So what’s new about the Hyundai ix35? Well, pretty much everything, including the name. The ix35 is an all-new model for the Korean carmaker and is set to replace the popular Tucson here, in the NZ market. The ix35 is a sheet-metal representation of Hyundai’s bold charge from bare-bones carmaker to a builder of stylish and desirable product. But even for an in-form Hyundai the compact soft roader market segment is hard fought by established competitors like Toyota’s Rav4 and the Honda CR-V. The ix35 has got the fresh-faced looks to get into the ring, but does it have the ability to come out on top. Car and SUV tag-teamed with the new ix35 CRDi Elite to test its metal and its mettle.
Penned at Hyundai’s European Design Centre in Germany the ix35 has a distinctive Euro flair to its aesthetic. Using Hyundai’s new ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language the ix35 is busy with dramatic crease lines and multi-sided shapes. Up front an aggressive grille, raked windscreen and pumped up bonnet signal dynamic intent. Swollen wheel arches and an ascending belt line dominate the profile view and out back wrap around jewel-stone tail lights and a roof spoiler finish the modern look. The Elite tested model is given added appeal by chrome work on the front grille and door handles with 18-inch 5-spoke alloys filling the guards. Overall it’s a curvaceous modern looking vehicle which will appeal nicely to image conscious buyers, it also isn’t overtly feminised — a potential hazard within the class.
Keyless entry allows access to the ix35 cabin, where the exterior design principals transfer through with a shapely dashboard showcasing well laid out switchgear. The centre console catches the eye with air vents and control buttons surrounding two backlit screens — one for audio and the other for climate information. Build quality is solid but some of the hard black plastics and silver trim have a budget look and aren’t especially tactile. Under the smart design lays a firm focus on practicality with plenty of small storage, sun visor extensions and steering wheel mounted cruise and audio controls. When it comes to standard equipment the ix35 Elite punches above its weight with goodies like a 7-speaker CD stereo with subwoofer and full iPod integration, rear view camera, trip computer, alarm, hill start assist, and 6-way electric seats.
Interior space is very good with back seat occupants well catered for headroom with legroom only confined for taller passengers. The leather upholstery is top-notch in the Elite model with well-bolstered heated front seats and a supportive 60:40 split rear pew. Visibility is fairly good in the high-riding ix35 but the reclined A-pillar can create a small blind spot for the driver and the high belt line may restrict the side view for children in the back. What isn’t restricted is boot capacity which is a handy 729-litres that can be expanded to 1353 litres by folding the rear seats (almost) flat.
So the ix35 talks the talk, but can it walk the walk? You bet, with Hyundai’s 2.0-litre R-series diesel engine under the bonnet it always wants to go. Producing 135kW of power and a staggering 392Nm of torque the turbocharged motor moves the soft-roader at a surprisingly express pace. The engine is gutsy from around 1800rpm with enough low-range torque to light up the tyres in the wet. It’s a handy level of acceleration that works as well off the mark as it does passing on the open road (80—120kph). Complimenting the punchy power plant is a six-speed auto transmission, it’s busy but unobtrusive and a dab hand at drawing out all the power on offer. If manual changes are desired a sequential shift option is available through the gearstick. Fuel economy is excellent considering the available power with the ix35 returning 7.5l/100km on the combined cycle.
On road, the ix35 has a taut firm feel to its suspension set up but only harsh dips and bumps in the road will be unsettling for passengers. During cornering the ix35 sits fairly flat with minimal body roll but the steering can feel light and uncommunicative. Grip is generally good and if the AWD system detects a loss of traction it will quickly send torque to the rear wheels. While you couldn’t describe it as a sporty drive, with the strong diesel engine and competent handling the ix35 is a quick point-to-point vehicle. Urban manoeuvrability is a mixed bag and while the light steering and 10.58m turning circle are both handy round town, the wide D-pillars and narrow rear windscreen can make parking challenging even with the rear camera.
While the ix35 can’t compete with more serious off road machinery the AWD system has a 50:50 torque lock button for tougher terrain. This combined with a 170mm ground clearance means steep gravel driveways and muddy sports fields should be easily negotiated.
So what’s the verdict on Hyundai’s new ix35?
It’s got all the skills to be competitive in the crossover market, its styling is chiselled like Bruce Lee and the R-Series diesel engine packs the punch to match. It offers good interior space for it’s compact size and has a lengthy equipment list as standard. The ix35 represents itself well on open roads and although visibility isn’t great it is still easily manoeuvred around town. If you’re looking for a crossover vehicle and want to try a new flavour then check out the ix35, it’s sure to please most tastes.
Price: From $39,990, tested model $53,990
What we like:
- Powerful diesel engine
- Sharp modern styling
- Lots of equipment
What we don’t like:
- Styling has compromised some visibility
- Vague steering
- Mixed quality interior plastics
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Click on the gallery below for larger images.
Related Road Tests (click on link to read):
Hyundai ix35 CRDi Elite (2010) – Specifications
POWER 135 kW / 4,000 rpm
TORQUE 392 Nm / 1,800~2,500 rpm
Length 4,410 mm
Width 1,820 mm
Height 1,655 mm
Towing Capacity Braked 1,600 kg
Towing Capacity Unbraked 750 kg
Min. Turning Radius 5.4 m
Kerb Weight (lightest / heaviest) 1.636 / 1,706 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity 55 l
Boot Capacity (SAE) 729 l
Fuel Consumption Combined 7.5 l / 100km
Fuel Emissions 198 g / km