The first market it is exploring is the mini-MPV niche carved out by Renault with its Megane-based Scenic. To challenge in this sector it has launched the Matrix, its most European-looking car yet. Designed by Pininfarina, the Matrix will be taking on the Scenic as well as the Citroen Xsara Picasso in a marketplace where the lifestyle image is very strong. The Matrix has been designed very much with European tastes in mind and offers a fresh, versatile cabin and chunky exterior styling.
Although Hyundai is targeting the Scenic and Picasso, the Matrix is smaller than both vehicles and won't be able to offer the same amount of interior space. However, as well as the usual split/folding rear seat, the seats also slide forwards to either increase bootspace or slide backwards to allow for greater legroom for rear passengers.
Up front, the cabin uses high quality plastics and metal trimmings to help the Matrix keep its youthful appeal. With a high seating position visibility all round is good and the view ahead is kept clear because the instrument binnacle is mounted in the centre of the dashboard.
On the road, the Matrix doesn't disappoint either, with a choice of either a 1.6 or 1.8-litre petrol engine. I sampled the 1.8 version and found it a lively unit which easily kept pace with Seoul's rush hour traffic and reached a comfortable 85mph. Pricewise, Hyundai is predicting the range will start at about £11,000 for a 1.6, undercutting the entry-level Scenic 1.4 by £1,400 and the Picasso 1.6 by £1,700.
PERHAPS Hyundai's best car so far in terms of design, build and practicality. The Matrix offers buyers a cheaper gateway to the world of compact-MPV motoring.