Hyundai ix35 review
by Mike Grundon (26 February 2010)
The power of the badge is important to car buyers. People like to flount a key-fob with a pouncing Jaguar on it, sport a cap with Audi's four rings across it, wear underpants bearing the Jeep monogram. However, every now and then a car comes along that transcends its badge and is just so bloody good that you'd be proud to be seen in it and part with your cash to own it despite the badge. Such a car is the new Hyundai ix35.
It's the car that's replacing the old Tucson but it's a completely new vehicle. That said, it is sharing a sizeable portion of its parts, and its platform with another Korean family SUV, the new Kia Sportage. The company says it's not in direct competition with the Sportage as they'll appeal to a different sort of customer – sporty Kiaphiles, family Hyundailovers.
Hyundai says the ix35 a flexible and spacious SUV with minimal thirst for fuel, maximum performance on the road and a price to rival standard, less well-specified mainstream road cars like the Focus and Astra. Just 'cause they say it don't make it so, but having now driven a couple of versions, I've fallen for the beast.
Let's just qualify that a bit. The ix35 comes in a string of versions including petrol and diesel engines, front- and four-wheel drive and two basic versions of the kit-list known as Style and Premium. My favourite has the two-litre diesel engine and four-wheel drive.
Let me explain. The petrol ix35 has a two-litre engine that pipes 161bhp and 143lb/ft of torque through the front wheels only. It gives you 37.7mpg of fuel economy, a 10.4 second sprint to 62mph and a top speed of 114mph top speed. It sounds sprightly enough but it pales into insignificance next to the two-litre diesel engine. This is a smooth and quiet unit that turns out a lesser 134bhp but a stonking 236lb/ft of torque which makes the car feel much more muscular out there in the world.
It'll turn in an official average fuel consumption of 51.4mpg in two-wheel-drive form, but the best news is that this engine does come with a four-wheel drive option. Despite having the extra weight, cogs and shafts to move about, the fuel consumption drops by less than two miles per gallon to an impressive 49.6mpg. Think about that. Almost 50mpg in a 4x4. More engines and gearboxes will be available in future but at the launch event there were two engines and two gearboxes - manual five or six gears.
My test drives began with the petrol front-wheel drive, five-gear Style. It's a good-looking car with its narrow lights set high on the shoulders of the wings, its wedge-shaped body, cockpit-style cabin and its squinting tail lights. It's got a smaller footprint than the Focus or Golf, but it looks bigger. Inside, the five seats are all comfortable – the driver gets height, reach and rake alteration. The steering wheel too is rake- and reach-adjustable.
Taking to the road, however, was a bit of a lurching experience. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong at first but it was difficult to pull away smoothly. Out on the go things smoothed down but it never felt like I had 161bhp under my right toe.
The diesel engine test car was a Premium. The engine is basically identical to the 2.2-litre turbo diesel powering today's larger Santa Fe SUV, only with smaller holes for the pistons. Right from the word go it was clearly a superior engine. It felt sprightly going up hill or down dale, the steering was perfectly weighted for solid control on the motorway or twist and snake on the B-roads.
Firm suspension virtually did away with any body roll. All six gears came and went smoothly and out on the dual carriageway the top cog proved it was much more than a mere overdrive for cutting fuel economy. In short, it was a nimble ducker and weaver that ate up the miles quickly whatever the road conditions were like.
There's only one reason why you should buy this car with two-wheel drive and that's because you just can't afford the extra £1000 for 4WD, but I promise you you'll rue the day. If you've shelled out £19,745 for the 2WD version you'll regret not going the extra-grand mile as soon as the first snow clouds gather on your horizon.
All ix35s are well-appointed. Even the Style model comes with things like air-conditioning, Bluetooth, a cooling glovebox, leather steering wheel and gearstick, hill holder brakes, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, reverse parking sensors and a music system for CD, MP3 and iPod. It even has heated seats in the front and rear.
The Premium model could therefore be described as like a nun on a Harley-Davidson – virgin on the excessive. There's lots of glass in the roof, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, automatic and heated wipers, keyless entry with push-button start, privacy glass and automatic headlights. The bag of extras pushes the price up by £1750 - I'd probably pocket the notes and settle for Style.
Hyundai's squint H badge doesn't yet carry much kudos, but the ix35 transcends that. You could look out at it in your driveway and smile. You could happily take your chums along a few gentle green lanes for a countryside picnic. In short, it's a grown-up car for grown-up people. It demands respect on the road, it invites respect on the drive.
Guilt-free motoring in a 4x4 is rare once the snow clears, but that's exactly what the ix35 is offering. And as for residual value, those masters of the black art of devination at CAP suggest the car should retain 43% of its initial price after three years, due in no small part I'm sure to the five-year unlimited-mileage warranty.