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Mini crossover.

Byline: Alistair Coull ; Val Jessop

HYUNDAI is one of the car manufacturers that the recession seems to have passed by. Sales are booming.

What helps, of course, is that the model range has evolved into vehicles that look more interesting to the buyer, have dependable build quality and have long warranties for peace of mind.

The entry-level i10 is a handy five-seat city car that has been a huge hit with drivers looking for low-cost personal transport.

Next up is the i20, larger and cheaper alternative to, for instance, a Renault Clio.

On test here is the spin-off iX20, bringing a bulkier and larger body with attitude and a higher riding position.

The wheelbase is longer and the rear seats recline and slide.

It looks as if it should have four wheel drive but in fact it has only conventional front-wheel drive.

The ''x'' in the name signifies it is a crossover vehicle which means it is neither normal or extreme.

It''s a halfway lifestyle vehicle which attracted a lot of attention during its week''s trial.

It''s a bit boxy, but it''s still attractive with bright red rear lighting 'bars'' that can''t be missed at night.

There are three trim levels - Classic, Active and Style and three engine choices - a 1.4 petrol or diesel, each with 89bhp, and a 120bhp 1.6 petrol.

The test car was a mid-range Active powered by the 1.4 diesel and cost pounds 14,095.

Its 162 lb/ft of torque, available from 1750rpm, gives it plenty of overtaking power.

Top speed is 104mph with 0-62mph taking 14.5 seconds.

The instruments are clear, with red pointers and white graphics, a blue halo and a red marker on 30mph. No excuse for speeding, then!

When the ignition is on, the instruments are fully lit, which means that until you really know the car you can drive off at night without switching on the lights. Not a good idea.

The car runs very well, with plenty of pull from the smallish diesel.

The gearbox has six speeds and motorway cruising is not too noisy.

The tyres soak up the bumps and overall I had no grumbles about the car.

Hyundai say you can expect to average over 65mpg, but during my week I achieved 58mpg.

Around town the iX20 is easy to drive. It is compact enough for city streets but it is also big enough to cope with the cut and thrust of the motorway.

Four adults, plus all their stuff, will fit in comfortably. Five would be a squeeze.

I think the ix20 is a small car with attitude.

It's also a great all rounder at a price that's impossible to ignore INI MPV, Mcompact SUV or shrunken people carrier ... Hyundai''s latest version is a clever alternative.

The tall and short of the Korean car is what makes the ix20 work so well: its lofty roofline accommodates six-footers easily, while its short base makes it an ideal city car for tight parking and threading in and out of narrow streets.

Elbow room in the back, with three abreast is cosy rather than generous, but the extra height provided in this design makes it feel much bigger inside.

Tallish vehicles don''t scoop design accolades but the mini crossover has more street appeal than a good number of competitors and boasts a higher seating arrangement which is always a big plus.

Its main purpose is to carry humans, along with all their varied paraphernalia, in a dignified and economical manner without costing the earth to buy and maintain and the ix20, (this particular model in Active trim), does that supremely.

As with most rivals, versatility is key and with a generous boot area of 440 litres - which can triple to 1486 litres to provide a massive flat load space with the seats folded - it looks as though the Koreans are rapidly becoming the compact car design kings.

The test car was powered by the 1.4 diesel engine which develops a modest but healthy 89bhp at 4,000rpm. It proved a willing unit, though the overtures emitted from underneath the bonnet were more vocal than expected. This fairly harsh signature tune was present throughout the power range.

Still, you can''t have everything and with an official average fuel consumption of nearly 66mpg, you really can''t complain. The 0-62mph is somewhat pedestrian at 14.5 seconds, but low emissions of 114g/km of C02 will compensate for the eco-minded.

The Czech-made ix20 handles well in city and on motorway, and despite its tallish architecture, there wasn''t too much lurch or lean in corners or through S-bends.

Steering is precise, but there''s little feedback to the wheel. However, the mini MPV drove well and felt well-planted on the road, providing excellent grip.

Equipment on all models includes a height-adjustable driver''s seat, stability control, two-way steering wheel adjustment, air-con, six airbags, active head restraints, radio/CD with six speakers, plus i-Pod connection. Stop-start ignition is also standard, helping improve economy in town driving.

The Active adds 16-inch alloys, powered heated mirrors, reversing sensors, electric rear windows, audio controls on the steering wheel and Bluetooth phone connection.

Hyundai ix20 1.4 CRDi Active ENGINE: 1396cc 4-cyl DOHC CRDi 89bhp@4,000rpm 162lb/ft@1,750rpm PERFORMANCE: Top speed: 104mph 0-62mph: 14.5 secs ECONOMY: Combined: 65.7mpg CO[sup.2] EMISSIONS: 114g/km INSURANCE: Group 15 PRICE: pounds 14,095
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 28, 2011
Words:902
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