Hyundai has gone to great expense to bring its portfolio of vehicles into the big leagues. Once the purveyor of more basic cars, Hyundai vehicles are now known for their style, and luxury level kit. Competing against the likes of Toyota, Holden, and Honda takes deep pockets and a product that can get everyone’s attention. Hyundai definitely has deep pockets, so they’ve got the money to design and build a vehicle at nearly the same cost as a behemoth like Toyota. But will it be as good as a Toyota? Let’s find out.
The Hyundai ix35 is the compact 4x4 that replaced the rather mundane Tucson. Using the new Fluidic Sculpture design language, Hyundai’s California design studio came up with a striking mini crossover that’s as luxurious as it is nice to look at. Massive headlights flank the split Hyundai grille and flow into scalloped front fenders. Multiple creases break up the sides of the ix35, and the rear fenders dramatically protrude beneath the A-pillars. Every surface of this little cute ute seems to flow in one direction or another, giving it an exciting and upscale appearance.
The inside is no less dramatic. There’s a large curved soft-touch dash jettisoning from the windshield, with a central control pod in the middle, trimmed in metallic and piano black material. Between the two vertical air vents is a large blue backlit LCD screen to control the standard CD/iPod/Aux/USB audio system, and there’s even in-built audio controls on the stylized steering wheel. Add to that, the full glass roof, available on the top-spec Hyundai ix35 Highlander, and the little Hyundai’s cabin can be a very nice place to be.
Powering the Hyundai’s Urban Utility Vehicle is a 130kW direct-injected 2.4L petrol-4, or a 2.0L turbodiesel that makes 135kW and 392Nm of torque. Both engines are well suited to a vehicle of this type, but the CRDi makes the most economic sense with a fuel consumption rate of 8.5L/100km. Interestingly, this motor took 150 engineers and $227 million dollars to develop.
In 2013, tightening supply from Hyundai’s South Korean plant meant that Hyundai had to import European versions of the ix35 from HMC’s factory in the Czech Republic. Thanks to favourable exchange rates, the Hyundai ix35 SE slotted just above the base ‘Active’ model and included lots of new gear. There was a Euro-only front bumper with integrated fog lights and auto-on projector beam headlights. Other enhancements included power-folding side mirrors, darker tinting on the rear windows, 17-inch alloys, heated leather/vinyl seats and a chilled glove box.
The Hyundai ix35 is powered by either a 130kW 2.4L 4-cylinder, capable of 9.5L/100km, or a 2.0L common-rail diesel, capable of 8.5L/100km. All-wheel drive is available, and you can lock the centre differential to distribute power evenly between the front and rear axles. There’s also a hill-holding and hill descent feature, but with just 170mm of ground clearance, serious off-roading isn’t recommended.
The base Hyundai ix35 Active comes standard with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, stability control, traction control, anti-whiplash active headrests, and front, side, and side curtain air bags. On the luxury front, all versions of the ix35 get an electric driver’s seat, CD/iPod audio, side mirrors with in-built indicators, electric windows, and central locking. The Elite package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather/cloth seating, keyless entry and ignition, automatic HID headlights, fog lights, and roof rails.
Luxury-themed Highlander models get 18-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof, heated leather seats, a reversing camera (the camera footage is displayed in the rear view mirror), power folding side mirrors, dual zone climate control, and an up-rated stereo. Later versions came with an adjustable electric steering system, which allows the driver to adjust the weight of the steering by simply pressing a button.
The Hyundai ix35 competes against such stalwarts as the Subaru Forester, Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX5, Ford Kuga, and the mechanically similar Kia Sportage. Each of those small 4x4s offers their own unique style, but they’re all better suited for on-road use. The Subaru Forester offers the best combination of on and off road capability, but it can’t match the ix35’s luxurious amenities or penchant for style.