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Hyundai ix20 1.4 CRDi Classic

Click to view picture gallery“The tide is about to turn: the latest
  generation of ‘mini-multis
is so much
  more appealing that buyers are going
  to be hard-pressed to resist them

  starting with Hyundai’s new ix20

WHY DON'T WE BUY MORE MINI-SIZED MPVS? It's genuinely baffling. Sales of MPVs of all types have taken a battering in recent times, especially mid-size MPVs like the Renault Scenic and VW Touran.

Traditionally, motorists have also shunned their multi-purpose baby sisters — cars like the Renault Modus, Nissan Note and Vauxhall Meriva have never really caught on. For whatever reason, buyers have stuck with regular-shaped superminis rather than their tall-roof, sliding-seat, practical derivatives.

I think I can safely make a prediction that the tide is about to turn. The latest generation of mini-multis is so much more appealing that buyers are going to be hard-pressed to resist them. Long gone are munty old shoeboxes like the Fiat Idea. In their place are excellent newcomers with genuine appeal, such as the Citroen C3 Picasso, Fiat Qubo and 'suicide-door' Vauxhall Meriva.

And now the Hyundai ix20. It's based on the Korean car maker's i20 supermini but it's far more practical. It's longer than the i20 but shorter than Hyundai's i30 mid-size hatchback, yet the ix20 boasts a massive 1,486 litres of luggage space (surprisingly, the bigger i30 has less — a mere 1,250 litres).

You get plenty of kit
on the ix20. The entry-
level version comes
with air conditioning,
electric front windows,
CD/iPod system,
Stop & Go technology,
ESP electronic stability
and six airbags
The ix20's rear hatch opens wide and tall to access the load space, although there's quite a high lip to load items over, but the boot floor is removable to give you the option of two floor levels.

The higher level makes it sit flush with the tailgate aperture and creates a flat floor front-to-back when you fold the 60:40 split/fold rear seats (commendably a very easy, one-touch operation). The lower level allows you to easily stow taller items.

The tall roof-line translates to tons of headroom for both front and rear passengers. And the very long wheelbase also offers lots of legroom for those travelling in the rear. Even with the sliding rear seats pushed forwards, you still have plenty of space for your pegs; and the boot space in the back is then even more massive.

Like most new generation MPVs, and in contrast to the functional, boxy lines of some older designs, the ix20 has engaging styling. Hyundai calls it 'fluidic sculpture' which is possibly over-egging the pudding, but the ix20 is not a bad-looking thing. Thank Hyundai's German design centre for that — it's been created specifically to appeal to European tastes.

The Active trim level version features a very strange front grille indeed, which Hyundai describes as 'asymmetric eco' — a kind of leaf pattern look. Wouldn't it be great if Hyundai had actually grown these grilles in hydroponic farms in Seoul? Sadly they're actually made from plastic. Not terribly eco.

The interior is pleasant enough, with firmly supportive seats, bright trim highlights and clear instruments. The quality of the main dashboard plastic is nothing to write home about, but then you don't buy a Hyundai to write to your relatives about. You buy it because it's cheap, well equipped and practical.

Speaking of equipment, you actually get plenty of kit on the ix20. The entry-level Classic version (starting at 11,595) comes with air conditioning, electric front windows, CD/iPod system, Stop & Go technology for better fuel economy, ESP electronic stability and six airbags (Hyundai expects a five-star safety rating for the ix20 when EuroNCAP gets round to testing it).

The ride quality is
genuinely superb, and
you won’t feel that you
been short-changed in
the handling department
either: it
s safe, secure
and predictable
Active models (1,100 more) are likely to be the most popular, adding alloy wheels, electric mirrors, reversing sensors, Bluetooth, electric rear windows and audio controls for the leather-trimmed steering wheel. The range-topping Style (a 1,000 walk up) also has a panoramic glass opening sunroof, front fog lights and electric folding door mirrors.

You couldn't call the ix20 exciting to drive but it is impressively comfortable. Hyundai tried out all sorts of suspension settings specifically for UK roads and has come up with near-perfect settings to soak up some of the ropiest tarmac we have to suffer.

The ride quality is genuinely superb, and you won't feel that you've been short-changed in the handling department either: it's safe, secure and predictable, if just a little boring.

The 1.4 CRDi diesel engine is willing enough, although it won't win any awards for refinement. The cold start-up rattle never goes away and becomes quite wearing on long journeys. That said, the diesel is very economical indeed: 65.7mpg is exceptionally frugal.

But when the 1.4 petrol engine has the same power (90bhp), better acceleration and comes in at 1,400 cheaper, you can forgive it its shortfall in fuel economy (50.4mpg). You'd have to drive over 70,000 miles to make back the diesel's difference in price at the pumps — it just doesn't make sense. That'll probably take you all of the five years that Hyundai offers as its excellent standard warranty.

The Czech-made ix20 is on sale now, priced from 11,595 for the 1.4 petrol Classic, and from 12,995 for the 1.4 CRDi diesel. To sum up: the ix20 is good value, pleasantly styled, comfortable, practical, well equipped and has a five-year warranty. It may not set your life on fire but on the other hand, you won't ever have to make excuses for it. — Chris Rees

Hyundai ix20 1.4 CRDi Classic
| 12,995
Maximum speed: 104mph | 0-62mph: 14.5 seconds | Overall MPG: 65.7mpg
Power: 90bhp | Torque: 162lb ft | CO2 114g/km