Hyundai\'s small SUV is well priced but opt for diesel power rather than petrol if you can.
The Hyundai ix35 is the South Korean manufacturer's play in the smaller end of the hugely popular SUV market.
It was launched in 2010 as part of its assault on the Australian car market, and replaced the little-loved Tucson.
The Hyundai ix35 range was given a mild tweak in August 2012, which included the addition of a new Elite front-wheel-drive model priced from $32,590.
The Hyundai ix35 competes in a tough segment. The compact SUV category offers more than 20 makes and models and accounts for more than 36 per cent of all SUVs sold in Australia.
In 2011, Hyundai added parking sensors standard across the range, revised the steering feel, reduced cabin noise, added telescopic steering column adjustment and added Amplitude Selective Dampers (ASD) to all-wheel drive variants.
The Japanese do present some good competitors, too, namely the Subaru Forester, Nissan Dualis and Mazda CX-5, but in diesel form the Forester lacks an automatic option which limits its uptake, the Dualis is only available as a 2.0-litre petrol, and the Mazda is expensive in diesel form.
Sit inside the Hyundai ix35 and you'll soon realise that the Koreans have come a very long way in the past few years. The interior is comfortable, easy to get in and out of and all the switches and instruments are placed appropriately throughout the cabin.
The air-conditioning controls can feel a little flimsy and there may be just a tad too much hard plastic used throughout, but other than that it's a rather dark and ambient cabin that has certainly taken inspiration from European vehicles. By any measure, it's a nicer place to be than in a Toyota RAV4.
The six-speaker audio system could be helped with a sat-nav system (or at least the option of one) but has full iPhone/iPod support with built-in Bluetooth not only for phone but also for wireless audio streaming. Sound clarity is top notch for the money and entertains with great bass and treble.
In this reviewer's humble opinion there is a little bit too much blue backlighting in the cabin, from the instrument cluster to the audio system, but you'll get used to it pretty quickly (plus you can turn down the intensity).
The base model comes with cloth trim, the mid-range Elite gets polyurethane leather combined with cloth and the top of the range Highlander comes with full leather.
There is plenty of useful technology built into the Hyundai ix35. For example, it makes use of a proximity smart key system that allows you to open the door without having to actually use the key (so long as its on your person). Simply press the button on the door and it will open. Very handy when carrying the shopping back to the car or when you can't find the key in your handbag. The same system allows for a push button start/stop system.
Despite not having a built in LCD screen, the Highlander variants come with a reversing-camera embedded into the rear-view mirror that activates when the car is put in reverse (it's just like a normal mirror during Drive mode)
The ix35's ride is firmer than ideal and isn't particularly comfortable either in the city or on the open road, while dynamically it's quite an average vehicle. It doesn't help that the steering lacks feel and suffers from kickback over mid-corner bumps.
On the engine front, it seems Hyundai has concentrated better efforts on its R diesel engine than the ix35's two petrol units.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel is a smaller variant of the 2.2-litre found in the Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, delivering an impressive 135kW (at 4000rpm) and 392Nm of torque (1800-2500rpm). To put that into perspective, the German-built 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine in the significantly more expensive Audi Q5 delivers 10kW less power and 42Nm less torque.
The 2.0-litre diesel is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission that helps deliver fuel economy figures of 7.5L/100km (beating both the 2.0- and 2.4-litre petrol variants).
The key with the ix35 (and Sportage) is to go for the diesel engine no matter what. The petrol variants lack the much needed grunt and drivability that the diesel offers. That may suit some buyers but it's hard to argue against the diesel.
Safety wise, the Hyundai ix35 has received the maximum ANCAP 5 star safety rating and comes standard with six airbags as well as ABS, EBD, ESC and TCS (if you have no idea what any of that means, it's pretty much all the technological gadgetry that makes sure the car goes where you point it and stops when you tell it to).
Overall, the Hyundai ix35 is a decent offering in the small-SUV segment, though it's only at its best in diesel form.