With nothing too adventurous planned for the week, I was looking forward to the opportunity to find out how the Hyundai ix35 performs as an everyday runabout.
My week with the ix35 Highlander consisted of all those simple things that we forget to appreciate sometimes; driving to and from work, dropping my daughter off at drama classes, picking friends up to head out for dinner and doing the weekend runaround.
If you’ve got your eye on a compact SUV, there’s no shortage of options to consider. What has always drawn me to the ix35 is its exterior styling. I particularly like the aggressive shape of the headlights and the way the roof racks just flow seamlessly along the roofline. I’m not a big fan of the black side-protecting plastic cladding – I actually find it quite strange – but overall I think it looks fantastic.
Inside it’s comfortable and everything you need is where you’d expect it to be. Ergonomically it’s well laid-out, with all of the buttons in easy reach. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but some manufacturers seem to enjoy hiding things like the park brake, the start button or the fuel cap release in bizarre places. This version of hide-and-seek is rarely fun, so the ix35 gets a big tick in this department.
But it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The cabin is well presented, but there are a lot of hard plastics adorning the dash, doors and console. It’s certainly not the plushest interior in its class. While I think the seats are fairly comfortable, some of my colleagues found the chairs too hard and too small. But as you’d expect from an SUV, the seating position is quite high which assists visibility.
The Hyundai offers competitive but not class-leading levels of interior space, and the boot is a decent size – but rivals such as the Honda CR-V have it trumped. Some of my favourite features are the sunroof and the 7.0-inch touchscreen. The reversing camera comes up crystal clear, making going backwards and parking a breeze.
I thank the heavens for satellite navigation almost every day and it comes as standard in the Highlander. That being said, all sat-navs aren’t created equal. It uses the same platform as Kia, so I didn’t expect to have any problems navigating through the menus. However, in one of Sydney’s many tunnels, it experienced a bit of a brain-fart, failing to recognise the fact I was underground. The directions for the streets above weren’t handy when I needed to know which exit would get me out of the tunnel towards my destination. Its not uncommon, but it is annoying.
This is the 2.0-litre turbo diesel, and it’s quite a nice drive. The engine is reasonably smooth revving with not much turbo lag. It’s fairly quiet for a diesel and the six-speed auto transmission offers quick gearshifts.
On the negative side, the ride is a little firm around town. Many of its rivals offer a more comfortable suspension setup – you will feel the sharp-edged bumps on city streets, though it’s slightly better on the open road and in the country. It’s also all-wheel drive, which does offer that little bit of peace of mind if you find yourself driving in the wet, or on unsealed roads.
Fuel economy is a claimed 7.2 litres per 100km combined – a respectable number. But in this top spec, with the turbo diesel engine, it’s also one of the more expensive priced at $40,990 before on-road costs. The base model 2.0-litre petrol, 2WD ix35 Active starts from $26,990.
Despite its minor quirks, its obvious why the ix35 is consistently one of the best selling compact SUV’s. It’s a fun, feel-good car with all the basics covered.
Read our full Hyundai ix35 review here.