2010 Hyundai ix35 First Drive Review Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Feb, 12 2010 | 22 Comments

HYUNDAI AUSTRALIA has launched the all-new 2010 Hyundai ix35 in Australia the first of three new models that the Korean carmaker will bring into the country this year.

Inspired by the ix-onic concept revealed at Geneva in 2009, the ix35 is available in three trim levels - Active, Elite and the range-topping Highlander - along with a choice of two petrol engines and the new R-series diesel.

Although retail pricing is higher than that of the outgoing Tucson, the ix35 brings with it a bold new design, a new interior and greater refinement. With the Tucson consistently one of the highest-selling models for the Korean brand in Australia, Hyundai hopes the ix35 will build even further on its predecessor's salesroom success.



Designed in Germany, the new ix35 continues Hyundai's new 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language.

As with its siblings in the new Hyundai line-up, the ix35 is a completely clean-state design, its styling as far from its predecessor as can be imagined.

Hyundai describes the ix35 as an 'urban cruiser', designed to be compact and agile for life in the city.


The ix-onic concept's hexagonal grille has transitioned to the production ix35 virtually unchanged, which Hyundai says will act as a defining look among its future models.

On the entry-level Active, the grille is body-coloured, while the Elite and Highlander models get chrome highlights on the grille and door handles alike.

Swept back headlights stretch up along the edge of the bonnet, with the heavily raked A-pillar adding to the ix35's sporting appearance.

The sports look continues through the body of the compact SUV, with sharply defined rear quarter windows, sweeping rear lamps, an oversized rear bumper and a sloping tailgate.

The Elite model gets 17-inch alloy rims, and the Highlander rides on 18-inch examples.




Inside, the ix35 is characterised by metallic highlights throughout the interior.

On all model variants, the four-spoke steering wheel features controls for audio and cruise control. As with the larger Santa Fe and other newer Hyundai models, the ix35's instrument cluster is lit in a cool blue.

The Elite and Highlander models feature a push button start function.

Across the ix35 range, the driver's seat offers six-way electric adjustment and electric lumbar support. Cushioning is firm but supportive, and the high seating position affords the driver a good view of the road around them.

The second seating row gets a centre armrest with cup holders, and intrusiong from the centre transmission tunnel is minimal.


All three trim ix35 models feature their own trim levels.

The Active gets black woven cloth upholstery, the Elite comes with black part leather/woven cloth, and the range-topping Highlander features full black leather.

Storage spaces are plentiful in the ix35, including the usual console storage tray, glove box, door bins on all four doors and overhead sunglasses storage. With the rear seats up 591 litres of cargo can be stored in the ix35's boot, expanding to 1436 litres with the rear seats folded down.

There are some compromises, however. The steering wheel only adjusts for rake, not reach, and the ix35's rising beltline results in poor outward visibility for children seated in the rear. Rear seat legroom is generous at least, and two adults are easily accommodated by the rear bench.

ISOFIX child seat anchorages are fitted to each rear seat position, along with the usual top tether anchorages.


Equipment and Features

Active and Elite models both get air conditioning, while the Highlander model is equipped with dual-zone climate control with a cluster ionizer that improves air quality in the cabin.

A panoramic glass roof features on the Highlander model, with an adjustable roll blind for ensuring 100 percent light blocking when necessary. While the rear glass cannot be opened, the front glass opens electrically.


Features of the Active model include 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and alarm, rear roof spoiler, AUX and USB port with iPod compatibility and body-coloured side mirrors with integrated repeaters.

For the Elite, in addition to the Active's list, standard features include roof rails, front fog lamps, dusk-sensing headlights, luggage net, push-button start and a proximity smart key.

The top-of-the-line Highlander model gets 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof, electric folding mirrors, heated front seats, rear view camera and a six-stack CD player with amp and sub-woofer.

Standard active safety features include ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and ESC stability control with traction control.


Hill-start assist control works to minimise backwards roll, while downhill brake control monitors wheel speed, steering angle and acceleration to maintain control and speed on steep declines without the driver needing to brake.

Passive safety features include the ix35's extensive use of ultra-high tensile strength steel, comprising 68.9 percent of the shell.

Three-point seatbelts are standard throughout, along with pretensioners and load limiters for the front seats and three child-seat mounting points.

The ix35 comes standard with six airbags across the range, including dual frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and roof-mounted side curtain airbags.


