Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Hyundai ix35 Highlander AWD
The ix factor
July 2010

THE Koreans have come up with a modern twist on the Sports Utility Vehicle.

Inspired by the concept of an “urban nomad’’, it’s the ix35.

This has been created by the world’s fastest-growing car company, Hyundai, to replace the brand’s boxy and largely unheralded Tucson.

In short, the ix35 is a compact SUV that seats five people comfortably and offers design, safety and equipment levels sure to give its rivals a run for their money.

The wagon carries the “fluidic sculpture’’ philosophy we explored in our recent i45 launch report and has a sleek, athletic appearance that oozes class.

At first glance, the compelling soft-roader has a BMW-esque shape, particularly from the rear.

Hyundai has developed the ix35 as an agile city slicker and unlike some competitors that have a definite female bias it is sporty enough not to challenge anyone’s masculinity.

Priced from $26,990 to $37,990, the new ix35 is available in three trim levels _ Active, Elite and the top-of-the-range Highlander, which we drove.

There are three engines across the line-up, a 2.0-litre petrol (2WD Active), 2.4-litre petrol (AWD Elite) and 2.0-litre R-series turbo diesel (available in Elite and Highlander AWD).

The Active comes with the choice of 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission while the Elite and Highlander come in 6-speed auto only.

The full-time electronic AWD system on the higher specification models automatically controls power distribution by detecting varying road surface conditions and distributing optimum driving force between the front and rear wheels.

Variants are identified by their wheel designs – 17 inch alloy on Elite and 18 inch on Highlander.

Hyundai maintains that like the i30, i30cw, Santa Fe R-series and iLoad, the suspension of ix35, has been tailored to Australian road conditions.

However, we found it hit speed bumps and potholes quite hard and this turned out to be one of the few blemishes to what was a great package overall.

Standard features are plentiful and all offerings come with 6 airbags, ESC Stability Control with traction control, ABS, and EBD, Downhill Brake Control, Hill Start Assist Control, a full size spare, keyless entry and alarm, rear roof spoiler, electric front driver’s seat, AUX and USB port with iPod compatibility, and steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls.

Elite adds roof rails, front fog lights, dusk-sensing headlights, leather and cloth combination upholstery, leather steering wrap, luggage net, alloy wheels, and push button start with proximity smart key.

The top-of-the-tree highlander spices things up even more with a panoramic glass roof, electric folding mirrors, full leather, heated front seats, rear view reversing camera, dual zone climate control air con and a 6-stack CD sound system.

The turbo-diesel engine in the Highlander was an absolute delight, proving extremely lively and fun to drive.

Impressive performance is enhanced by the smoothness of the 6-speed automatic transmission.

The ix35’s size was just right for our family, which contains two primary-aged children. The interior layout is clever, practical and stylish and there are plenty of storage options for drink bottles, comics and Game Boys.

This is not a go-anywhere off-roader by any means, but let’s face it going bush or up the beach is SO five years ago.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still look the part though and like the other “i’’ cars in the Hyundai line-up, the ix35 throws some pizzazz into the mix.

The bold newcomer will be more than competitive in what is a crowded compact SUV segment, thanks to its styling, safety, array of standard features and value for money.



ENGINE: 2.0, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

POWER: 135kW at 4000rpm

TORQUE: 392Nm at 1800rpm-2500rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic

0-100km/h: 9.5 seconds

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 7.5 litres/100km average

PROS: Smooth, great performance, versatility

CONS: Suspension and ride

BOTTOM LINE: $37,990 for premium Highlander. Range priced from $26,990 for Active petrol 2WD manual.