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Car reviews - Hyundai - ix35 - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

15 Feb 2010

HYUNDAI has pushed its representative in the busy compact SUV segment more upmarket with a dramatic new design, advanced powertrains, a new name and a price increase.

The Korean company has ditched the top-selling Tucson tag, which is still used in the US, in favour for the iPod-inspired European title, ix35, linking it with models such as the iMax, iLoad, i30 and upcoming i20.

It has also moved away from the more traditional SUV shape of the previous model, opting for a bolder design with more pronounced shoulders and lines, which is part of a new styling language Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture.

Prices have moved upstream too, and although the make-up of the range is different, increases of between $500 and $1500 are now payable.

The entry price for the new model is $26,990 – up from $25,490 for the equivalent front-drive Tucson City 2.0-litre manual, while the most affordable all-wheel drive ix35 costs $31,990 – $500 more than before.

The five-seater iX35 is new from the ground up, built on a body which comprises 68.9 per cent high-tensile steel for improved stiffness.

The ix35 runs Hyundai’s new Theta II four-cylinder petrol engines, in both 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre guises, as well as a diesel engine for the first time.

The base engine is again a 2.0-litre petrol four, this time weighing 10kg less and producing more performance, with peak power rising from 104 to 122kW and maximum torque moving up from 184Nm to 197Nm.

Available only in the entry-level front-wheel drive Active model, the 2.0-litre petrol engine employs a two-stage variable inlet manifold and features variable exhaust camshaft phasing.

A five-speed manual is standard fit, but a six-speed automatic transmission is now available as a $2000 option on the base engine - and standard on all other models. Replacing a four-speed automatic, the new transmission is a conventional torque converter-style automatic developed in-house by Hyundai engineers.

Hyundai says it is the smallest and lightest six-speed automatic in the world. The transmission is designed to be maintenance free, as there is no dipstick and the fluid is supposed to remain in the gearbox for the life of the vehicle.

A Theta II 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine replaces the ancient 2.7-litre V6 of the previous model. Hyundai says the new four matches the performance feel of the old six, but uses 16 per cent less fuel.

The new 2.4-litre four generates 130kW and 227Nm compared to the old 2.7-litre V6’s 129kW and 241Nm. It is available only with the all-wheel-drive Elite model and only with the six-speed automatic transmission.

Hyundai has also decided to offer a diesel iX35, making the new premium engine available in mid-range Elite and range-topping Highlander versions.

The R-Series 2.0-litre four-cylinder was developed by a team of 150 engineers with a budget of $227 million. It uses a Bosch common-rail system with 1800-bar of peak pressure and features an exhaust gas recirculation system as well as a traditional particulate filter.

The diesel generates peak power outputs of 135kW and 392Nm – the latter between just 1800 and 2500rpm - and is only available with AWD and the six-speed automatic transmission.

It is the fuel economy star of the ix35 range, with an ADR82/02 combined average of 7.5 litres per 100km.

Hyundai hired fuel economy gun Hans Tholstrup to showcase its economy, driving 1446km from Melbourne to Adelaide and back again while using just 70.23 litres of fuel, which works out to 4.85L/100km.

Both petrol-engined versions of the ix35 also use less fuel than the Tucson models they replace.

The 2.0-litre front-drive four has an official average of 8.5L/100km when fitted with either a manual or automatic transmission, while the 2.4-litre all-wheel drive version is the thirstiest of the range with an official average of 9.5L/100km, which is more than an entry-level Holden Commodore large car.

Hyundai has managed to actually reduce the kerb weight of the base model ix35 from 1539kg to 1470kg for the manual. The vehicle does get heavier moving up through the range though and the diesel version tips the scales at a much heftier 1706kg.

An on-demand AWD system for the 2.4-litre petrol and diesel models sends power only to the front wheels in normal driving conditions, but directs it rearwards when the system detects slip. The driver can also over-ride the system by locking it in AWD mode which distributes the power evenly between the front and rear axles.

Electronic stability/traction control and six airbags, including roof-mounted curtain airbags, are standard across the range, along with anti-skid ABS brakes and anti-whiplash active front head restraints.

Hyundai has also fitted a hill-hold feature to assist with hill starts, plus a hill descent control system, as standard.

The entry-level Active model comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels (including a full-size spare), an electric front driver’s seat, body-coloured wing mirrors with in-built indicators and CD sound with iPod connectivity, auxiliary-in, USB port and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Standard features for the Elite grade include 17-inch alloy wheels (including a full-size spare), leather/cloth combination seat trim, keyless entry and start, automatic headlights, roof rails, front foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and luggage net.

Stepping up to the Highlander R-Series adds 18-inch alloy wheels (including a full-size spare), a large sunroof, full leather trim, heated front seats, a rear-view camera, electric folding wing mirrors, dual-zone air-conditioning and a six-CD sound system with separate amplifier and sub-woofer.

Interestingly, the rear-view camera footage is displayed on an 8.5cm screen built into the rear-view mirror, which is also electro-chromatic, meaning it automatically dims the glare of headlights from other vehicles.

The ix35’s new interior features a four-spoke steering wheel and instrument cluster with central trip computer and blue backlight instruments, while metal-look highlights feature on the dashboard and steering wheel.

Hyundai has identified 19 storage areas in the ix35, including four cup-holders and four door-mounted bottle holders. All ix35 models come standard with a retractable rear cargo screen.

The ix35 has MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear-end. Going against the trend of each replacement model being larger than the last, however, the ix35 is smaller in many dimensions. The new model measures 4410mm from nose to tail (85mm less than the Tucson) and is 1655mm tall - 75mm lower than the Tucson. Yet the wheelbase has increased by 10mm to 2640mm.

While it might be available with AWD, the ix35 is likely to be less capable off-road than the Tucson because ground clearance is reduced by 16mm to 170mm.

The tow rating for AWD models is 1600kg with a braked trailer, while Hyundai is yet to confirm the tow rating of the manual model.

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