2014 HYUNDAI IX35 REVIEW
What’s Hot: Suspension dramatically improved, wonderful diesel.
What’s Not: Base 2.0 petrol feels sluggish, still too many hard plastics
X-FACTOR: At last, the ix35’s has a suspension that does the rest of the package justice.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $26,990 to $40,490
122kW/205Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl | 6sp manual/6sp auto
136kW/240Nm 2.4 petrol 4cyl | 6sp auto|
135kW/392Nm 2.0 diesel 4 cyl | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed:
8.2l/100km (2.0 petrol manual)
9.8 l/100km (2.4 petrol auto)
7.2 l/100km (2.0 diesel auto)
If there’s one thing that Hyundai does well, it’s respond to the market.
After a negative response to the i45 sedan’s suspension tuning following its launch, the Korean automaker’s local arm rushed to rectify the problem by retrofitting retuned rear suspension hardware.
That exercise demonstrated that the brand was willing to listen and change its products for the better.
Now, here we have the (not so) new and improved Hyundai ix35 range of small SUVs.
Cosmetic differences are limited to silver-painted roof rails for the ix35 Elite and Highlander, daytime LED running lights, new wheel designs and a mildly revised interior, but the biggest and best changes are underneath.
Hyundai has gone through the ix35’s suspension with a fine-toothed comb, changing damper settings, swapping roll-bars and fiddling with spring rates to dial out the super-stiff ride of the previous model.
It’s all part of Hyundai’s growing localisation programme, and in the ix35’s case it has worked rather well. We travelled to ever-sunny Noosa to test it out.
Keener eyes will pick up the soft-touch plastic panel on the passenger side dashboard and the dark silver-painted trim around the air vents, not to mention the soft vinyl surfaces on the front and rear door cards.
There’s also reshaped front cupholders and a two-position reclining backrest for the second row bench seat.
These changes aside, it’s largely the same ix35 interior and that means the same shortcomings carry over too - like poor outward visibility for kids in the back seat, no rear air-outlets, no shopping bag hooks in the boot.
It also feels overwhelmingly plasticky.
We know it’s priced at the lower end of the market, but compared to some other Hyundai product (such as the i30), the ix35 has a feeling of cheapness inside.
ON THE ROAD
The most substantial improvements are under the skin.
The previous ix35 was inexcusably stiff, and even on smooth roads it jiggled and bucked over minor bumps.
But that’s all been banished by Hyundai’s local engineering team.
The rear subframe now has shock-absorbing rubber bushings between it and the body to better insulate the cabin from suspension harshness, and virtually every component of the suspension has come in for changes.
The spring rates, damper tune and swaybars are entirely different, and though the springs and sways are taken from Hyundai’s global parts bin, the damper-valving is entirely unique to the Australian market.
The end result is a ride that’s much better suited to the poor road quality encountered both outside and within Australian cities. Body control is better too, and even though the ride is substantially softer it’s not overly ‘floaty’.
The ix35’s engines have also come in for some work.
The base engine is now a direct-injected 2.0 litre petrol four, boasting 8Nm more torque (but the same amount of power) than the previous-generation 122kW/197Nm port-injected 2.0.
Paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, its on-road performance is best described as “adequate”. With two passengers aboard it struggles up steep hills, and acceleration isn’t sparkling.
Next up is the 136kW/240Nm 2.4 litre direct-injected Theta II engine, which also replaces a port-injected motor. Compared to the old 2.4 it’s 6kW more powerful and 13Nm torquier, and it feels a great deal brisker than the 2.0.
The 2.4 is only available with a six-speed auto, but as with the 2.0’s auto this is a good gearbox that rarely puts a foot wrong. So much so that we never really found much need to use the wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
It’s also only available with an AWD drivetrain, which provides a more sure-footed feeling on loose surfaces like gravel.
While grip in the FWD ix35 was generally good on gravel, the AWD-equipped models behaved better under power, with better directional stability and traction.
But the best powertrain by far is the R-Series diesel. Producing 135kW and 392Nm from its 2.0 litres capacity, the R-Series turbo diesel deals with steep hills, heavier payloads and sudden demands for acceleration with much greater ease than the petrol engines.
There’s an initial moment of lag, but torque is exceptionally strong from 1900rpm. Having so much low-end torque also means the auto gearbox doesn’t need to shift as much, enhancing the diesel’s effortless and relaxed nature.
While power and torque outputs remain the same, efficiency improvements mean it now consumes less fuel.
Officially, Hyundai says it drinks 7.2 l/100km (0.3 l/100km lower than before). Our on-test result of 8.2 l/100km is appreciably close, but a more accurate real-world test figure will need to wait for a longer loan.
Downsides? Well, the diesel is the most expensive powertrain within each spec, and in the $35,990 ix35 SE trim (the cheapest diesel on offer) it’s $9000 more expensive than the base model ix35 Active 2.0 petrol. If you can spring the extra dough, it’s well worth it.
Another negative is the steering. The weighting is good (heavy, but not too heavy) and the faster rack-ratio means there’s less turns from lock-to-lock, but the steering feel is still not great, particularly on-centre.
It feels like you have to overcome a slight detent to turn the wheel either side of the twelve o’clock position, which feels unnatural if you’re used to the smoothness of a hydraulic system.
Okay, there’s one other issue: beside the $26,990 base model, prices have crept up by $500 across the board.
But, on balance, the extra value is there.
The improvements to ride and handling have transformed the ix35 into a car that will handle the majority of Aussie roads with aplomb, and the diesel engine has all the grunt you’ll ever need in a small SUV.
The interior still needs more refinement and fewer hard plastics, but it’s practical, big enough for a small family and quite well equipped.
Even with the previous model’s flawed suspension tune, the ix35 manages to absolutely dominate the small SUV segment.
With the improvements that have been made to the 2014 model, we don’t reckon it’ll be stepping down from its throne anytime soon - though the Nissan Dualis replacement, the Qashqai, may give it a run for its money when it arrives next year.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Active 2.0 petrol manual - $26,990
- Active 2.0 petrol auto - $29,190
- Special Edition 2.0 petrol auto - $30,990
- Special Edition 2.0 diesel auto - $35,990
- Elite FWD 2.0 petrol auto - $33,090
- Elite AWD 2.4 petrol auto - $35,490
- Elite AWD 2.0 diesel auto - $38,090
- Highlander AWD 2.4 petrol auto - $38,090
- Highlander AWD 2.0 diesel auto - $40,490