We have Hyundai’s impressive looking ix35 compact SUV come crossover in for a week for review in 2WD guise with Premium trim and the 1.7 CRDi engine.
We’ve wittered on endlessly about how impressive Hyundai’s efforts have become in the last few years; from Halford’s special to credible alternative in less time than it takes from one Olympic games to the next.
But it’s one thing turning small, budget family cars in to real competition for the established market leaders, but is it a stretch too far to think Hyundai can take on the might of car makers like Ford and VW in the compact SUV market?
Hyundai don’t think so and, on paper at least, it seems they’re right with the good looking, competitively priced and promising ix35.
So we’ve had the Hyundai ix35 with the 1.7 CRDi engine, Premium trim and 2WD in for a week to see how Hyundai’s challenge to cars like the Tiguan and Kuga stands up in the real world. Can it really offer competition, or is it just a cheapo wannabee?
Hyundai ix35 – inside and out
Whatever preconceptions you bring to an outing with a Hyundai, they’re put firmly in place by the obvious build quality – inside and out.
Panel gaps are as good as anything else, everything is properly bolted together and, although you can find evidence of a bit of cost cutting on some materials, the overall impression is of a quality car, properly bolted together.
The first Hyundai to get the latest fluidic design, there’s nothing about the ix35 that shouts ‘Budget’. In fact, the ix35 looks decidedly premium with its bold front grill, almost coupe-like roofline, 17″ alloys, stylised roof rails and strong design features that could easily have come from the studio of any of the premium marques.
That quality feel continues inside the ix35 with an interior which, on the whole, looks and feels just as good as anything the ix35 has in its sights as competition (and that includes C-segment hatches as well as compact SUVs).
Despite there being a paucity of really tactile finishes in the cabin, the ix35 still conspires to feel a cut above the norm.
We admittedly have the Premium trim ix35 on loan from Hyundai, but the level of equipment is impressive in a compact SUV that has a list price the right side of £20k.
Goodies include heated seats, part leather, Climate, Keyless, Hill Start, Panoramic roof, Privacy, parking sensors, Cruise and auto lights and wipers in addition to the stuff you’d normally expect, like electric windows and Bluetooth. All we’d gripe at is having to pay an extra £1,100 for SatNav (although it’s a comprehensive bit of kit including camera and a 7 speaker setup).
The driving position is good, although we could have done with a bit more adjustment, and back seat space is adequate just as long as you’re not planning on pouring in a trio of 6′ plus teenagers, when the lack of headroom will cause more moans than the legroom (the price you pay for that coupe-like roofline).
That coupe roofline also makes visibility less than perfect, with short windows and a letter box for a back window. But the panoramic roof mitigates any sense of claustrophobia that might otherwise descend and the big door mirrors make sure you know what’s going on behind.
And if you want to transport ‘stuff’ in the ix35 your only moan will be that you can’t have a completely flat load area; otherwise the 591 litres with the seats up and 1436 litres with the seats down is more than competitive.
Hyundai ix35 – Performance on the road
To get 4WD on the ix35, Hyundai want you to opt for the more powerful 2.0 litre CRDi. That means we have a front wheel drive ix35 with the 1.7 litre CRDi lump offering a not exactly fulsome 114bhp and 192lb/ft of torque.
That lack of power does mean you end up working the ix35 quite hard if you want to make brisk progress, and the 1.7 CRDi isn’t the quietest diesel engine on the planet; it’s not exactly intrusive, but you always know it’s there.
Hyundai seem to have erred on the side of caution with the ix35, certainly in this FWD version. Around town it’s light and manoeuvrable, but it does protest a little more than we’d like on poor surfaces. That makes it a perfect car to poodle around in, but less effective if you want to hustle a bit.
The twisty stuff doesn’t exactly defeat the ix35, but it’s not really at home. There’s a bit more wallow than we expected and bends are not its forte; it gets round alright – even if it would rather go straight on than where you’re pointing it – but doesn’t inspire you to push on hard when a B road beckons.
But on motorways the ix35 seems quite at home and was happy to sit at 80mph all day. There’s some wind noise and the stereo might need turning up a notch, but motorways are a happier hunting ground than back roads.
But the setup Hyundai has given this – the least powerful in the range – ix35 probably meets the needs of the majority of the demographic, although its ‘safe’ setup does let through a bit more feedback from rotten roads than perhaps it should.
Hyundai ix35 – Verdict
On balance, we’re impressed with the ix35.
Hyundai has produced a very competent compact SUV that can hold its head up against the competition. It looks good inside and out and has a style that really does look, and feel, to be on the premium side of things.
Where we’re not completely convinced is with the performance and handling – but we may be being unfair.
We’d like the ix35 to be more convincing round the bends and have a bit more grunt. But that’s probably not what buyers of this particular ix35 are looking for. They’re probably looking for a stylish, competent, well-equipped and well-built family car with decent economy and running costs. And that’s exactly what they get with the ix35 Premium 1.7 CRDi 2WD we’ve been driving.
Perhaps for those looking for a bit more pizzazz in the driving department the 2.0 CRDi with 4WD would offer a better prospect? The 4WD should tame the urge to go straight on when hustled and the auto version with its 289lb/ft of torque and 181bhp would offer a much more lively ix35 for those wanting fun as well as comfort.
In fact, so equipped, an ix35 4WD could make a very good daily driver, even for those with a naturally lead-soled right foot.
But for everyone else, the 1.7 CRDi version of the ix35 we’ve had this week offers exactly what the average Hyundai buyer wants.
Hyundai ix35 Premium 1.7 CRDi 2WD Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 1685cc, 114bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 12.4 seconds / Top Speed 108mph
- Economy: 48.7mpg - Official / 40.8mpg - Test
- Emissions: 139g/km
- Price: £19,845 / Price as tested £21,440
- Test car supplied by Hyundai UK