Another wedding, another trip to Western Australia…
Following in the footsteps of last June’s Ford EcoSport Perth trip, this latest maritally driven adventure would see the lady and I again trek over west, but this time armed with the small SUV segment’s top-seller, the Hyundai ix35.
Flying from Melbourne to Perth and straight on to a four-day wedding in Exmouth — 1270km north of Perth on WA’s North-West Cape — any kays in the Hyundai ix35 would have to wait for our post-nuptials return.
Wedding done and dusted — he said yes, she said yes, you know, the usual — we fly back into Perth and get a short cab ride to pick up our Cobalt Coast blue ix35 Active.
The top-selling compact SUV’s entry-level automatic model, the Active, starts at $29,190. Sitting $2200 above its six-speed manual equivalent, our front-wheel-drive Active teams a six-speed automatic transmission with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine.
Developing 122kW at 6200rpm and 205Nm at 4000rpm, the 1485kg South Korean claims a fuel use of 8.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle — that means more power and torque but slightly worse fuel economy than the segment’s second-best seller, the all-wheel-drive Subaru XV.
Based on the Series II Hyundai ix35 introduced in October 2013, our 4410mm long and 1820mm wide Active specification comes standard with revised headlights, faux-metal roof rails, reclining rear seats, tweaked suspension and new-look hubcaps for its 17-inch steel rims.
For the keen-eyed spotters out there, the Series II also sees the rear ‘ix35’ tailgate badge switch sides and the outgoing model’s lettered rear ‘Hyundai’ badge deleted altogether.
Other standard equipment includes LED daytime running lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors, hill-start assist, a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, and a full-size spare wheel (ideal for just such road trips and always a great confidence booster).
Day one with the Hyundai ix35 Active comprises a brief introduction, loading up its 516–litre boot (expandable to 1615-litres) with two full-size suitcases and heading off for a 182km drive south to Bunbury, where we would stay the night with some accommodating friends — friends who also happen to own two dogs, one being a ginormous Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Up early-ish the next day, the lady and I head 54km further south to Busselton via the Tuart Forest National Park.
Seated up front in the ix35 Active’s standard cloth seats, things are reasonably comfortable. Lumbar support is mild at best, though, and the other half is disappointed to learn that passengers miss out on seat height adjustment of any kind.
Lucky for us, with the lady being a WA native, the Hyundai’s lack of satellite navigation isn’t a major flaw for our cross-state adventuring but having to turn cruise control to ‘on’ after every restart, while not entirely uncommon, does get annoying (particularly on this sort of road trip).
Road noise over coarse-chip sealed blacktop is present from inside the cabin, with tailgate rattle a near constant when traversing poorer, choppy surfaces.
From Busselton’s town centre we travel around 2km to the Busselton Jetty. Normally a lovely place to walk and sit and take in the views, for us, things go less well with the lady getting stung by a bee causing an ‘emergency’ run back on the jetty’s own train — a super small multi-carriage designed to transport parents and kids at a maximum speed barely beyond walking pace.
Bee sting treated with ice-cream and antihistamines, we soldier on a further 24km south to reach Dunsborough and its famous bakery…
Next stop is the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse via Castle Rock and Meelup Beach.
After a couple of quick snaps and a decision to not climb to the top of the light-up landmark, we jump back into the little Hyundai targeting Margaret River — a mere 74km away.
An exciting Kangaroo sighting at Sugarloaf Rock on the way to ‘Margs’ is an unexpected thrill, with another quick leg stretch squeezed in at Canal Rocks.
More time in the car reveals a few small issues, though none are deal breakers. There’s no rear-view camera, which isn’t a huge negative but definitely worth remembering. The second-row centre seatbelt can mildly obstruct rear vision. And the ix35’s slightly paranoid auto-lock feature means, provided the key is still in the ignition (yes, there’s no start-stop button here), you have to manually push the unlock button every time you want to allow passengers access in or out.
The end of day two sees us drive 98km back to our Bunbury base, ready for our third day exploring southern WA.
Racking up 400km in a far from direct route from Bunbury to Perth, day three includes a visit to the lady’s birthplace in Bridgetown (93km from Bunbury) via a blast through WA’s super quiet and highly entertaining Golden Triangle, which links Bridgetown with Balingup and Nannup.
From Nannup (180km from Bunbury) we shoot to Margaret River (266km from Bunbury)… again, as I left my hat in a restaurant and obviously had to go back and get it. Needless to say, by the time we reach Perth for takeaway Indian dinner with friends, it’s dark.
Our fourth and final day with the Hyundai ix35 Active is a mix of freeway and inner-city miles, as we catch up with friends and family both north and south of Perth proper.
Proving just as gutsy and dependable on long kilometre drives as shorter urban trips, the Hyundai’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre is content cruising along at around 2000rpm at 100km/h, while still providing enough low-end poke to confidently overtake when required.
Teamed with an automatic transmission that can be a little slow to react to throttle inputs, the petrol engine can sound harsh and a bit thrashy when pushed north of 5000rpm and towards its 6500rpm redline, though really, the need to do this is rare. This is also indicated by our 9.3L/100km total trip average.
Although several variants of Hyundai’s baby SUV haven’t scored well in past technical reviews on the ride and handling fronts, over our 1315km exploration of WA, the ix35 Active did a commendable job of keeping us both comfortable and confident when behind the wheel.
Certainly a little crashy over poorer road surfaces, the suspension paired well enough with the standard 60-profile Kumho Solus tyres to deliver reasonable levels of entertainment when lovingly hustled through some of south WA’s best switchbacks.
Combining heavy weighting with little to no feedback, however, the ix35’s steering is not a strong point, with the only positive of its relatively dead steering being that the majority of road imperfections are not felt through the wheel.
Rear passenger space is a brighter note with a comfortable rear bench joined by loads of leg, head and shoulder room. Two adults can easily be accommodated on a long drive plus a third could be done with none too much trouble for shorter stints. Rear-riding folk also get a fold-down centre-seat armrest with two cup holders to share, though these miss out on the helpful ambient light encircling both front cup holders.
Feeling less thought through is the rear cargo blind storage system. Sitting raised on the boot floor when not in use – rather than beneath it as is the case in its larger Santa Fe sibling – the placement is a bit naff but remains handy in a pinch.
And while the lady’s highlights included the 1680mm high (1650mm not including roof rails) Hyundai’s highway stability, on-road visibility and Bluetooth audio streaming, most punters would also be rapt with its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and lifetime capped-price servicing. Hyundai also throws 12 months roadside assist and a complimentary first service (at 1500km) into the mix.
Car returned, we cab back to the airport and board our plane bound for Melbourne. For those playing at home, yet another WA wedding is planned for around late May — stay tuned…
Images by David Zalstein.