One thing’s for sure, the old guard better watch out because the Koreans are coming – and this time they’re got the products to match their ambition.
Not content with cleaning up under the scrappage scheme, the Korean pairing of Kia and Hyundai are on the offensive with a huge number of new car launches planned for the next 18 months. And this, the ix35, is the latest.
A direct rival to the Ford Kuga and Nissan Qashqai, the ix35 is a soft-roader with huge kerb-side appeal. The most obvious thing that strikes you about the new vehicle is its looks – this is actually a good-looking car, which has a distinctly premium feel to it. Dramatic angular headlights, a ‘smiling’ front grille and swooping lines that flow to the back, give the ix35 a bold look.
Inside it’s equally impressive, the dash is well thought out and made from decent materials. Hide the badge on the steering wheel and you could well be in an SUV from a premium marque. Taking centre stage is a touch-screen sat nav system that’s easy to operate and looks superb. It’s spacious inside too and extremely comfortable.
Under the bonnet from the March 22 launch will be a choice of two engines, both mated to four-wheel drive. A 2.0-litre petrol unit that produces 161bhp and a 2.0-litre diesel – which Hyundai believes will take 95 per cent of sales. The latter produces 138bhp and is available in two or four-wheel-drive.
Both units were impressive on the road – the diesel was especially good at motorway cruising speeds. For a tall car it handles well with decent feedback from the steering and impressive grip levels.
Problems? Well, we did find the diesel clatter a little intrusive at lower revs and at dead ahead on the motorway the steering felt a little detached. But really, these are minor quibbles.
Where the ix35 really impresses is in the emissions and economy stakes – the diesel two-wheel drive model emits just 149g/km, which is around the same as a 2.0-litre Ford Focus, and returns 51.4mpg. That, for an SUV, is impressive and will make the Hyundai appeal to a large number of user-chooser company car drivers.
That’s even before you factor in the price – the ix35 starts from an incredible £16,495 for the entry-level style.
To put that in perspective, that’s an SUV for less than a base Focus, and as standard buyers will get 17-inch alloy wheels, ESP, air conditioning, Bluetooth, heated front AND rear seats, electric heated door mirrors, leather steering wheel and gearknob, reverse parking sensors and a trip computer. Impressive. Add another grand and buyers can opt for the diesel.
Later in the year two new engines will join the ix35 line-up – a 1.6-litre CDI petrol unit and a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel as well as a six-speed auto.
The ix35 really is a dramatic leap forward for Hyundai. Taking the brand upmarket, but with a price tag that the marque’s buyers have become used to, life after scrappage might not be as hard as some dealers feared it would.
by JAMES BAGGOTT
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 138bhp, 320Nm
MPG: 51.2 (comb’d)