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.
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.