Editor's note: The review below is of the top-of-the-rangeof the ix35, which features more equipment than the entry-level Active. The Highlander also comes equipped with a turbo-diesel engine and four-wheel drive, that aren't available on the Active. The score listed above is for the Highlander model.
The ix35 is the first car to emerge from Hyundai to show off the company's new "fluidic design" philosophy and judging from the ix35,and upcoming Elantra-replacement the company's on to a good thing. With its rounded shape, swooping roof, characteristic slashes and interesting details, the ix35 is the best-looking compact four-wheel drive.
On the aesthetics front the only complaint we have is of the garish chrome grille trim onand models, which seems to go against the grain of the rest of the car. Thankfully, light coloured ix35s, such as our review vehicle, camouflage this design oversight well.
The basecomes fitted with 17-inch steel wheels; 17-inch and 18-inch alloys, respectively, are standard on the higher-spec and variants. All models come equipped with rear fog lights, with the the only model to gain front fog lights.
Climb aboard the ix35 and it's clear that Hyundai's designers have upped the standard of their work here too. The dashboard is a pleasing combination of swooshes, pods and faux metal highlights. The neon blue interior lighting is funky, but it can be a bit trying on the eyes, even at its lowest intensity.
Although the cabin feels well made the plastics are hard. Only thegains full leather upholstery, but on our review car that had just over 10,000km on the clock, the driver's seat was already beginning to look sad and saggy. Driving comfort is hampered somewhat by the lack of steering wheel reach adjustment, seats that are rather too short and not particularly grippy, and head rests that are canted too far forward.
With its tall body the ix35 is commodious for passengers both in the front and the back. Vertical boot space is hampered by the sloping roof line though. Points lost there are regained by the cargo nets and the removable cargo blind. Cargo space can be boosted by the rear seats, which split 70/30, but don't quite fold completely flat.
For a good look look over, in and out of the ix35, see more than 30 images in our gallery.
Aside from thesix-disc in-dash CD stacker, the entertainment system is the same across all three ix35 grades. There are six speakers located around the cabin which, thanks to the wagon layout, sounds best from the rear seat. As the system does without a subwoofer, deep bassy music causes the speakers to reverberate. Overall, sound quality is decent, but not outstanding.
An auxiliary jack and USB port is a standard fixture on the ix35, although iPod/iPhone access requires the purchase of an extra cost dongle that contains both a USB and 3.5mm connector. iPhone connectivity on both iOS 3 and 4 is a bit flaky with the system sometimes refusing to recognise the phone — the do-it-yourself fix involves unplugging and plugging back in the combined USB and auxiliary dongle.
Navigating through vast digital music collection is a breeze, especially on iPods and iPhones, where the Tune dial allows for easy scrolling through huge lists. Picking the tunes from a USB stick or non-Apple MP3 player is easy too, although you do forgo the convenience of songs, artists, albums and playlists for plain folder and file navigation.
The steering wheel audio controls are handy, but Bluetooth hands-free has been omitted from Australia-bound ix35s for technical reasons; it should be available from September. Another omission that won't be rectified quite so soon is the lack of a factory sat nav option.
Although desirable designs are now the order of the day, Hyundai hasn't forgotten its value-for-money roots. On the safety front, all ix35s come equipped with ABS, brake force distribution, six airbags, and stability and traction control.
Rear fog lights, hill start assistance, hill descent control, electric windows, heated wing mirrors, cruise control and air-conditioning are standard inclusions on the.
In our accessory heavy age, it's nice that Hyundai's included three 12V outlets in the ix35's cabin. There are two in the dashboard, where one is masquerading as a cigarette lighter, and one in the boot.
The mid-rangemodel gains 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, automatic headlights, four-wheel drive, leather steering and gear knob, extendible sun visors, chromed exterior fixtures, keyless entry and start, and roof rails.
While the range-toppingmodel adds 18-inch alloys, reversing camera with a display in the rear-view mirror, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, electric adjustment for the driver's seat, folding wing mirrors and a panorama sunroof.
On the road
Depending on your budget and choice of trim level, the ix35 is specified with a different array of engine, transmission and drive choices.
|Engine||2-litre petrol||2.4-litre petrol||2-litre turbo-diesel||2-litre turbo-diesel|
|Transmission||5-speed manual or 6-speed auto||6-speed auto||6-speed auto||6-speed auto|
|Driven wheels||Front wheels||All wheels||All wheels||All wheels|
|Fuel economy (L/100km)|
|CO2 output (g/km)||201||219||198||198|
In normal conditions the ix35's four-wheel drive system directs all of its power to the front wheels. Only when those wheels begin to lose grip does it send power to the rear wheels. For light off-road work, the system can be forced to channel power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels. Helping out further is hill descent control that regulates the car's speed as you head down steep, rocky inclines.
On tarmac, our diesel and automatic-onlyhad a firm ride that thankfully didn't stray into the realm of harsh and crashy — that's thanks, in part, to its 18-inch wheels. Body roll was generally well controlled, but the ix35 clearly isn't a fan of changing directions quickly. The six-speed automatic is suitably refined, but the "sequential" gear selection gate doesn't give you full manual control as it only allows you to choose the maximum gear.
By far the biggest blemish on the ix35's handling copy book is its overly light steering. It not only feels disconnected from the tyres, but lends the car a tipsier feeling than is true.
The turbo-diesel packs a392Nm of torque between 1800 and 2500rpm, so heavy-footed drivers may lurch around a bit. In terms of refinement, the 2.4-litre engine is rattle free unless the windows are down or the engine is cold. What little tell-tale diesel remain can be drowned out with a bit of light music.
In the city we averaged fuel consumption of 11L/100km and even with a light foot we could only bring down our car's drinking to 10.7L/100km. Out on the freeway though the ix35 managed a much more miserly 6.4L/100km.
The age of good looking, desirable Hyundais is upon us. Shame then that a few faults (like the lighter-than-air steering, saggy leather and missing Bluetooth) stop the ix35 from vying for dux of the class.