Car reviews - Hyundai - ix35 - 5-dr wagon range
Great diesel, excellent automatic, praticality, stand-out styling, full suite of safety gear
Room for improvement
Stiff suspension, cheap plastic surfaces, lack of alloy wheels on base model, price
15 Feb 2010
THE Hyundai ix35 is a boldly designed compact SUV that represents another step forward for the Hyundai brand.
This vehicle has a lot to like, including its dramatic styling and bold lines and a full suite of safety gear. It is a lot better than the Tucson it replaces
Still, some issues may put off some buyers. The biggest problem at launch is likely to be the price. A base front-drive ix35 is $26,990 (up $1500).
A Nissan Dualis, which is also front-wheel drive costs $26,990, but this is a drive-away deal, which means around $25,000 in comparative terms.
The Dualis has the same safety gear, Bluetooth connectivity and alloy wheels.
It is also a Nissan, a brand that has been around for a lot longer than Hyundai.
That said, the ix35 is the kind of car that could attract more people to the growing brand.
The base model will lure the most buyers, as 90 per cent of Tucson customers bought the front-drive entry car.
The entry level ix35 is the only one with the base 2.0-litre engine. While it is an improvement over the last, this powerplant still feels a bit under-done for the bulk of the car with just two people on board.
It does the job, but the driver has to get stuck into the accelerator to go at a reasonable pace.
We drove only the automatic, so we can't say how it goes with the manual. In the case of the Dualis, the manual version gets along just fine whereas the automatic struggles.
The Nissan's CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic is a weak point due to its noise.
Hyundai chose to go for a regular automatic and the six-speeder seems like a top notch gearbox.
It has to change a lot when teamed up to 2.0-litre, but this is not surprising given the small amount of torque available.
The 2.4-litre four-cylinder might only be 400cc larger but the difference is instantly noticeable.
It just doesn't have to work as hard and has a lot more urge lower down in the rev range.
The extra herbs means the automatic doesn't have to change as often.
There is absolutely no doubt this four-cylinder is a better engine than the ancient 2.7-litre V6 that lacked power and used a lot of fuel.
The last version we tested was the diesel and it earns its place at the top of the model tree.
It has a great supply of torque and gets the iX35 moving along nicely with little effort.
With all that pulling power up its sleeves, the diesel is the perfect match for the six-speed automatic transmission.
A quality common-rail turbo diesel and six-speed diesel was in the realm of the prestige car-makers just a few years ago, and this powertrain is impressive indeed.
The only problem is that the diesel is available only as a Highlander AWD with the automatic, which means $37,990.
That is a lot, no matter how you look at it.
While the engine and transmission can hold their own in this price range, some other parts of the car can't.
The interior quality and some elements of the design are a case in point.
Rock-hard plastics, including some plain surfaces and controls, really spoil the interior.
The sound system head unit is a design mess, mixing some piano black buttons with metallic-look buttons of a different design.
There is not much difference between the entry level model and Highlander interior, the only difference we noticed being the digital display for the climate control.
This screen is blue, as is the sound system display above it. Problem is, the two shades of blue don't match. It is a simple thing that should not have made it into production.
The seats could be a little more supportive in all three grades, but the cloth trim in the base model looks good and you don't get any impression of cheapness.
Of course, the cloth/leather and leather trim of the other models are nicer.
The steering wheel can be adjusted up and down but not for reach, putting limits on comfort.
The spacious ix35 has more than enough headroom and legroom for adult passengers in the back.
Boot space is also generous when you consider a full-sized spare wheel hides beneath the floor.
Hyundai has also designed several handy hidey holes to make the ix35 a lot easier to live with.
Many drivers are likely to appreciate features such as the iPod connectivity as well as the AUX and USB input and the steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
Road and tyre noise seem on par for its class.
Hyundai Australia’s input into the development of each model's suspension and steering appears to have brought general improvements.
The ix35's steering is well weighted and delivers good feel, but the suspension damping is just not quite right for Australia – clearly too firm for Australian roads, making the ix35 bop around over bumpy surfaces while transferring many road imperfections straight into the cabin.
The upside is that the ix35 feels well tied down and has little body roll.
Unfortunately, the flipside of the harsh ride is likely to cause more complaints from those in the other seats.
Most people will be more than happy with the front-drive model.
The all-wheel drive gives some assurance on the flat dirt roads we covered on the launch, but it's really does seem superfluous.
Interestingly, the AWD models now come with hill descent control and a hill-hold function which are great when you are doing some off-road driving.
Ironically, the ix35 has 16mm less ground clearance than the Tucson for a measly total of 170mm – equal to that of Suzuki's SX4 hatch.
You wouldn't want to take either off-road for fear of ripping bits off.
There is a reasonable amount of gear in the ix35 models, barring a few exceptions and it is great that a full suite of safety gear including ESC, six airbags and anti-whiplash front headrests is standard.
The ix35 marks another step forward from Hyundai and is an attractive and capable vehicle with the diesel Highlander and mid-spec 2.4 models providing the highlights if you can look past the poor plastic surfacing and a harsh ride.
New pricing means the Hyundai now has to compete with some established players including Nissan and that Dualis which is cheaper.
In our opinion the ix35 is better than the Tucson, but not the Dualis.
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