HYUNDAI ix35 REVIEW
THE ALL-NEW Hyundai ix35 replaces the outgoing Tuscon model in the compact SUV market.
It brings with it a new design philosophy, edgy looks and upgrades to the drive-train, most notably in the form of the new Theta-II 2.0 litre engine and also an updated six-speed automatic transmission.
Like the Tuscon, the ix35 also offers a base model, front-wheel-drive-only variant – the ix35 Active, which is the focus of this review.
What’s the appeal?
Hyundai has targeted young professionals looking to purchasing their first new car with the ix35 - buyers looking for more than just transport, something with personality and individual style.
And the new ix35 Active certainly does not suffer a lack of personality. Penned by Hyundai’s European Design Centre, the ix35 is both stylish and eye-catching - certainly one of the sharper looking compact SUVs.
The profile of the car features swooping design cues with an aggressive front end. A healthy mix of sporty looks with style, the ix35 Active would look equally at home parked on a sun-drenched beach or at an innercity nightspot.
Looks can only go so far however – Hyundai also has young families looking for affordability and practicality in its sights.
The ix35 Active is an attractive price proposition offering good interior and cargo space, a nice high driving position and light controls but without the extra cost (and weight) of a dedicated 4WD system.
What features does it have?
For in-car entertainment, the ix35 Active offers a MP3 compatible CD stereo with auxiliary and USB input.
A six-speaker sound system ensures music is distributed around the spacious interior. iPod compatibility is offered through an optional iPod cable that jacks into the stereo seamlessly.
There is one minor shortcoming with this. It was noted that the iPod/USB cable port is located in the centre console, leaving the MP3 player in plain sight which adds the hassle of unplugging and removing the device each time the car is parked for fear of theft.
Externally, heated side mirrors, rear mud flaps and rear fog lights are standard equipment. The Active also features 17” steel wheels and a body-coloured front grille.
To round out the equipment list, keyless entry, cruise control, power windows and a trip computer that can also display average speed and fuel consumption come as standard fit..
What's under the bonnet?
Unlike higher-spec models of the ix35, the Active is only offered with front-wheel-drive and is equipped with the four cylinder 2.0 litre Theta-II engine producing 122kW. Torque is a reasonable enough 197 Nm @ 4600rpm.
A choice of two transmissions is available: a traditional five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with sequential manual mode.
Front suspension utilises a MacPherson strut set-up; multi-links for the rear. Hyundai Australia has also had input in the tuning of the suspension to better suit Australian roads.
How does it drive?
Start the petrol engine of the ix35 Active and it hums to life silently. But push it past 4000rpm as you get underway, and the engine volume rises dramatically, enough to intrude well into the cabin.
There are no such problems however at highway speed. On the road, the ix35 Active performs well for noise and vibration – it is clear that this is one area Hyundai has worked hard on to improve.
When out on the road (especially when overtaking), it becomes apparent that the ix35’s 1485kg frame is only adequately powered by its 122kw 2.0 litre engine.
It struggles a little with an extra load on and feels lifeless under the toe, especially when in the higher gears of the six-speed auto.
A quick flick to manual mode to change to a lower gear will alleviate things (but bring with it some intrusive engine noise as revs rise).
Around town, you don't notice any such shortcomings: off the mark it takes off about as briskly as a standard hatchback, providing enough power to get ahead of traffic when in need of some haste.
The steering of the ix35 Active is light and the car is quite nimble navigating at low speeds through urban roadways. As speed rises however - around the 80km/h mark - the steering becomes somewhat heavy and numb to input.
We feel it could do with a little more power steering assist (Hyundai has utilised an electric power steering system) at these mid-speeds.
Despite the Australian input, we also feel the ix35 Active’s 'firmish' suspension has not paid off; even small imperfections on the road are transmitted into the cabin (and passengers notice them).
Unfortunately, the trade-off - trading comfort for handling performance - does not mean a better handling car. While the handling is fine for most urban and highway use, putting it through a series of turns exposes a few shortcomings.
While few compact SUVs offer the handling dynamics of a similarly-sized hatch, the ix35 does not feel as well connected to the road as, say, the Dualis. You simply need to be aware of it, you can't poke it through curves like a sportscar.
While visibility ahead and to the sides is good thanks to that higher driving position, it's not so good to the rear.
Thanks to a thick D-pillar and also the small, high rear window, it was quite an exercise to perform change lanes, requiring double checks of blind spots to make sure the adjacent lanes were clear of traffic.
It also makes the ix35 Active a little difficult to manoeuvre when reversing. Dealer fitted reverse parking sensors are a must-have.
On the plus side, the ix35 has a tight turning circle at 10.58 metres, making parking that little bit easier.
So, for the drive, the ix35 is a mixed bag. There are better-handling compact SUVs, but, for most, you will pay a lot more for them.
What did our passengers think?
Passengers of the ix35 Active were impressed with the good legroom and headroom afforded by the high ceiling of the cabin.
The seats, covered in a utilitarian all-cloth material also drew praise - although not flashy, they provide good support and comfort even on extended drives.
One complaint was that due to the large interior space and lack of air-conditioning vents in the rear, the ix35 Active takes some time to cool down the interior of the vehicle.
On one aspect of the ix35 Active, form takes precedent over function. The ix35’s beltline rises significantly from front to rear, resulting in the rear windows being smaller and positioned higher than those of other compact SUVs.
This can mean that small children in the rear seats may have a little difficulty seeing outside (something for a young family to consider).
