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Review: Hyundai ix35 2.0 Style

Hyundai’s ix35 makes a lot of sense in entry-level 2.0 Style 2WD petrol form. Jonathan Crouch reports

It’s never been easier for families wanting a change for the usual Focus or Astra-sized hatchback to buy into something different without any real downsides.

Take this Hyundai ix35. SUV style, Crossover trendiness and family hatchback efficiency all wrapped up in one nicely built, affordable package. Too good to be true? Let’s find out.

Should the increasing numbers of us who covet SUV ownership feel a twinge of guilt? The green lobby would have it so, but their argument that a conventional estate car or an MPV would be a more eco-friendly choice isn’t usually born out by the figures. Not at least, if you’re looking at a compact, soft-roading SUV like this one: Hyundai’s ix35, here tested in entry-level 2.0-litre Style 2WD petrol form. Did I say ‘SUV’? Perhaps I shouldn’t have. Hyundai certainly doesn’t call it that. This apparently, is yet another of those ‘Crossover’ models – family hatches with 4x4 styling cues offering the tough looks people like without the weight and running costs they don’t.

In truth, this model could and should steal sales from both categories: Toyota RAV-like small SUVs and Nissan Qashqai-style 4x4-ish family hatch Crossovers. This wasn’t a claim its predecessor, Hyundai’s Tucson, could ever make, not butch enough to be a proper 4x4, not car-like enough to be a Crossover. With the ix35, the South Korean maker has tried a bit harder, producing a higher quality product with apparently no downsides over a conventional family hatchback. Such a claim is usually accompanied by a significant price premium over said family hatchback but no, you don’t really even get that either. Sounds appealing doesn’t it? Let’s check it out.

Lots of cars are claiming to be ‘Crossovers’ these days but some of them are more 4x4-ish than others. There’s a faint whiff of ‘pretend’ in this respect with a Nissan Qashqai or a Peugeot 3008, but you don’t feel it here. Like a Ford Kuga or a Skoda Yeti, the ix35 simply feels like a small SUV with all the clumsy, clunky bits filtered out. So you sit on a proper SUV-like perch at the wheel, higher than you would in a Qashqai, and there’s a 4WD system that seems to have been integrally engineered into the design, rather than added on as an afterthought.

"It’s a Hyundai of the modern era. And that makes it a very impressive car indeed."

2WD variants like the 2.0-litre petrol version we’re looking at here are of course for those buyers who’d rather do without all-wheel drive – and you can understand their point of view. The iX35, does after all, even in its 4WD guises, spend most of its time being front driven. Whatever your choice, the day-to-day usability of the car is good. If you’re jumping into one of these from a Focus or an Astra, you might notice a slightly firmer ride and a smidge more bodyroll around corners, but it’s nothing you couldn’t live with day-to-day. The two-phase dampers that adjust automatically for soft or firm settings depending on the road surface can manage even this – though they can’t do much about the boxier shape’s extra wind noise or the slightly vague electric power steering.

Wanting not to scare off school run mums, Hyundai points out that this car, based on their Focus-sized i30 model, is no longer than a Vauxhall Astra family hatch, but that still makes it nearly 4.5 metres long, 10cm longer than a Nissan Qashqai. It certainly feels bigger than an Astra, both on the road and on your driveway, mainly because of its height. Though admittedly shorter than the Tucson it replaced, this ix35’s perceived loftiness gives it a bulk and a presence that Crossover buyers will probably rather like. While the coupe-style tapering side windows and roofline will appeal to Focus-segment families looking for something a bit different. So far, so good.

At the wheel, you do pay a little for those dramatic exterior lines, the large front and rear corner pillars and the narrow rear windscreen restricting vision a little – which is perhaps why Hyundai thoughtfully includes rear reversing sensors as standard equipment. You quickly adjust to it though, and the large door mirrors help. Everything falls to hand easily and with plenty of adjustment available via both seat and steering wheel, it’s straightforward to find your ideal driving position. Fit and finish, despite the general absence of soft-touch plastics, is well judged – this satin-finish mock aluminium looks nice – and it’s certainly good enough to match any potential rival this side of £25,000, which is saying a lot for a Hyundai.

As for back seat passengers, well once they’ve adjusted to smaller side windows that come courtesy of the high, rising waistline, they’ll be very comfortable as long as they’re not overly tall. Large door openings are welcome too, making it easy to lump child seats in and out: this would be a fun family car. No fold-out boot seats of course - it isn’t that big - but there is a lot of space back here – 591-litres (bigger than many mini-MPVs can offer), which makes the size of a pricier rival Ford Kuga’s hold (at just 360-litres) look pretty embarrassing.

At under £17,000, this 2WD 2.0-litre petrol Style variant will save you around £1,500 over a comparable diesel iX35 and £2,500 over a 4WD diesel variant. Which means that, in an age when a bog-standard 1.6-litre Ford Focus Estate is price-listed at close to £20,000, it’s not difficult to see this Hyundai’s appeal. Crossover rivals like a comparable Nissan Qashqai or Skoda Yeti would offer marginally more performance but would cost you £500-£900 more.

Base equipment trim is pretty generous, running to 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, air conditioning, a decent quality 6-speaker CD stereo with iPod connectivity, leather trim for the steering wheel and gear knob, a trip computer, Bluetooth connection incorporating voice recognition for your ‘phone and something you really don’t expect to find on this class of car – heated front and rear seats. Safety-wise, there’s ESP stability control, active anti-whiplash front head restraints and six airbags.

For some reason, Hyundai doesn’t feel able to match its partner Kia’s 7 year warranty but its unlimited mileage five year policy is still better than all other rivals, also coming as it does with five years of breakdown cover and five years of annual health checks. Running costs should certainly be well contained, Hyundai reckoning that three years of service and repair will cost you less than a sales rep’s Ford Focus. Inevitably, the 2.0-litre petrol isn’t quite as good at the pumps as its diesel counterpart – expect 37.7mpg on the combined cycle as opposed to the 51.4mpg you’d get from the diesel. CO2 is 177g/km.

So, what do we have? The tough looks of an SUV, the sensible practicality of a 5-seater mini-MPV and the affordability of a family hatchback. These are the facts behind an ix35 model good enough to attract many new buyers to the Hyundai brand, particularly perhaps in entry-level 2.0-litre Style petrol form.

It’s nicely built and efficient to run. No, it’s not perfect - a class-leading family hatch might offer slightly sharper handling and better all-round visibility – but these aren’t deal-breaking issues. More important will be this model’s competitive pricing and lengthy warranty. It’s a Hyundai of the modern era. And that makes it a very impressive car indeed.

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