WHEN Irish eyes are smiling they are looking at the Hyundai i20, which has been voted Car of the Year on the Emerald Isle.
And the Irish know a good bargain when they clap eyes on it.
I tried a 1.2-litre version last spring and was very impressed, and I was even more impressed by its bigger brother 1.4 version.
All that was lacking in the smaller version was packed into the 1400, giving the family friendly five-door, five-seater better acceleration and driveability, greater composure and refinement.
The big range of models covers 1.1 and 1.4 diesel and 1.2 and 1.4 petrol engines with five, six-speed manual or automatic transmissions in six trim levels.
This five-door manual - an automatic is available for another £900 - really was a delight in town or country. Pick up was brisk, it strongly pulled through the gears and it settled to a near silent motorway pace.
Only road rumbles and occasional suspension noises intruded with other mechanical and wind noise all very low.
I liked the slightly higher driving position of the i20 and the sharp responses of steering and brakes to place the car easily, precisely and safely anywhere on the road or in a parking space.
Legroom is slightly tight in the back but those infront have a lot of room and the doors all open wide for easy passenger or goods access.
There's a high lip to the boot and the back seats don't fold completely flat so you have an edge at the front to help stop items sliding around in the loadspace.
The result is not a flat floor but a very useful space for safely carrying items and it held between the nominal 326 litres up to 1,042 litres.
Up front, the driver finds everything comes to hand and foot with good layout of controls and instruments.
Seat adjustment is plentiful and the shape is supporting and comfortable.
Climate control was straightforward and effective, the wipers and wash system did a good job and the lights were adequate but not exceptional.
Oddments space was good even if the compartments were on the small side for larger items.
The Hyundai i20 had a slight tendency to roll around corners as it's not a hot-hatch, so that can be expected, but its handling was entirely safe and predictable nevertheless.
With only a few exceptions it soaked up bumps easily if not quietly and overall the ride was good.
Hyundai has a very good city car in the shape of the i20 but it's also at home on country roads.