Re­freshed but ready to re-tyre

Hyundai’s up­date brings bet­ter steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and trans­mis­sion — shame about the rub­ber

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR Twit­ter: @JoshuaDowl­ing

IT’S NO se­cret that Aus­tralians are buy­ing SUVs in record num­bers. But did you know that this year, for the first time, pas­sen­ger cars ac­count for less than 50 per cent of sales? Sales of small SUVs are up by a mas­sive 22 per cent in a mar­ket that is up by 2.6 per cent.

The Hyundai ix35 is one of the driv­ing forces be­hind this growth. It is the top-sell­ing com­pact SUV and the sec­ondbest sell­ing SUV out­right (be­hind the Mazda CX-5 and ahead of the Toy­ota RAV4).

De­mand is so strong for the ix35 (an as­ton­ish­ing 66 per cent sales growth so far this year) that it’s now built in two fac­to­ries, in SouthKorea and the CzechRepub­lic, which has spare ca­pac­ity due to a down­turn in Europe.

The vis­ual changes to the ix35 Se­ries II in­tro­duced this month are sub­tle— there’s a new de­sign for the head­lights and wheels and in­side there is some new trim— and the over­all pack­age re­mains the same.

It’s slightly smaller than the CX-5 and RAV4. Boot ca­pac­ity may be less but it fits a full-size spare. There are still four mod­els in the line-up (the $26,990Ac­tive, $30,990 SE, $35,490 Elite and $38,090 High­lander) and three en­gines (2.0 and 2.4-litre petrol and 2.0litre diesel) which have had a slight lift in power and torque.

The 2.0-litre petrol model is front-wheel-drive only (with the sole five-speed man­ual op­tion), the oth­ers are AWD.

Arear cam­era is avail­able only on the top mod­els, putting the Se­ries II at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to a num­ber of ri­vals, even the cheaper Nis­san Dualis.

Hyundai has madew el­come im­prove­ments to the steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Even by class stan­dards the pre­vi­ous model was only av­er­age, with a soft sus­pen­sion that, cu­ri­ously, tended to crash over bumps. The steer­ing was a lit­tle too vague and lacked feel, and the auto was in­de­ci­sive un­der load.

The up­dated ix35 steers bet­ter than be­fore (more evenly weighted whether park­ing or nav­i­gat­ing a spi­ral park­ing ramp) and the sus­pen­sion is less bru­tal over sharp bumps. It’s a rel­a­tively quiet and smooth ride.

The top of the range diesel is an en­tirely pleas­ant drive but, such are the im­prove­ments, I’d be just as happy with the base petrol front-driver. How­ever, un­for­tu­nately, the tyres are un­changed. The cheaper mod­els come with Kumho So­lus rub­ber (16 or 17-inch de­pend­ing on the grade), which is fine in the dry but has be­low av­er­age grip in the wet.

The top-line ix35 comes with a Hankook tyre— wet weather

grip is only marginally bet­ter than the Kumho.

It­may seem an un­usual thing to get wound up about but they’re cen­tral to how the car steers and feels. Hyundai has made wor­thy gains in ev­ery other area— the next is to get bet­ter qual­ity rub­ber.

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