Hyundai IX35 Compact SUV is the next step in the Korean manufacturers domination of the automotive market
It's hard to imagine how far Hyundai has come in the last decade. Last year was a monumental year for Hyundai both in Australia and globally. To put things into perspective the Korean giant sold 269,841 vehicles in January 2010 alone, a 50 per cent increase over the same period in 2009.
It also managed to finish in the top five of numerous quality studies (being beaten by the likes of Lexus and Porsche) and is no doubt causing nightmare for the likes of Toyota, General Motors and Ford.
Perhaps the best way to understand the company's success is in realising that Hyundai has all to gain and nothing to lose. It's the underdog that is trying to topple the kings, it's a company that is alive with enthusiasm and excitement about the future. This is more than evident whenever you meet any employee from Hyundai.
So it was with a great deal of excitement that I jumped onboard a Qantas flight from Brisbane to Melbourne to attend the launch of Hyundai's all new compact SUV, the Hyundai IX35.
If you're wondering, yes this is the replacement for the Tuscon.
The first thing you'll notice about the Hyundai ix35 is it's European looks. Many companies are happy to describe their cars as European designed or inspired, but Hyundai is actually justified in its statement as the car was designed at Hyundai’s Design Centre Europe at Russelsheim in Germany.
One of the greatest achievements of both Kia and Hyundai (sister companies) has been their ability to take the very best designers and engineers from other manufacturers. Peter Schreyer is a perfect example and the main reason why all new Kias look amazing.
Hyundai Australia brought out the ix35's interior design manager Jochen Werner, a former GM designer who had been involved with numerous GM concept cars and behind the interior of the Opel Insignia.
The whole team behind the project spent over 2.5 years to create the final product which first presented itself in concept form as the Hyundai Ixonic and now in production form.
You may notice the swept back headlights alongside a lower air intake certainly give it that new age look. The rear is similar to the Audi Q5 in its beauty, which is a good thing.
Hyundai took a group of journalists to Studio 1 in Melbourne for the presentation on the ix35 and the announcement of the i20 and Sonata replacement (YF).
From here we began a three hour drive program to Rupertswood mansion in Sunbury.
Each hour was spent in one of the three variants on offer. Before we dig into the driving feel and interior, lets have a look at the variants.
The range starts with the ix35 Active 2WD 2.0-litre petrol (122kW at 6,200rpm and 197Nm of torque at 4,600rpm) five-speed manual coming in at $26,990. This is the only variant and engine type offered with a manual transmission. However it's also available with a six-speed automatic for $28,990.
The midrange ix35 Elite gains all-wheel drive and a bigger 2.4-litre petrol engine (130kW at 6,000rpm and 227Nm of torque @ 4,000rpm) coupled to a six-speed automatic and retails for $31,990.
Nonetheless, the big story of the ix35 range is the 2.0-litre R-series turbo-diesel (135kW at 4,000 rpm and 392Nm of torque at 1,800-2,500rpm) which I will discuss in detail later. It's available on the ix35 Elite AWD coupled to a six-speed automatic for an extra $3,000 over the 2.4-litre petrol ($31,990).
If you want it all, the top-of-range ix35 Highlander AWD (only available with the 2.0-litre R-series turbo-Diesel and six-speed automatic) starts at - $37,990. So there is a total difference of $11,000 from the base model Active 2.0-litre petrol to the range topping Highlander diesel.
We started our drive program in the Highlander powered by the Korean's new 2.0-litre diesel. This is a very similar engine to the one found in the Hyundai Santa Fe R and Kia Sorento R, only that it's 0.2-litre smaller. Can you imagine 135kW from a 2.0-litre diesel? How about 392Nm of torque?
Don't understand the power and torque figures? I'll give you some examples, the 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine found in the current model Ford Falcon puts out only 391Nm of torque and as far as I can find, no 2.0-litre diesel engine from the Germans can so far match the ix35's overall figures. This means the ix35 diesel is the variant to go for.
As we drove out of Studio 1 and headed past Melbourne airport, the pulling power of the diesel became obvious. Although the official fuel economy figures say it uses 7.5 litres to travel 100km, as you can see from the video below, if required, it can do a lot better:
The ix35 all-wheel drive variants (Elite & Highlander) make use of a system designed by Japanese company JTEKT which, using a whole bunch of computers much smarter than you and I, control the power distribution between the front and rear wheels and help optimise driving performance.
