REVIEW DATE: 22 Jan 2010
The ix35 4x4 displays the adventitious styling that could be the missing piece in the Hyundai jigsaw. Steve Walker takes a look.
When Hyundai launched its Tuscon in 2004, you could count its direct rivals on the fingers of two hands. Back then, the market for compact 4x4 vehicles hadn't yet gone supernova and buyers interested in this type of vehicle had a comparatively easy task deciding which model to plump for.
Hop in your Tardis and fast forward to 2009, the year that the Tuscon's replacement, the Hyundai ix35 was unveiled. Suddenly, sock removal is essential for anyone attempting to assign a digit to all the various compact 4x4 contenders. If you include the growing cluster of crossover models that split the difference between 4x4 and family hatchback, you'd need another pair of hands altogether. To stand out in this crowded marketplace, the ix35 will need to be special.
Hyundai is confident that this car is special and that its own longstanding presence in the UK market for off-road vehicles will give it an edge over companies that have leapt aboard the bandwagon more recently. It's also hoping that the ix35 can straddle the split that is emerging in the compact 4x4 market sector between conventional 4x4 vehicles and the crossover models which are biased more towards road use.
The likes of Nissan's Qashqai, Peugeot's 3008 and Toyota's Urban Cruiser have been successful in marrying car-like performance on the road with chunky 4x4 design. They're a little smaller and quite different in character to traditional compact 4x4s like the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi's Outlander and the Nissan X-Trail. With the ix35, Hyundai is looking to pilfer market share from both areas of the compact 4x4 sector.
"As Hyundai's representative in this increasingly influential sector, the ix35 has a lot riding on it"
Not all ix35 models will be four-wheel-drive. As has increasingly become the case with crossovers and compact 4x4s designed mainly for road use, the entry-level ix35s will be front-wheel-drive only. This means the extra traction to help you out in slippery conditions is lost but all ix35s still have the extended ground clearance to stop them coming to grief on speed humps and high kerbs. The 2WD versions also bring fuel efficiency benefits.
Of course, if you feel like a bit of a fraud driving a front-wheel-drive 4x4, the more expensive ix35 versions will deliver the goods. Features such as Downhill Brake Control (which stops the vehicle running away with you when heading down steep gradients) and Hill-Start Assist Control (which ensures a smooth getaway when driving back up), will help should you decide to venture off the Queen's highway.
The latest crop of Hyundai products have elevated the brand into serious contention at the top of some of the European market's biggest sectors. If you had to criticise models like the i10, i20 and i30, however, it would be on grounds of their somewhat formulaic styling. A bit of visual drama could propel Hyundai to the next level and the ix35 suggests that things are moving in the right direction. It's the most adventurously styled Hyundai we've seen for a long while with its aggressive nose and sharply contoured flanks. The curves mask the chunky 4x4 dimensions very effectively and help give the car its alert stance on the road. From the front, there's definite scope for mistaking the ix35 for Ford's handsome Kuga.
The size of the ix35 places it in the middle of the compact 4x4 class. It's around 10cm longer than a Nissan Qashqai but smaller than the larger compact 4x4s like the Honda CR-V and Chevrolet's Capitva. It retains the elevated ride height whether customers choose two or four driven wheels, so getting in and out should be straightforward as should loading. Decent head and legroom in the back make this a bona fide family car and the build is as sturdy as recent Hyundai efforts have led us to expect.
The engine range available on the ix35 is usefully diverse. A pair of 2.0-litre units, one petrol and one diesel head up the range but Hyundai has big hopes for smaller engines it's offering with the car. A 1.6-litre petrol unit and a 1.7-litre diesel look set to be big sellers thanks to low running costs and affordable up-front pricing.
Equipment levels are strong, particularly in plush Premium trim which gets you keyless entry, automatic headlamps, electric folding mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, heated leather seats and a panoramic sunroof. Hyundai will also be hoping to make more capital out of its five-year warranty package which is superior to those offered by almost all of the ix35's competitors.
The 2WD models will bring efficiency savings over the 4x4 ix35 models and the two smaller engines in particular look to be solid performers with regard to running costs. Emissions of 149g/km for the 1.6-litre petrol model and 139g/km for the 1.7-litre diesel are good going for a compact 4x4. Part of the credit for the parsimony of the ix35 can be laid at the door of Hyundai's ISG Idle Stop and Go technology that turns off the vehicle's engine when it's standing still to save fuel.
The market for compact 4x4 vehicles has certainly undergone some changes over recent years, the biggest single factor being the huge increase in the number of different models that are vying for the attention of consumers. As Hyundai's representative in this increasingly influential sector, the ix35 has a lot riding on it and it looks to be yet another mid-sized 4x4 that's worthy of consideration.
By positioning the car in the gap between road-biased crossover 4x4s and the traditional compact off-roaders, Hyundai is hoping to maximise the appeal of the ix35. It's roomy and practical enough to fill the family car role and has the dramatic looks to stand out, even in this crowded marketplace. In the end, it's the competitive pricing and long warranty which are likely to play the biggest role in convincing would-be buyers to take the plunge.
The results below show the top IX35 deals on buyacar
|Hyundai IX35 2.0 CRDi Premium 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £20,256||Save £3,719|
|Hyundai IX35 1.7 CRDi Premium 5dr 2WD diesel estate|
|Price £17,470||Save £3,305|
|Hyundai IX35 1.7 CRDi Premium 5dr [Ind/Media Pack] 2WD diesel estate|
|Price £19,677||Save £3,618|
|Hyundai IX35 2.0 CRDi Premium 5dr [Ind/Media Pack] Auto diesel estate|
|Price £23,639||Save £4,316|
|Hyundai IX35 2.0 CRDi Premium 5dr [Ind/Media Pack] diesel estate|
|Price £22,368||Save £4,127|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT IX35 DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.0 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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