"Stylish, comfortable and versatile, the Hyundai ix35 offers quality to rival Toyota and Kia."
The Hyundai ix35 remains one of the most stylish SUVs around, even though it's getting on a bit. Its distinctive style and high-riding suspension tend to turn heads wherever it goes and certainly give it the feel of a very modern car.
You can get it in two main specifications – entry-level Style and top-of-the-range Premium – that offer the choice of a 1.6-litre petrol, or 1.7-litre or 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engines. You can get the petrol option in the base Style model and it only comes with two-wheel drive. The 1.7-litre CRDi also comes in two-wheel drive, while the 2.0-litre comes as a four-wheel drive model as standard. All engines come fitted with a manual gearbox, except for the four-wheel drive, where you can choose between either manual or an automatic (if you really have to). Like the Hyundai i30, the ix35 is a good 10cm longer than its main competitior, the Nissan Qashqai (which is also getting a bit old, but is getting replaced in 2014), which creates a surprising amount of extra room inside the car.
The interior is of a higher quality that previous models, with all fixtures and fittings feeling solid and well constructed, with a clearly laid out dashboard proving to be very easy to use. Top-of-the-range premium models also offer a panoramic glass roof, climate control, automatic windscreen wipers, heated leather seats and keyless entry fitted as standard. The ix35's soft suspension set-up makes it very comfortable to ride in over long journeys and, overall, it remains quite the accomplished family cruiser with decent comfort levels, decent accessories and manageable dimensions.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
There is often some difference between the claimed economy figures from the manufacturers and the reality of driving a car on the road, and we certainly found that the ix35 struggled to match Hyundai's claimed combined figure of 47mpg. Also, its road tax bill isn’t particularly friendly either, with 139-189g/km of CO2 emissions across the whole range landing it firmly in tax band F, which will cost you £140 a year. We found that the 1.6-litre petrol model was a bit more efficient but didn’t offer the same level of performance, which actually makes it relaxing to drive. The most eco-friendly model is the two-wheel-drive 1.7-litre CRDi diesel, which returns 48.7mpg in combined fuel economy and emits 138g/km of CO2, which is still higher than many of its rivals. But, if you go for Hyundai's ISG stop-start system, you’ll find that the economy goes up to 54.3mpg, while CO2 emissions go down to 135g/km. Even so, that's not the prettiest picture of long-term running costs. However, much of this extra cost will be offset by the five-year warranty, which should cover most repair bills and keep the overall spend affordable.
Interior & comfort
The ix35 is truly at its best when driving around town, where its raised ride height gives the driver a truly commanding view of the road ahead. That height and the soft suspension set-up also manages to make light work of absorbing almost all of the bigger potholes and crashing bumps that the UK's road can throw at it. The ride is overall very comfortable, while excellent interior insulation filters out nearly of the of the wind, road and tyre noise from the outside, removing a lot of the stress associated with driving in the city. The engines on offer are all pretty quiet, even when driven at motorway speeds, while the air-conditioning that's fitted as standard makes the interior very pleasant to be in during any long-distance drives. Hyundai has improved the quality of the interiors across all of its cars, and the ix35 definitely benefits from being constructed from a better standard of materials. That said, its origins as a budget brand are still hinted at by some switches and controls feeling somewhat brittle and cheap, and, in the end, it just doesn’t feel as nice to sit in as some of its rivals.
Practicality & boot space
You would expect any reasonably good SUV to be very practical and the ix35 doesn’t let the side down. Its reasonably big boot offers 591 litres of luggage capacity with the standard-fit split-folding rear seats still in place. That's less than you’ll find in a Skoda Yeti, while the ix35's high load lip also makes the loading and unloading of bulky objects really quite awkward at times. This continues with the shape of the boot, whose dimensions are equally clunky, with the rear seats not even folding down fully flat, making navigating longer items inside even trickier. Having said that, fold down the back seats and the space expands to a much more generous 1,436 litres, which is significantly bigger than what you get in the Nissan Qashqai. There are also lots of handy storage cubbies scattered throughout the interior, with a large glove compartment for quick and easy stowing away.
Reliability & safety
The ix35 suffered a tiny drop of three places from 18 down to 21 in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's list of the top 100 cars, so it's still just as reliable as ever, with owners proving to be a generally happy bunch. The same can’t quite be said for Hyundai itself, which suffered a fairly big drop in the manufacturers rankings, falling seven places to a decidedly mid-table 14th. This is a real disappointment after Hyundai's challenge for a top five position in 2012, so the 2014 poll will be revealing – can it recover? Until then, it's worth pointing out that Hyundai's scores for reliability across the whole range remain high, with other categories being the ones to really let it down. There have been no major recalls and it shares many of its tried-and-tested parts and underpinnings with its sister car, the i30. Like Kia, Hyundai now offer a generally high-quality product, with only a few cheap-looking hard plastics letting it down in the interior. Hyundais also now tend to do well in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, and the ix35 managed to secure the full five-staring rating, being awarded an impressive 90 per cent for adult protection and an equally excellent 88 per cent for child protection – so buyers can take genuine comfort in the ix35's ability to protect their loved ones. Also, all models come with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty as standard that should further help keep it in tip-top shape during its first years of ownership.
Engines, drive & performance
SUVs, with their high bodies and slightly boxy dimensions, often suffer severe body roll and buffeting in crosswinds on the motorway. This is true of the ix35, which starts to feel slightly out of its depth when driven on the UK's winding country roads, experiencing lots of body roll when driving through the corners. That said, when on the open road, it proves to be very capable, especially the 134bhp 2.0-litre model. But even then you’ll still have to keep making quite a lot of small adjustments with the steering wheel just to keep the ix35 on the straight and narrow thanks to a real lack of accuracy in the steering that you don’t find in key rivals such as the Ford Kuga or the Nissan Qashqai. The 2.0-litre model is a bit expensive considering these continuing issues, so we’d recommend the 114bhp 1.7-litre CRDi engine, which offers the best combination of efficiency and performance for your money. We’d give the cheapest engine – the 1.6-litre petrol – a wide berth, as it lacks any power and can feel really quite sluggish when you try and get any real performance out of it. In the end, the ix35 is better on the motorway and A-roads, where it's great for transporting all the family and their luggage on calm long drives across the country.
Price, value for money & options
The ix35 may not be the youngest SUV out there anymore, but it represents a good-value buy – if only because Hyundai does like to fit heated front and backs seats as standard equipment, and not many other manufacturers do that. You’ll also find rear parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity also included as part of the standard package, but if you have enough extra cash to choose the Media Pack, the ix35 is upgraded to include sat-nav, keyless start and a reversing camera for good measure. It's also still a really good-looking car – better than nearly all of its rivals to this day – which helps it keep strong resale value on the used car market when it comes to sell. It's not quite as desirable as its main SUV rival, the Skoda Yeti, but it will definitely get you a better second-hand deal that the Ford Kuga. A major selling point, however, is the five-year/unlimited mileage warranty – which is good enough on its own but is even better because it's also fully transferable to subsequent owners.