Refreshed but ready to re-tyre
Hyundai’s update brings better steering, suspension and transmission — shame about the rubber
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.