The SUV market in Australia has exploded in recent years, with small, medium and large variants available. The looks have improved, build quality has skyrocketd and the feature lists have grown. Hyundai has had fingers in the SUV pie for a while now, starting off with the Santa Fe and Tucson, which has morphed into the ix35. A Wheel Thing takes the series 2 version with the Elite specification out for a week.
Sitting right in the middle of the pack, above the Active and below the Highlander (cue Christopher Lambert jokes…) the ix35 Elite comes with a direct injection 2.4L petrol engine, six speed automatic and centre locking differential. It’s 136 kilowatts at 6000 revs and a handy 240 torques at 4000 rpm, with a smooth, linear delivery to that point. It’s a little buzzy past there but it’s rare that, in a normal driving situation, the six speed auto will take you that far. It’s a quick shifter, slick however the gate design is unneccesary, being a convoluted throwback to the “J gate” days. Performance from the ix35 is adequate, with the zip somewhat muted by the near 1600 kilo kerb weight, requiring a firmer than anticipated press from the right foot to get things happening. Brakes are a touch grabby at the top however move into a well modulated setup, requiring only a modicum of pressure initially before squeezing into a smooth stop.
The drive itself is through an “on demand” all wheel drive setup; a torque sensor splits drive between front and rear as required while the locking diff makes it a 50/50 split. It makes a difference as the tyres fitted to the test car (Kumho Solus 225/60s on sweet looking 17 inch alloys) lack sufficient front end grip under normal circumstances when pushed, going wide and squealing badly in roundabouts and normal sweeping bends. When locked the nose tucks in tighter and forces the rear end to follow a better line. The McPherson strut/multilink suspension does a decent job of ironing out the road but I did find the Elite quite jiggly and a little harsh over some ruts and bumps, with a sharp rebound rather than a subtle absorption, a touch disappointing given the Aussie input to the suspension.
The exterior is an evolution, not a revolution, with only minimal changes being made, possibly most noticeably (for trainspotters) to the front end; the headlight assembly has the main light cover going square and the driving light surrounds have been modified. The interior seems barely touched yet is a comfortable place to be, with a mix of quality look and feel plastics, cloth and leather, a seven inch touchscreen navitainment system dominating the centre dash, (with reverse camera) looking somewhat like, when viewed front on, a helmet from a sci-fi soldier. Music is catered for by radio and Auxiliary/USB inputs (located at the bottom of the centre console) plus there’s a slot for CD and DVD. Sound is solid, with clearly defined midrange but bass is a touch lacking in punch. Switchgear is sensible, basic, uncomplicated and simplistically easy to use plus entry/egress is via wide opening doors. The front seatbelts are adjustable for height, however there’s a slight buzz from the plastic shroud at certain speeds on the freeway. The Elite comes with keyless entry and push button start/stop plus a swag of safety features including curtain airbags and safety windows, which will lower if pressure from a body part such as an arm is sensed on an upward movement. Seating is, as expected, comfortable with some side support, vital when throwing the ix35 into turns. A split fold rear seat, cargo blind and ample cargo space add to the package.
Alongside its sister car, the Kia Sportage, with competition from SsangYong, Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi, VW and Nissan, just to mention a few, the ix35 really is up against it. Given the quality of small to medium SUVs nowadays, with pricing exceptionally competitive, this is really a judgement call for a buyer. With the range starting at $26990 plus ORCs (check http://www.hyundai.com.au for offers though!) and the Elite 2.4L from 36990 plus ORCs it’s good value.