Published on Sunday 1 March 2015 16:36
Ten Second Review
Hyundai have come almost from nowhere in the last five years in the UK to offer a great value for money alternative to motorists who want their cars to be reliable, comfortable and well built, but who aren't especially bothered about the badge on the bonnet. There are plenty of these kinds of people shopping in the supermini-MPV sector, that which brings us the very smallest - but perhaps cleverest - breed of MPV people carriers. With the ix20, Hyundai offers are real alternative to established strong sellers in this segment like Nissan's Note or Citroen's C3 Picasso.
The South Korean brand has been eying up the smallest MPV class for some time, well aware that it's accounting for an increasing number of sales. Hence the need for this ix20, a car which must be tailored precisely for the needs of European customers. Which is why this car was designed and developed at the company's research and development plant in Germany and is built at their state-of-the-art plant in the Czech Republic.
With Hyundai now selling over 60,000 cars a year annually in Britain, it needs to be represented in more segments of the market and in each, provide cars that are as good, if not better than the established players, yet priced more tightly.
Here's another example. We've already seen much of the ix20's engineering showcased in its sister car, Kia's Venga. Since Hyundai builds that car for Kia and wants to make a decent profit out of doing so, the Venga is rather pricey, an issue not afflicting this better value ix20.
The ix20 feels right at home on UK roads, which reflects the attention to detail that Hyundai have paid in its development as for the first time the manufacturer did significant road testing in the UK as the car neared production stage. The result should be ride quality that is fluid and compliant, even on pot-holed and damaged smaller roads. This courtesy of a MacPherson set-up at the front using co-axial coil springs and at the rear a compact torsion beam axle that doesn't steal luggage space from the rear. Again the suspension has been designed specifically for UK driving. The speed-variable steering is also precise.
The ix20 comes with a choice of three engines. There's a 1.4-litre 90PS variant available as either a petrol or as a diesel, plus a 1.6-litre 125PS petrol unit. The 1.4-litre petrol engine has been adopted from Hyundai's i20 range, while the 1.6-litre petrol comes from the i30 family hatchback. The 1.6 is the only option available with the four-speed automatic transmission.
However, it's the 1.4-litre diesel engine that budget-conscious motorists are likely to go for. Hyundai's U2 common rail diesel delivers most of its 220Nm of torque from as low as 1750rpm, which in real life should make for relaxed and relatively rev-free driving. The Integrated Stop-Start and the six-speed manual gearbox deliver fuel consumption of 65.7mpg (combined) and CO2 emissions of 114g/km.
Design and Build
Rather than opt for a 'box on wheels' approach to maximise carrying capacity, Hyundai have pleasingly tried to inject some style into their supermini-MPV and the profile benefits. The look is sporty, modern and starts with the now distinctive and recognisable Hyundai hexagonal front grille, adorned with what brand call its 'leaf skeleton' design. The side profile shows the waistline of the car rising up, while the roofline adds a dynamic touch as it drops gently away towards the rear. High tail lights and the L-shaped front headlight clusters add to the look.
Inside, the cabin may be simple in design and layout, but the materials used are clearly quality and made to last. The speaker grilles and the seat pattern echo the leaf skeleton design of the front grille, all nice touches that bring a harmony to the car and show that some real thought has gone into it.
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. There's more room here than you'd get in something much, much bigger like a large Volvo XC90 4x4. With just driver and passenger aboard, fold down the rear seats and you get a healthy 1486-litres of space and that sort of carrying capacity puts it on a par with some medium-sized estate cars.
Market and Model
Most ix20 models will sell in the £12,000-£16,000 bracket, where it looks good value against supermini-MPV rivals like Citroen's C3 Picasso and Nissan's Note, as well as its sister car the Kia Venga. Where Hyundai does well is that not all rivals can compete with the car on standard equipment levels. For example, every manual gearbox version comes with ISG 'Stop and Go' fuel and emissions-saving technology as standard.
Starting with entry-level Classic, there are three trim levels. The base model comes highly equipped with kit likely to come only as options on entry level rivals. That includes the height-adjustable driver's seat, electronic stability control, air conditioning, front, side and curtain airbags, a six-speaker radio/CD system as well as all manner of MP3/iPod and auxiliary mix and match compatibility. At Active trim level, buyers can expect alloy wheels and reversing sensors, whilst top Style spec includes a dual-panel panoramic glass sunroof.
Cost of Ownership
The ix20's combined fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg for the 1.4-litre diesel is clearly the headline economy act along with CO2 emissions of 114g/km for road tax of £30 a year. The 1.4-litre petrol will return 50.4mpg combined with CO2 emissions of 130g/km. Hyundai welcomes new customers with the reassurance of their 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. Service costs shouldn't be too much of a cost issue anyway as the Korean brand recommends service intervals of 20,000 miles. Plus it's good to note that the six-speed manual gearbox will require no servicing at all during its life and insurance costs are a group or two lower than rival equivalents.
Once again, Hyundai has delivered us a car that offers stylish, economical motoring in a package that also provides impressive passenger space and luggage-loading ability for its compact size. Other rivals do offer a little more interior space, but this ix20 offsets that with tighter pricing and lower running costs. It's a well-thought-out package.
If you haven't tried a car from this South Korean brand, then you may be expecting this one to be well equipped (which it is) and cheaply built (which it isn't). The roadgoing experience should please and the thoughtful touches will surprise. Hyundai's UK sales could be set to rise again.