Like similar systems the Hyundai's AWD system generally only puts the power out to the front wheels to reduce fuel consumption. When the computer realises the car needs power delivery to the rear wheels (for example when the front wheels are losing traction) it instantly kicks into action without any assistance from the driver.
However if you don't like the idea of front-wheel drive, you can always select the AWD lock allowing for a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels, handy when you're going off-road or when it's wet.
Driving the Highlander variant on dirt roads gave a great indication of how quickly the AWD system can engage. Nonetheless given the enormous amount of torque available on tap, there is occasional torque-steer and the steering-wheel can feel a little light at high speed.
The near 400Nm of torque from the diesel engine means it can easily climb hills with a cabin full of passengers without any complaints. It's also more than capable of performing overtaking maneuvers on the highway.
The next ix35 I drove was an Elite variant powered by the Theta II 2.4-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder engine. Hyundai says this engine will please buyers that would've liked a V6 as it delivers a similar amount of power and acceleration whilst using 16 percent less fuel than the old four-cylinder Hyundai engine. With 227Nm of torque, there was no more torque-steer in this one, however it does feel a tad sluggish compared to its diesel brother.
As for the Active variant powered by a smaller Theta II 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and driven via the front-wheels only, there wasn't much noticeable difference between the two petrol engines, although this one certainly sounded like it was working harder to deliver the goods.
Handling and driving dynamics in all three ix35 variants was better than expected and a serious improvement over the Tuscon it replaces. For day to day city driving you'll never have a reason to complain, although the suspension is tuned to Australian roads, it does feels a little firm at first but the result is better handling dynamics.
Around corners the Electronic Stability Control takes care of you if you get out of shape and does so quickly. It's worth noting here and commending Hyundai for including a whole range of safety features in the ix35 standard across the range. With Six airbagas + active front headrests, ESC Stability Control + TCS + ABD + EBD, Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) all standard on the base model.
Interior wise the rear seats are not for basketball players, there is enough room to carry four adults comfortably but you'll be pushing it with five. The front seats are comfortable and the leather upholstery is a delight. There is still some hard plastics used on the dash but its made up for by the funky design of the car's centre console.
There is currently no satellite navigation available for the Australian market, but this will eventually be sorted.
All variants have support for iPod and iPhone and integrate straight into the car's stereo (iPod controls via the car's system), I had my iPhone plugged in for the three hour drive and not only did it charge the unit but played the tunes beautifully as well. This is a feature which is at times a $1,000+ option on some European cars.
Sound quality is pretty good and the Highlander variants even get a 6 stack CD + amp & sub-woofer that adds that extra kick.
Overall the ix35 is a model which will shake up the compact SUV segment, it presents great value and excellent styling in its class and if Hyundai's recent success is anything to go by, the ix35 will be a massive seller for the Korean giant.
Hyundai IX35 Active 2WD 2.0-Petrol Engine 5-Speed Manual / 6-Speed automatic
- Six airbagas + active front headrests
- ESC Stability Control + TCS + ABD + EBD
- Downhill Brake Control (DBC)
- Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)
- 17" steel wheels + full size spare
- Keyless entry & alarm
- Rear roof spoler
- Electric front driver's seat
- AUX & USB port with iPod/iPhone compatability
- Body coloured side mirrors & integratedrepeaters
- Steering wheel mounted Audio & Cruise control
- Roof rails
- Front fog lamps
- Dusk sensing headlights
- leather/cloth upholstery
- leather steering
- luggage net
- 17" allow wheels, full size spare
- Push button start + smart key
- 18" alloy wheels, full size spare
- Panoramic glass roof
- Electric folding mirrors
- Full leather upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Rear view camera
- Dual-zone climate control
- 6 stack CD + amp & sub-woofer
|2.0 petrol 2WD||2.4 petrol AWD||2.0 R-series turbo-Diesel AWD|
|2.0-litres (1,998cc)||2.4-litres (2,359cc)||2.0-litres (1,995cc)|
|4 in-line DOHC||4 in-line DOHC||4 in-line DOHC|
|122kW @ 6,200rpm||130kW @ 6,000rpm||135kW @ 4,000rpm|
|197Nm @ 4,600rpm||227Nm @ 4,000rpm||392Nm @ 1,800-2,500rpm|
|Towing capacity:750kg unbraked/|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION^||2.0 petrol 2WD||2.4 petrol AWD||2.0 R-series turbo-Diesel AWD|
|CO2 (Combined g/km)||201||203||219||198|
|Fuel Tank Volume (L)||55||55||55||55|