The recipe for that success is simple: offer cars that are just as good as those of the established volume players, and in some cases better. Back them up with a great warranty. And make them outstanding value. Not cheap, just good value.
Fathered by that philosophy, the ix20 has the likes of the Citroën C3 Picasso and Nissan Note in its sights. It comes from the firm’s Nosovice plant in the Czech Republic, and shares a great deal with its sister car, the Venga, from its corporate bedfellow Kia. Hyundai makes the Venga for Kia, however, and not the other way round
But despite being such a great-value proposition, there is almost nothing that seems low rent about the ix20. Like the ix35 SUV, it’s handsomely styled, and has a decent quality cabin with simple, robust materials.
It’s very practical too. Hyundai loudly and proudly proclaims that, thanks to sliding rear seats, you’ll find more rear cabin space in here than in the back of a Volvo XC90. Even large adults won’t want for head or legroom.
If you fold the rear seats flat you can accommodate 1486 litres of luggage, which is more than you get in some medium-sized estates. With the seats upright, you still get a reasonable 440 litres. All that’s missing is a folding front passenger seat for very long loads and a little extra oddment storage, but you can’t have everything.
It's also reasonably well equipped with only three trim levels to choose from. The entry-level SE trim gifts the ix20 with 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, rear parking sensors and hill start assist as standard on the outside, while inside there is Bluetooth and USB connectivity, air conditioning and electric windows. Upgrade to SE Nav and you benefit form a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav and a reversing camera, while topping the range is the Premium Nav trim which adorns the car with privacy glass and a panoramic sunroof.
Like its Kia Venga sister model, the ix20 comes with a choice of 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel engine. The diesel is only offered with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.4-litre petrol engine gets a five-speed unit. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is now coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission replacing the antiquated four-speed unit.
The 1.4-litre petrol engine's not too inefficient either, with it averaging a claimed 47.1mpg and emitting a tolerable 140g/km of CO2. Even the 1.6-litre petrol automatic returns 43.6mpg, which should prove acceptable for most, and all are capable of propelling the ix20 from 0-62mph in less than 14.4sec.
The cleanest and most efficient engine in the range is the 1.6-litre diesel, however, thanks in part to its stop/start system. Hyundai claims 64.2mpg and 117g/km of CO2 for its 115bhp and 192lb ft diesel, which can acclerate the ix20 from 0-62mph in a reasonable 11.5sec.
Mechanical refinement perhaps isn’t quite as good as we’d hoped, however. Hyundai’s four-cylinder diesel engine is gruff above 2500rpm and a little laggy below, but its petrol option is quieter and more responsive, if a little more expensive to run day-to-day.
But despite the excitement over its great-value credentials, there’s little on offer from the ix20 for interested drivers. Performance is acceptable but modest, the steering system feels a little vague and inconsistently weighted, and the car lacks handling precision and body control at bigger cross-country speeds.
Such things aren’t likely to bother most mini-MPV drivers, of course – but for the record, the Nissan Note is a more engaging car to drive. If you like a bargain, however, the ix20 gets the nod, especially seeing as you get ESP, air conditioning, a USB port and an auxiliary connection as standard.
It also comes with a decent five-year unlimited-mileage warranty as well, which includes five years' roadside assistance and five years' annual vehicle healthchecks. That's far better than the equivalent three year/60,000 mile warranty that you'll find on rivals like the Nissan Note.
Cars such as the Citroën C3 Picasso and new Vauxhall Meriva offer more space than this car, but at a considerable price. If you’d rather have a practical supermini that still feels small, that’s very well packaged and fit for purpose, and that you won’t have to pay a big-car price for, this Hyundai ix20 comes highly recommended.