Australia's second best selling SUV just got a little bit better.
The 2014 Hyundai ix35 Series II is a further sign that the Australian arm of the Korean manufacturer is continuing to rapidly improve the way its cars handle local roads.
Popularity is already on the side of the Hyundai ix35, but in driveability terms it has been trampled on by newer competitors. Since its launch the Korean SUV has generally had more demand than supply so it’s no surprise that so far this year the Hyundai ix35 is the second best selling SUV in the country. This is thanks in large to the European-built SE version that has helped ease supply issues suffered by the Korean-made models.
Now three years into its lifecycle, Hyundai Australia is determined to make the ix35 more than just a value compact SUV proposition. The Series II ix35 offers improved styling both inside and out as well as updates to the engine and a comprehensively retuned suspension setup.
From the outside the most notable change is the headlights, which get square projector housings with darkened background which Hyundai says is “very now”. New alloys and roof rails even out the update with no major changes to the rear except for the Series II badge.
On the inside the base model gets new seat upholstery while the mid and high spec now come with soft touch trims as well as silver highlights around the cabin. The satellite navigation system has also been updated to the latest generation with a 7.0-inch screen (previously 6.5).
It still remains a practical cabin with plenty of space and storage compartments while providing a boot large enough to fit an oversized pram and more.
The Hyundai ix35 can carry four adults for long distances without complaints. Those with kids will also be pleased with the second-row seating position that allows easy access in and out for the little ones.
The cabin does suffer from the Volkswagen syndrome of being mostly black, but the infotainment screen and the silver highlights have helped ease that a bit.
Speaking of which, the Microsoft-based infotainment system is quick and responsive, though we did find it taking far too many touch clicks for basic tasks such as setting a new route or even cancelling one.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, concerns the ride comfort of the Hyundai ix35, which has been substantially improved over the previous model.
The suspension changes have been carried out after localised testing for the Australian market to better suit our road conditions. The most obvious change is the spring rate, which has gone up by 28 percent, meaning there’s now less body roll around corners and the ix35 settles quicker after hitting a bump.
The front sub frame mount has been modified while the steering has gone from 2.99 to 2.83 turns lock to lock, allowing for a more responsive steering system, which is also helped by the upgrade from a 16 to 32bit processor for the Hyundai power steering system computer.
It’s instantly obvious this is not the old ix35 with a nip-tucked face. The steering still can't match the alacrity of a Mazda CX-5, or the reassuring mid-weighting of a Volkswagen Tiguan, but it is tighter and more direct than before. There’s a confidence in its steering and ride that was never there before. Where it once bounced around and lost its cool over bumps, it now simply absorbs and moves on.
It’s still on the firm side, no doubt, but it’s more like the Volkswagen Tiguan where it’s not firm just for the sake of it, but because it improves the cornering ability overall. Dirt is also no issue for the Hyundai, with much better body control.
Great turn in and better balance sees the ix35’s cornering precision improve, but Hankook tyres are still not the best choice. It's an easy fix, though, for those keen on more grip and less noise.
Where it does still seem to have niggling issues is the stability system, which jumps in at every slight moment of traction loss to cut power to the wheels for what feels like an eternity.
Over the smallest bump (under acceleration) the stability control light on the dash would flash and cut power. It’s always good to be too early than too late, but the ix35’s computers are certainly pushing the ‘early’ bit to the limit.
Ride quality apart, the three engine choices for the Hyundai ix35 have been updated. The two petrol four-cylinder models, 2.0- and 2.4-litre have both been upgraded with direct injection, which in the smaller engine sees torque go up by 8Nm (to 205Nm, with 122kW of power) while the 2.4 gets 6kW more power and 13Nm more torque for a combined 136kW and 240Nm.
The 2.0-litre engine also makes its torque lower in the rev range than before, for more linear power delivery. Fuel consumption has been reduced marginally to 8.2L/100km (from 8.5). The 2.4-litre has actually gone up in fuel consumption from 9.2L to 9.8L/100km (perhaps the first time in recent history that a vehicle’s fuel consumption has increased with an update!) but it comes with the benefits of quicker acceleration both from 0-100km/h and in gear.
The top-of-the-line 2.0-litre diesel remains largely unchanged with 135kW and 392Nm of torque, with fuel economy down to 7.2L/100km (from 7.5).
All three engines are available with a six-speed automatic, while the small capacity petrol can also be had in the base grade Active with a manual transmission.
The 2.0-litre base model feels a tad zippier than before, but still tends to hunt around for gears when equipped with the automatic transmission. The 2.4-litre has now finally hit the sweet spot for acceleration, efficiency and refinement. It’s just the right balance of the three to make it the ideal choice in the range. The diesel remains the best for inner-city commutes, but its $2600 price increase over the 2.4 is hard to justify.
The updated 2014 Hyundai ix35 is a much better car than before, and with competitors such as the CX-5 and Tiguan, it needed to be. Our biggest gripe with the outgoing model was its ride comfort, which has largely been addressed with the new car. The ix35 does most things right for exactly the right price and thanks to Hyundai’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, it’s also a great buy for those keen to keep their vehicle for an extended period of time.
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