space ideal for loading big boxes.
With just driver and passenger aboard, fold down the rear seats and you get a healthy 1486-litres of space and the sort of carrying capacity puts it on a par with some medium-sized estate cars. With the seats in place there's 440-litres available, a little down on the C3 Picasso's 500-litre total but still a lot more than you'd get in a comparably-priced conventional supermini.
Behind the Wheel
The press kit that came with my ix20 test car stated that the car's suspension had been 'set up for British roads' and while it's true that it does ride extremely well, it seems the seats had been designed for Americans, or at least somebody a good deal more padded back there than me. They're rather hard and don't offer too much in the way of support.
The model I selected had a 1.4-litre diesel engine and although it was supremely economical, I actually ended up wishing I'd asked for one of the petrol engine options (there's a 90PS 1.4 and a 125PS 1.6). The diesel (offered with either 77 or 90PS) feels great on the open road when you can really feel its torque, but in town, the petrol engined car steps off the line a little bit easier. I think my ideal companion would be the 1.6-litre automatic petrol-engined model which makes city driving a doddle.
Visibility out of the ix20 is fairly good as you sit high in the car, although the windscreen pillars are a little chunky. You get a decent amount of safety features as standard, with even the base model getting anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and front, side and curtain airbags.
Value For Money
Prices kick off at around £12,500 for the entry-level 1.4-litre petrol variant in baseline trim although many will prefer to go for a mid-spec model as it gets 16-inch alloy wheels and therefore doesn't instantly look as if you've put your mother to work in a call centre to afford the car. It also gets reversing sensors which help if you're trying to park a car in a busy multi-storey and the kids are trying to garotte each other with cheese strings.
It's a bit of a shame that the only car with an automatic gearbox also has the priciest 1.6-litre engine, so you'll need at least £16,000 to land yourself something without a clutch pedal. It also means that the car best suited to city driving is the one in the range with the highest emissions and the biggest thirst.
The 1.4-litre diesel that most customers choose certainly makes some good numbers. Its combined fuel economy figure is around 65mpg and emissions are rated at under 115g/km, which is very good going for a car with this sort of space on offer. It's worth pricing this ix20 up against its sister car the Kia Venga when shopping for a deal, but often, the Hyundai will emerge as the better bargain. It's all backed up by Hyundai's Five Year Triple Care Package which ensures five years of free vehicle health checks as well as a five year, unlimited mileage warranty and five years of roadside assistance.
Could I Live With One?
The Hyundai ix20 represents a very slick and extremely good value compact supermini-MPV. I would have liked to see an eco version fitted with an automatic gearbox for city drivers but aside from that, it barely puts a wheel wrong.
Overall, I'd say that it's hard to do much better if you have a young family - and even if you don't, the Hyundai's practicality, its deft styling and its ease of ownership makes it a car that may well grow on you. It's not the sort of model you'll think you want, but after a week at the wheel, I'm beginning to wonder how I'll manage without it.