Hyundai has the X-factor

Modestly designed, and well kitted out, the latest version of the ix35 looks certain to make another big splash in the compact SUV market
Modestly designed, and well kitted out, the latest version of the ix35 looks certain to make another big splash in the compact SUV market
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THE Hyundai ix35 seemed to come from nowhere to suddenly be one of the best sellers in the compact SUV 
division. A better petrol engine and a number of detail changes inside and out improve the latest car still further. It’s hard to see demand tailing off any time soon.

It’s a measure of how fast Hyundai develops its cars that, by the end of 2012, the ix35, a car most would finger as a relatively shiny new thing, was the oldest model on its books. Still, it hardly dragged its heels that year, improving on 2011’s sales by a whopping 58 per cent and claiming a segment share in the hotly-contested compact SUV sector of nearly 5 per cent. British buyers couldn’t get enough of them. It was also the fastest-selling model in Hyundai’s European history, with more than 220,000 units shifting across Europe.

With new crossover models hitting the market every month, Hyundai couldn’t afford to rest on its laurels with the ix35, and the latest version shows that complacency isn’t in the Koreans’ psyche. It’s another step forward that its rivals will struggle to match.

Key improvements in the powertrain department include the replacement of the 2.0-litre Theta II petrol engine with a more-efficient Nu 2.0-litre GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) unit. The upgraded powerplant offers more power and torque, at 166PS and 205 Nm respectively, yet is fully Euro5-compliant.

Hyundai has also developed a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system, yielding significant efficiency gains across the range. There’s also Hyundai’s Flex Steer system, available on this model for the first time. Three driving modes – normal, comfort and sport – allow the driver to vary the level of steering support and feedback to best suit the environment.

Otherwise it’s much as you were. Not all ix35 models are four-wheel-drive. Of course, if you feel like a bit of a fraud driving a front-wheel-drive 4x4, the more expensive ix35 versions will deliver the goods.

The ix35 still looks a neat and modern piece of design, but Hyundai has been unable to resist some minor tinkering. It’s offering optional Bi-Xenon headlamps for the first time on this model, as well as uprated LED with daytime running lights as standard. The ix35 is also offered with revised alloy wheel designs in either 17 or 18-inch diameter, and buyers can also specify them in a metal grey finish.

Inside the cabin, the seats and upper door trims are now finished in higher-quality materials, the dashboard air vents are ringed in chrome, the front cup holders are illuminated and the windscreen receives a shade band.

The ix35’s size places it in the middle of the compact 4x4 class. It’s around 10cm longer than a Nissan Qashqai but smaller than the larger compact 4x4s like the Honda CR-V and Ford’s latest Kuga. It retains the elevated ride height whether customers choose two or four driven wheels, so getting in and out should be straightforward as should loading. Decent head and legroom in the back make this a bona fide family car and the build is as sturdy as recent Hyundai efforts have led us to expect.

With strong equipment levels, the ix35 already had the drop on most of its key rivals. Premium trim gets you keyless entry, automatic headlamps, electric folding mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, heated leather seats and a panoramic sunroof. And Hyundai’s five-year warranty package is superior to those of almost all of the ix35’s competitors.

The latest ix35 adds additional gear such as a heated steering wheel, front parking sensors and a trailer-towing safety function for the ESC (electronic stability control). The optional 4.2-inch TFT Supervision Cluster displays a wide range of information to the driver in high-resolution clarity. UK buyers can also choose an upgraded audio and navigation system, paired with a larger 7-inch LCD centre console display.

In the past, you bought Hyundai because you wanted a cheap car that was also inexpensive to run. As Hyundais have become increasingly plush and the prices have approached the mainstream, it’s almost as if costs have taken a back seat to features. The ix35 demonstrates that the Koreans can still make you a very convincing offer when it comes to pence-per-mile calculations.

The 2.0-litre diesel is the engine to go for if you’re routinely travelling with the car loaded up. That’s due to its 
prodigious torque. Even here though, you’ll see a 47.9mpg combined economy figure and emissions of 154g/km.

The Hyundai ix35 suffered a strangely low-key launch when it first appeared in 2009. It was almost as if Hyundai was trying to keep it a secret, with very little promotion in the UK. The British public soon twigged that this was something worth having though, and after a slow start, sales have really taken off. The latest car doesn’t radically change the formula, instead settling for tweaking and tuning what was already clearly a convincing customer proposition.

So it is that we get a cleaner and more powerful petrol engine, improved steering and a number of detail enhancements both inside and out. This apart, it’s much the same product that buyers have clasped to their bosom. With good reason too. The ix35 strikes a very deft balance between utility and aspiration that strikes a chord with British customers. It’s a vehicle that just works. That’s the Hyundai way.

VITAL STATS

CAR Hyundai ix35 range

PRICE £17,400-£25,185

PERFORMANCE Max speed 108-121mph; 0-60mph 9.8-12.4s

MPG (combined) 39.2-49.6

CO2 EMISSIONS 139-189g/km