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I WANT TO BE IN AN AMICA (some text hidden)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Introductionword count: 147
Can you think of a friend you could possibly phone if Tarrant was to ask you to name the differences between a Hyundai Amica and a Hyundai Atoz? Both tiny five door city cars, both powered by a miniature 1.0-litre engine, both given the cold shoulder by UK buyers in favour of something more conventional the similarities between them seem more obvious than the distinctions. Hyundai claimed the Amica was wrapped in a more sporty, rounded bodyshell. Park the two cars side by side and they both seem vaguely slab sided, whilst the only sporting image the Amica conjures up is seniors tour golf. Nonetheless, if we put aside Hyundai's vacuous marketing puff, what are we left with? The Amica is an unconventional, if highly effective, city car that will appeal to those who want the peace of mind of buying nearly new without paying the earth.
Modelsword count: 12
Models Covered: (5 dr hatch 1.0, 1.1 petrol [Si, CDX, GSi] )
Historyword count: 287
British buyers do not like egg-box shaped cars. This was the conclusion Hyundai arrived at, having seen the lukewarm reception afforded the Daihatsu Move, Suzuki Wagon R and their own Atoz city car, and the Korean giant could only look on in abject disappointment as sales of Daewoo's curvy little Matiz sailed off the graph. Rather than bring in a radically different model, Hyundai instead rebodied the Atoz city car with sassier styling, which was more redolent of an egg-box caught in a Seoul monsoon. Like the Atoz, it boasted a multi-valve engine, something that no other rival could offer and was available in Si or GSi guise when launched in the UK in February 2000. Whilst the Atoz never really got off the ground, clocking up a barely respectable 4800 sales in its first year, the Amica had loftier aspirations and sold 5700 units in its first year, an increase of nearly 20%. Aimed as it was at first time buyers and mothers with children looking for a second or third car, the Amica stressed a friendly face, light, easy controls and more than a nod toward urban practicality. In summer 2000, a four-speed automatic replaced the three speed automatic gearbox, but otherwise the range has remained largely unchanged. At the same time, the Amica's progenitor, the Atoz disappeared from Hyundai's price lists. That's not the end of the story, however, because in the early stages of 2006, the Amica returned. Yes, it was sporting a restyled front and rear but there was no mistaking the overall shape. A new 1.1-litre engine provided the power and equipment levels were more generous, presumably to compensate for the rather dated feel of the interior. Pricing was predictably affordable.
What You Getword count: 449
The redesign that turned Atoz into Amica is clever. Although most of the metalwork is the same below the window line and the roof has been lowered only 35mm, the Amica looks much sleeker. A neat body colour rear spoiler gives the tail some character, too, and the top-spec GSi has very stylish alloy wheels. A toothy chrome grille and new front bumper give the nose a distinctive expression, quite different from the Atoz. Hyundai took some care to distance the Amica from some of its wackier-looking Japanese rivals. In many ways, it is a far more sophisticated machine, with a tiny multi-valve one-litre 'Epsilon' engine modified for what the engineers claimed to be 'exceptional refinement and efficiency'. It comes attached to either a five-speed manual, a five-speed semi-automatic or a three or four-speed automatic transmission. Like the Suzuki Wagon R+ (but unlike the European Ford Ka, VW Lupo and SEAT Arosa buyers may also consider), there are five-doors on offer and an uncommonly large amount of interior space for a car just 3,495mm (138 inches) long and 1,495mm (59 inches) wide. That makes it shorter than the Ka, Lupo and Arosa (which is welcome) but also narrower (which isn't). Nevertheless, the Amica boasts a standard of interior packaging that leaves its European rivals standing. The cabin is little different from the old Atoz but then it doesn't need to be. There's a neat hooded instrument binnacle, unusual circular vents, a big open cubby in front of the passenger and cup holders moulded into the centre console. The door panels are more neatly integrated with the rest of the interior trim and have apparently been re-shaped to allow a little more knee room for tall drivers. Reducing the roof height has had surprisingly little effect on headroom; it's still generous. In fact, the Amica was voted one of the UK's most comfortable cars in a report by a leading ergonomist for What Car? magazine. You'll like the little touches too; the way the front seats recline into a semi-flat position for extra comfort over long journeys. Then there's the useful under-seat sliding tray, the built-in cup holders and the large map pockets in the front doors. Front and rear legroom is surprisingly good, as is hip and elbow room; though you'd be pushing it to describe the Amica as a family car. It's worth pointing out at this point one item that you don't get as standard with the Amica and that's ABS. In wet conditions the brakes easily overcome the modest grip afforded by the tiny tyres. Whilst it's not dangerous per se, it is something that's worth bearing in mind if you've only ever driven ABS-equipped cars.
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