Interior quality and feel
Stepping into the cabin, there is no mistaking the modern European design philosophy of the ix35 Active. The interior is very smart looking. The center console is what catches the eye immediately, positioned at a downwards slope, it showcases the bright blue backlight display of the stereo.
Looks aside, there is evidence that the ix35 Active is still built to a budget - below the facade of stylish European design lies an interior dominated by hard, scratch-prone plastics that although nice to look at, lack tactile appeal.
This is most evident with the plastic feel of the steering wheel on the Active model.
To Hyundai’s credit though, the interior of the ix35 seems very solidly built; having no creaks or large panel gaps and all doors (rear hatch included) closed solidly without rattles.
Hyundai has not let the edgy styling of the ix35 get in the way of practicality in cargo space.
Behind the eye-catching interior design lie a variety of cubbies and storage compartments.
And to carry big loads, the ix35 offers a flat-floored boot space that measures 591 litres with the rear seats in place, and 1436 litres with the rear seats folded down (although the rear seats do not fold completely level with the rear boot floor).
How safe is it?
Safety wise, the ix35 Active features as standard: ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution, electronic stability and traction control, downhill brake control and hill-start assist, which minimises rollback when taking off from an incline.
The Active is equipped with a total of six airbags - drivers and front passenger, dual-side fronts, and roof mounted side curtain airbags that are deployed from front to rear.
For the back seat passengers, all three seating positions utilise three-point retractable seatbelts and all have child-seat anchor points.
Young families looking at purchasing the ix35 Active will be also pleased to know that the rear seats are fitted with ISOFIX anchorage points for mounting child-seats.
Fuel Consumption and Green Rating
As per the ADR81/02 standards, the ix35 Active’s advertised fuel economy is split into urban, extra-urban (i.e. highway) and a combined figure.
The ix35 Active’s 2.0L Theta-II engine has a claimed combined fuel economy rating of 8.5 l/100km, an urban rating of 11.4 l/100km and an extra-urban rating of 6.8 l/100km. CO2 emissions for the Active are rated at 201g/km.
Most of our testing was in urban driving with stint of some harder-working highway 'kliks'; we recorded an average fuel economy of 11.1 l/100km, comparing reasonably well to the claimed figure.
How does it compare?
The venerable Toyota RAV4 is the ix35’s most obvious competitor.
Seen as the original soft-road SUV, the latest iteration of the RAV4 is dearer than the ix35 for equivalent models - the base model CV 2WD at $31,990rrp offers similar specifications to the ix35 Active at $28,990rrp.
Both are front-wheel-drive, but even though the ix35 gives up 400cc to the RAV4’s 2.4 litres, the ix35’s 2.0L Theta-II engine is only a little less powerful (122kW versus 125kW) but more fuel efficient (8.5 l/100km vs. 9.1 l/100km).
When the ix35 Active is compared to the Nissan Dualis, the Nissan offers a cheaper price-tag. The automatic, front-wheel-drive ST variant of the Dualis is priced at $27,490.
Both the Dualis and ix35 share edgy styling so once again, on paper, it's the ix35’s 2.0 litre engine separating the two. The Dualis is also equipped with a frugal (8.2 l/100km) 2.0 litre engine, but it only produces 102kW compared to the ix35 Active’s 122kW.
The Dualis does have a slight edge in its features, as it is equipped with some lacking in the ix35 Active, namely Bluetooth stereo, alloy wheels and a cooled glove-compartment. The Dualis also holds an advantage for handling and on-road composure.
Of course, the compact SUV market is alive with competitors. Dollar for dollar however, the value-packed ix35 offers a lot of car for less than most of its logical competitors.
Is it expensive to maintain?
After the first 1000km/four weeks of ownership, Hyundai offers a free check-up service. Thereafter, compulsory servicing intervals are scheduled at every 15,000kms (or 12 months), with recommended service intervals of 7500km.
The 15,000km service costs approximately $160, while the 30,000km service is roughly $230. The 45,000km service is around $350 while the 60,000km costs roughly $290. The 90,000km service involves a gearbox oil and spark plug change, and comes in between $550 and $610.
For all models of the ix35, Hyundai offer a five year unlimited kilometre factory warranty.
The ix35 range comes with a variety of metallic colours – Vanilla White, Sleek Silver, Grey Titanium, Phantom Black, Blue Ice (light blue), Eco Green, Blue Ocean (dark blue) and Remington Red.
Recommended retail price for the base model ix35 Active with a manual gearbox is $26,990. Add $2000 for the automatic option.
Other options mentioned in this review – the iPod connector cable ($70) and reverse parking sensors ($695).
The ix35 Active is arguably the most stylish compact SUV in its segment.
Hyundai’s foray into European styling has reaped rewards – the ix35 is pleasing to look at both inside and out, and even the mass of hard plastic that make up the interior does little to detract from a car that is nice to occupy both as a driver or as a passenger.
The main drawback for the ix35 Active model pertains mainly to its engine. The 2.0 litre Theta-II fares well enough when compared to its rivals but pales in comparison to the R-series turbo-diesel found in the ix35 Elite model.
There are other issues with the ix35’s drivability; handling, ride comfort and vision could all be improved. However, these drawbacks need to be considered in the context of the ix35 Active's price point – nearly all of its competitors are more expensive for similar feature sets.
In the end, the ix35 Active is worthy of consideration, though I'd also recommend a test drive of the diesel powered ix35 Elite - the turbo diesel is just that much better than the 2.0 litre petrol in the Active, and well worth the extra spend.