Drive – Hyundai ix35 Elite Review

17 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Hyundai ix35 Elite Review

Cons

Noisy

Cheap plastic surfaces

Not as refined as Kia Sportage mechanical twin

Compact soft-roaders are big sellers and Hyundai’s ix35 is one of the category’s stars. Launched early last year and then updated later in the year, it has locked into third place in sales behind class evergreens the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester.

Price and equipment

Super-sharp pricing is one significant advantage the ix35 offers over many rivals, including the Subaru and Toyota. It starts from $26,990 (plus on-road and dealer costs) for the 2.0-litre petrol front-wheel drive Active manual, through to $38,490 for the 2.0-litre diesel all-wheel drive Highlander auto.

Here we are testing the 2.4-litre petrol version of the mid-spec Elite. Available only with all-wheel drive and a six-speed auto, it is priced from $32,490 – a rise of $500 above the 2010 model. Compensations include reverse parking sensors, Bluetooth with audio streaming and tilt-and-reach steering.

There are some important technical changes, too. The electric-assist power steering system is new, there’s more sound-deadening material and the suspension of all AWD models is upgraded.

Standard gear includes alloy wheels, roof rails, leather trim, airconditioning, keyless entry and start, USB and auxiliary inputs, a powered driver’s seat, cruise control and a trip computer.

A full-size spare tyre fitted to an alloy wheel is standard. Another plus is the five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The ix35 has gained the maximum five stars in NCAP crash-testing.

It comes fitted with stability control, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, and lap-sash seatbelts and adjustable headrests for all five passengers.

Under the bonnet

The Elite’s Theta II four-cylinder petrol engine employs twin overhead camshafts and four-valves-per-cylinder to produce 130kW of power and 227Nm of torque, while averaging a claimed 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres.

On test, that translated to 11.0L/100km, which is about right considering the engine is driving via an automatic transmission and hauls a hefty 1585 kilograms.

It’s a trier, though; not lightning-fast but happy to rev out without getting thrashy or vibey. That means keeping up in traffic is no challenge and overtaking is achievable.

The new six-speed auto aids the cause, shifting mostly surreptitiously and sometimes intuitively, providing engine braking support when required.

However, some rapid-fire changes in hilly country showed up the drivetrain’s limits. There is also the occasional unrefined thump into reverse gear.

How it drives

The ix35 has been criticised in the past for soggy steering, ride and handling, something made more noticeable by the better on-road behaviour of its close relation, the Kia Sportage.

The fitment of electric power-steering assistance and variable dampers suggests Hyundai Australia takes those negative comments seriously (without necessarily agreeing with them).

The only other ix35 I have driven was an AWD diesel Highlander from the previous generation and it was pretty ordinary. Our Elite test car is certainly better than that.

Whether it is the Hyundai’s tech changes, the petrol model’s 118-kilogram-lighter kerb weight or a combination of both, the Elite is a better all-round drive.

The steering is light, distant and uncorrupted. The suspension handles big holes well but is less convincing over constantly scabby surfaces and lateral challenges such as sharp speed humps.

The on-demand AWD system is competent without being dazzlingly responsive.

Where the ix35 is still lagging significantly is in noise suppression. Engine, road and tyre noise are all far too intrusive.

Comfort and practicality

As per the exterior, the interior combines flow and geometry for quite an original look. The design itself works with orthodox competence. The driver has clear and simple instrumentation to read.

The controls, dials and buttons in the centre stack are also straightforward.

Storage options include pockets with bottle-holders in all doors, front seat-back pockets, a centre lidded bin, lockable glovebox and overhead sunglasses holder. There are dual cupholders in the centre stack in the front and in the fold-down armrest in row two.

Space is excellent for adults in both rows and there is still plenty of room in the rear to fit shopping. Hyundai claims 730 litres of boot space, growing to 1579 litres when the rear seat bench is split-folded (an easy process). A laid-down mountain bike will fit comfortably with the front wheel removed.

However, the front seats are a bit skimpy, there are no rear aircon vents and no door grabs. But it is the quality of the interior materials that is the main issue. The look and usability is let down by plastics that are unpleasantly hard to the touch and scuff easily.

It really is disappointing how quickly the ix35 starts looking bedraggled inside.

Competitors

Kia Sportage SLi

Subaru Forester 2.5 XS

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