Mechanical Package

There are three engine variants across the model line-up:

  • ix35 Active - 2.0-litre petrol 2WD (five-speed manual and six-speed auto)
  • ix35 Elite - 2.4-litre petrol AWD (six-speed auto)
  • ix35 Elite - 2.0-litre R-series turbo-Diesel AWD (six-speed auto)
  • ix35 Highlander - 2.0-litre R-series turbo-Diesel AWD (six-speed auto)

The 2.0 litre Theta II petrol engine produces 122kW at 6200rpm and 197Nm of torque at 4600rpm.

Fuel consumption is listed at 8.5 l/100km when paired with both the five-speed manual transmission and new six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.4 litre version of the Theta II engine, available only with the six-speed auto, produces 130kW at 6000rpm and 227Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Fuel consumption is listed as 9.2 l/100km.


The new 2.0 R-series turbo-diesel, which will also feature in the upcoming Kia Sportage, produces 135kW at 4000rpm and a huge 392Nm of torque from 1800rpm to 2500rpm.

Fuel consumption for the R-series diesel, available only with the six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive, is listed as 7.5 l/100km.

Towing capacity for all three spec levels is 750kg unbraked, and 1600kg braked.

In Elite and Highlander models, an advanced electronic all-wheel-drive system automatically activates under any driving condition when needed, distributing power equally and optimising driving performance.

Under normal driving, the system only distributes power to the front wheels thereby reducing fuel consumption. The system includes a driver-selectable AWD lock allowing for a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels for off-road and very slippery conditions.


The Drive

Out on the road, there's a definite difference between each model variant and each powertrain combination.

Starting our drive in the mid-spec Elite with the 2.4 litre petrol and six-speed automatic, the ix35 felt taut (perhaps even too firm?) in its suspension tune, adequate in its power delivery and stable - albeit nose-heavy - in high-speed corners.

The gearbox is a great unit and smoothly slurs between ratios during normal driving. A tiptronic mode allows the driver to select their own gears and upshifts are reasonably crisp when using it, but Hyundai has chosen to persist with the unintuitive push-to-upshift/pull-to-downshift layout.

With a kerb weight of 1585kg, the ix35 Elite is no featherweight. The 2.4 Theta II petrol engine does a reasonable job of shifting its mass, but it's no rocketship. The 122kW 2.0 litre of the base-model Active feels more lethargic and both petrol engines sound thrashy when asked to work hard, but the 2.0 litre R-series diesel is a genuine pearler.

Easily the pick of the ix35's engine line-up, the R diesel is tractable from low RPMs, quiet, vibration-free and its 392Nm torque output brings out the best in the six-speed auto.

With peak torque available between 1800-2500rpm, the diesel doesn't need to be revved hard to provide decent acceleration and the gearbox can change gears earlier. The result is a smoother, quieter and more pleasant ride, and a vehicle that's noticeably faster than its petrol-drinking siblings.

Where the gearbox had to drop a ratio or two to keep the petrol engines on the boil on moderate inclines, the diesel simply stayed in gear and exploited its generous torque reserves. In short, the diesel is the best of the bunch.

The top-spec Highlander seems to ride better than the lower-spec grades. Although it rolls on larger 18-inch alloys shod with lower-profile tyres than those used by the Active and Elite, the Highlander's ride seems more supple - less firm, but with better body control.

The brake discs fitted to the base Active are smaller than those used by the Elite and Highlander (280mm front/262mm rear versus 300mm front/284mm rear), however there seemed to be no appreciable difference between the two systems during the launch drive route.

Overall impressions on the drive event were good, however a lengthier test may tell more about the ix35's driving experience. Expect to see a more comprehensive report on TMR in the near future.



The 2010 Hyundai ix35 is available now. Pricing below is Manufacturer’s List Price and does not include region-specific fees, dealer delivery or on-road costs.

  • ix35 Active 2WD 2.0-litre petrol five-speed manual - $26,990
  • ix35 Active 2WD 2.0-litre petrol six-speed automatic - $28,990
  • ix35 Elite AWD 2.4-litre petrol six-speed automatic - $31,990
  • ix35 Elite AWD 2.0-litre R-series turbo-Diesel six-speed automatic - $34,990
  • ix35 Highlander AWD 2.0-litre R-series turbo-Diesel six-speed automatic - $37,990
  • Optional metallic/mica paint - $320
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