by Brad Leach - 18/05/10
In February, Hyundai was big news – the company displaced Ford to become our third best-selling automotive brand (behind only Toyota and Holden).
And SUVs are big business for Hyundai – more than one in every five Hyundais sold locally come from the company’s SUV lineup.
So success for the stylish all-new Hyundai ix35 compact SUV is crucial for Hyundai and early indications look very promising. As they should because the ix35 has a lot to offer – good looks, nice driving dynamics and sharp pricing.
Car Showroom has just put the mid-spec Hyundai ix35 Elite through our usual test routine. Our car was the 2.4-litre petrol six-speed auto, but you can also get the Elite model grade with Hyundai’s 2.0-litre R-Series turbo-diesel.
Unlike the entry-level Active model, which drives the front wheels, Elite versions are all-wheel-drive (AWD). It’s a full-time electric AWD system which detects changes in road surfaces and driving style and apportions varying amounts of driving force between front/ rear wheels.
Combine that handy four-wheel-drive capability with ix35’s modern exterior styling, nicely versatile interior with useful luggage space, high-standard build quality and Hyundai’s five year/unlimited kilometers warranty (private buyers)…it all adds up impressively.
Elite models also score some extra kit and the petrol auto we tested is priced at $31,990. The diesel engine adds an extra $3,000.
Hyundai’s sales achievements in Australia mirror its success in North America where the company was recently featured with a cover story in ‘Fortune’ magazine. The thrust of that story was that Hyundai’s recent achievements have substance – its success built on a platform of solid automotive engineering and production quality.
Development of the Theta II and R-series diesel engine families are perfect examples. Said to be the largest current engine development program anywhere in the world, Hyundai says its R&D investment in the diesel powerplant alone represents $227 million.
Our test car also featured the in-house six-speed automatic transmission with electronic sequential manual mode. Only Toyota and the GM/Ford joint venture can boast a proprietary six-speed auto (everyone out sources to specialist gearbox manufacturers like ZF).
The 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine propelled our ix35 Elite with maximum power of 130kW at 6000 rpm and peak torque of 227Nm at 4000 rpm. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 9.2l/100kms and the C02 emissions are 219g/km.
ix35 comes with a 55-litre fuel tank and the towing capacity is 1600kgs.
As the mid-spec model, the Elite’s interior is a noticeable step-up from the entry-level Active – starting with the proximity-sensing key and push-button start.
Also immediate standouts are the combination leather/cloth trim seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever. The four-spoke steering wheel contains well thought-out, simple push buttons for the audio and cruise control.
The drivers’ seat has six-way electric adjustment for a nice driving position and view of the conventional instrumentation with normal Hyundai blue backlighting. Elite models also get automatic dusk-sensing headlights.
Elite and Active models share the single CD in-dash six-speaker audio system with MP3, WMA, USB, iPod and auxiliary jack.
Out back, the luggage capacity is impressive – 2885l with the 60/40 split rear seat folded or 728l with the seat in place. Elite models score a cargo net.
We’re fans of the ix35’s looks. It comes from Hyundai’s Design Center Europe in Russelsheim, Germany and is clearly aimed at international markets (primarily North America and Europe).
The company says the aerodynamic shape is called ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ and the body exhibits a powerful double ‘Z’ form as it extends rearwards and wraps into the bumper. Concave sills and the steeply angled third side window accentuate the overall wedge-shape look.
A rear glass-mounted spoiler and high-mounted front and rear lights are contemporary.
Elite models gain chrome highlights for the hexagonal front grille and door handles plus 17-inch alloy wheels and roof rails.
During ix35’s development, prototype testing included a stint on Australian roads and this has paid dividends with excellent driving dynamics experienced over the variety of routes we normally use. As a result, we reckon the ix35 would also stack-up well in Europe and North America.
As usual with Hyundai, the ultra-competitive pricing does not mean any short-change in the safety/driver aids departments. There’s six airbags, active front head restraints, ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution), TCS (traction control system) and ESC (stability control), DBC (downhill brake control) and HAC (hill-start assist control).
Around town, the 10.58 metre turning circle was handy to maneuver into our city car park and our female drivers found the power steering nicely weighted.
Over our high-speed mountain roads route, Hyundai’s 2.4-litre petrol engine proved to be a handy performer and we must compliment its mid-range torque (which is sometimes lacking in four cylinder petrol SUVs).
Ride and handling were generally good with nice feedback from the steering. Melbourne’s tram and train track crossings were handled with the sort of aplomb you expect from European SUVs.
Maybe it’s the switch to alloy wheels or the larger engine, but we reckon the ix35 Elite transmitted a tad more tyre/mechanical noise to the interior than we recall from the 2.0-litre Active model we tested.
And we must again deduct points for the smallish front seats and restricted rear three quarter visibility when parking.
Hyundai and Kia are part of the same corporate conglomerate and when you combine the ix35 and the Kia Sorento, the inescapable conclusion is they’re producing some mighty fine SUVs these days. Of course sales in SUV-crazy North America are vital for their growth so this should not surprise.
The ix35 Elite is cleverly executed, has handy equipment levels, is nice to drive and sharply priced. For families and first-time SUV buyers it certainly ticks all the boxes and is sure to be another sales star for Hyundai this year.
Priced from $26,990 to $32,490, AWD versions of Nissan’s Dualis present well, but the 2.0-litre engine doesn’t match the ix35 for performance.
Mitsubishi’s Outlander has just been face lifted and is a handy performer, but it requires more coin than the ix35.
Similarly, the Ford Escape is more expensive and its 2.3-litre engine doesn’t match the ix35. You should also have a look at the Subaru Forester.
Great styling job; excellent value; nice driving dynamics
Front seats aren’t the best; sharp third side window restricts vision
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