Hyundai is riding the crest of a recession at the moment. Having virtually claimed the scrappage scheme as its own, with i10s being traded in for bangers by the thousand, sales are continuing to rise meteorically. Well, not quite that fast, but fast enough, considering the current car market; last year Hyundai smashed its all-time UK sales record by around five thousand cars.
The ix20 small MPV should help pile even more pressure on Hyundai's over-worked salesmen.
What are its rivals?
Most obviously the ix20 battles against the Venga from sister company Kia, with which it shares a chassis and plenty of parts. The ix20 demographic might also consider the Honda Jazz, the Citroen C3 Picasso and the Renault Modus.
How does it drive?
The ix20 couldn't subjectively be called fun to drive, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do. By making the steering and gearchange light, getting the driving position just right (it's plenty adjustable), making sure all-round visibility is good and, most importantly, making the car stay largely stable over horrible roads, Hyundai has pitched the car squarely at maternal and paternal taxi drivers.
This isn't a car for the motorway (it doesn't feel quite planted enough through crosswinds, for example) and nor is it much fun on a back road (too slow, too much body roll), but if you have children to ferry about from one locale to the next, this is aimed at you.
Hyundai has clearly thought about who is going to be using this car and built it around that market. So, while it's actually quite stylish, with rakish headlights and a 'nose down' sort of stance, that's not to the detriment of visibility - it has relatively thin windscreen pillars, for example, reducing the blind spot they can cause.
You can see it has lots of headroom because it's tall, but it also succeeds where a lot of small family cars fall down, by having rear leg space plus a big, useful boot. The latter is often sacrificed in the quest for cabin spaciousness. The dashboard is pleasantly designed and easy to use, too.
The diesel engine of our test car was a real letdown in the context of the rest of the car; while the ix20 does much to cast aside Hyundai's 'bland and cheap' image, the chugging, lacklustre 1.4-litre CRDi engine feels made for a time when diesel was a specialist interest for cheapskates.
For us, better to buy a more highly equipped petrol model than spend extra on the diesel, particularly if you're doing mostly urban mileage. The 1.4-litre petrol engine is quieter and altogether more pleasant, yet still returns 50.4mpg (compared to 65.7mpg for the diesel). The petrol model is also quicker.
Should I buy one?
It's because Hyundai is making cars like the ix20 that the company is doing so well. It puts function over form, but it's still stylish in an unostentatious way. It's also comfortable, cheap to run and backed up by a great, five-year warranty. Any buyer with small kids to ferry about and living under the financial pressure of 2011 Britain should consider Hyundai's small MPV.