Hyundai ix35 review
The Hyundai ix35 is a practical alternative to the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5, but it's getting on a bit now
An all-new Hyundai ix35 is expected soon, which is probably just as well, as competitors in the crossover class are corwding this model out. The original Nissan Qashqai set the fashionable template when it arrived back in 2007, and rival makers have since got in the act, giving us the likes of three-time Driver Power champion, the Skoda Yeti.
Given the stiff competition, it’s no surprise the Hyundai ix35 received a mid-life refresh in 2013, an overhaul that focused on improving the second-generation compact SUV’s looks. Alongside the tweaked looks, new trim levels and added kit have helped add some much-needed showroom appeal, while the revised suspension and uprated chassis aim to deliver a sharper overall driving experience.
Under the bonnet, the ix35 remained largely unchanged. The engine line-up features a 1.6-litre petrol, plus 1.7 and 2.0 diesel engines, the last tuned for slightly better mpg, reduced emissions, and offered in automatic guise as well. You can also choose between efficiency-boosting two-wheel-drive and grippy four-wheel-drive set-ups, with five available trim levels, too: S, SE, SE Nav, Premium and Premium Panorama.
Our choice: ix35 1.7 CRDi 2WD
• Read our Hyundai ix35 used buyer's guide
Hyundai played it safe with the revised ix35’s exterior and interior styling, so there’s the same bold mix of creases and curves, slab sides and tall stance, but after a year it’s clear the facelift was largely cosmetic and Hyundai hasn’t done much to slow the ageing process.
Careful inspection reveals the new LED daytime running lights and reworked tail-lamps, but that’s about it as far as the changes go. Still, all versions get alloy wheels plus body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors, while SE versions and above benefit from silver-finish roof rails. Optional extras such as bi-xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloys and chrome door handles (standard from Premium upwards) can give an extra visual lift.
There have been even fewer changes to the interior, where you’ll find the same striking dashboard and decent-quality finish. There are plenty of soft-touch materials, the switchgear operates with precision, the blue backlighting gives a classy feel at night and the high-set driving position provides a commanding view. Entry models are sparsely equipped, but SE versions and above feature heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, automatic headlights and a leather steering wheel.
Go for Premium and you’ll be treated to the brand’s upgraded navigation set-up – also, unsurprisingly, fitted to SE Nav – which features an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen and extremely clear sat-nav mapping.
Some of the biggest changes to the Hyundai ix35 were reserved for the suspension, where the adoption of new dampers and side-load coil springs aims to deliver a smoother ride and sharper handling than before.
On the move the differences are hard to detect, though. The ix35 feels more composed over bumps, but there’s still too much body roll through corners, while the lifeless steering fails to inspire confidence.
On the plus side, excellent visibility and a commanding driving position make the Hyundai a doddle to drive around town, while decent refinement helps take the strain out of long journeys.
Go for the top-spec 134bhp 4x4 2.0 CRDi diesel and the ix35 is an effortless cruiser, with plenty of overtaking ability in reserve - but it might be too expensive for some. The 1.6-litre petrol is the cheapest but feels underpowered, it takes 11.1seconds to hit 0-62mph on its way to a 111mph top speed, which makes the 114bhp 1.7 CRDi engine a good compromise, despite less impressive off-the-line pace.
In real-world driving conditions, this version of the ix35 has to be worked hard to keep up with equivalent rivals from Mazda and Honda, while acceleration in sixth gear is sluggish. To make matters worse, the ix35’s diesel can’t match its rivals’ for smoothness, plus the manual gearbox has a notchy action. And, while the new auto for 2.0 CRDi models is smoother, it impacts significantly on performance and efficiency.
In recent years, Hyundai’s forged a strong reputation for durability – and the ix35 has been one of its star performers. Overall it may have taken a nosedive in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, finishing 90th overall, but a 42nd place finish for reliability is respectable, backed up by the manufacturer itself finishing an above average 13th. Factor in the brand’s five-year warranty and recovery plan, plus three or five year service schedule, and you shouldn’t have any concerns.
The ix35 also has a strong safety record, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating. All cars get six airbags, stability control and active head restraints, while 4WD is an option on 2.0-litre diesels. However, although Hill-start Assist and pre-tensing seatbelts are standard, there’s no optional lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring or collision avoidance kit.
The revised ix35 has the same dimensions as before, yet it’s still a reasonably practical family car. Its boot opening isn’t as wide as that in either a Mazda CX-5 or a Honda CR-V, for example, although the boot floor is flat and there’s a decent 591 litres of boot space. This stretches to 1,436 litres with the rear seats folded – but there are no remote release levers in the luggage area, as there are in the other cars mentioned.
Still, you get a useful hidden compartment under the false boot floor, plus a number of shopping bag hooks, a 12V power supply and a luggage net. Elsewhere in the cabin you’ll find plenty of storage for odds and ends, including large door bins, a deep cubby under the front centre armrest and an air-conditioned glovebox. And while the hard plastic that covers the backs of the front seats looks a little cheap, the finish is tough and simple to keep clean. In the back, legroom isn't great for a car of this size, while access to the bench is hindered by the narrow door openings.
On the plus side, the flat floor means those sitting in the middle seat get plenty of foot space. If you’re thinking of using the ix35 for caravan holidays, the towing capacity ranges from 750kg (unbraked) to 1200kg (braked).
The cleanest engine is the 2WD 1.7 CRDi which returns fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 53.3mpg and 139g/km respectively, which isn't as low as some rivals. Go for the more powerful, four-wheel drive 2.0 CRDi Auto in Premium spec and those figures become 40.4mpg and 183g/km.
A five-year warranty helps to guard against repair bills in the long term and Hyundai also offers a £499 pre-paid servicing pack (£399 on petrol models), which covers routine maintenance for 36 months and 30,000 miles. Our experts predict that it’ll hold on to an impressive 53.3 per cent of its new price over three years.
Top spec Premium models come a long standard equipment list that wouldn’t look out of place on a luxury limo yet still manages to be cheaper than rivals from Honda and Mazda.