Friday 9 December 2016

It's got the ix factor

Published 04/06/2011 | 05:00

HYUNDAI
iX20 1.4-LITRE
RATING 83/100
HYUNDAI iX20 1.4-LITRE RATING 83/100

I often wonder if people get massively mixed up with cars that have numbers rather than names. I say this because I sometimes have a tough job remembering -- and I'm supposed to make it my business.

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Be honest now: do you know what the Hyundai ix20 is? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, because there is an i20 as well. And an i10 and an i30 and, shortly, an i40. And some of them have or will have an 'x' inserted as well.

This is all by way of not so much criticising Hyundai, but of making the point that in a crowded market it is easy to overlook or forget that this maker has a car that fits so strongly into the small/compact MPV or people carrier segment.

I'll be honest: I wasn't too familiar with it myself. I certainly was not expecting what I got over a good few days of demanding driving.

This is an 'extended' supermini -- for want of a better description -- a small MPV that is designed primarily to look after younger families.

And it's a good one at that.

It manages to look like a large supermini from the outside; and that is said in praise not criticism. As soon as I got in and we began using it, there was clear recognition of the amount of rear-seat space which was way beyond what you get in your normal small hatch. I sat reasonably high behind a clean, clutter-free dash and instrument panel. I pushed my seat back as far as I wanted and there was still plenty of room behind it. The boot is deep and square -- the sort you can get plenty of stuff into without any fuss.

And off we went on a variety of journeys. This had a 1.4-litre diesel engine which is worth dwelling on for a moment. I noticed a few times it didn't start instantly when I turned the ignition key. I had to keep giving it a few 'digs' as they say. I should probably have waited a moment for the diesel 'coil' sign to go out but I didn't. It was grand when up and going. Well, to be honest I thought it was as flat as my accent for the first day or two.

That's because I had only got out of a big, powerful 3-litre diesel and needed a little while to acclimatise. The 1.4-litre is a decent operator. It just takes its time.

But who needs any more? It is exactly what mums and dads with small children require for getting around suburbia and down to the grandparents the odd weekend.

As a small people carrier it ticks a lot of boxes. Its European styling blends in better, I felt, than its first-cousin-once-removed, Kia Venga, which has lots of angles. Along with the Opel Meriva, the Nissan Note would be another consideration. This is a great little car, with bold looks and terribly adept at doing the business. And it matches the ix20 on starting price.

The Hyundai I had on test was remarkably solid and had none of that old nonsense you sometimes get from taller motors (lots of head room in this) of flopping around when you have to take a corner. Several of my drives coincided with quite windy weather and I thought, incorrectly as the ix20 showed, it would be affected by the blustery conditions.

If you leave aside my unreasonable expectations of a bit more pep from the engine, the car overall put in quite a performance with steering and handling generally of a high standard. There were decent levels of equipment and a surprisingly good quality feel and touch to the cabin surfaces.

The seats suited me fine; neither too robust nor yielding and even though there were heads above the parapet in the rear, I never felt I was seriously imposed on for decent all-round vision.

Once up and running it was possible to keep this milling along nicely at 110kmh on the motorways without the slightest effort.

The six-speed gearbox was slick and easy to use. Now often with six-speed boxes you can find it difficult to get reverse. Indeed, in one or two I've nearly had to use both hands to hammer my way into the gear. This was most compliant, reflecting the overall ease-of-use throughout the cabin.

Numbers keep rearing their heads, however.

For example, there is a five-year warranty on this but first-cousin-once-removed Venga is bestowed with a seven-year backing.

You can argue all day about the merits of such warranties and equipment levels (the Kia is marginally less expensive than the ix20) but there is no doubt they have become selling points.

And then there is the biggest number of them all: price.

At almost €19,000, before you add in delivery and related charges, I couldn't help but make a case for buying a larger family hatchback or saloon. Okay, they might not be as versatile and, you know, might only be there or thereabouts on room when all is taken into account, but they are a 'bigger' car.

By the same token translating the level of equipment on this on to a comparable family motor would push the price a fair bit further up the scale, I feel.

Which helps make a 'reverse' case for this for many, possibly more mature owners, who have a larger car they no longer need -- because this has that element of in-built versatility your ordinary hatch or saloon does not.

So there you have it. The Hyundai ix20, a small people-carrier with a lot going for it.

Not all the numbers necessarily add up, but I'd take it for a test drive if I were in the market for a compact motor.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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