Road test: Hyundai ix35 Series II is one smooth ride
ONE had the head skyward with his mouth ajar. The other was slumped within his chair.
Both cherubs asleep and they even remained comatose on some challenging twisty gravel roads.
That is mission accomplished for Hyundai.
The Korean brand has embarked on an update of its popular ix35 compact sports utility vehicle, in what's more a case of hear no evil, see no evil. You can't really see the improvements, although you can hear them.
There is less cabin noise and it does a better job of soaking up our poor surfaces. All the big changes have occurred under the skin and this is the latest offering to benefit from an Australian tuning program. A team here provides steering and suspension changes, which are then implemented at the factory.
We have seen the program's benefits previously with a sporty version of the i30, as well as with sister company Kia, and we can expect all models to ultimately have an Aussie twang to meet our market.
This new ix35 line-up is called the Series II, and comes in four trims. There are three offerings from South Korea, including Active, Elite and Highlander. The fourth comes from the Czech Republic and is called the SE. Hyundai managed to bolster is ix35 supplies by getting access to the SE, although we didn't get a chance to sample them at the latest launch.
Plastics are the weapon of choice for the ix35 interior yet they don't look downtrodden or cheap. Top spec Highlander models gain more soft-touch surfaces on the upper part of the doors as well as an extra 1.2cm on the colour display - taking it to 17.7cm.
Some new silver finishes around the air vents and dash have always been added, but the greatest cabin advancement is less noise. Hyundai says they have dropped the volume of engine and road rumble by about 3.5% and it is noticeable. Cruise along between 80-100kmh and all variants deliver a refined experience.
On the road
Take your pick from a trio of four-cylinder engines. There are two petrols, a 2.0-litre and a 2.4-litre, as well as a 2.0-litre turbo diesel.
Our selection would be the oil-burner for its meaty power delivery, although it has a discernible diesel clatter at low speeds.
The petrol engines do the job willingly, and those who want to tow or like to put the power down for overtaking would be better served by the 2.4-litre unit. Yet both will rev up to the 6500rpm redline but most drivers would never get close.
All the changes have occurred in the suspension and steering.
Tweaks have been made to the coil springs as well as the front and rear stabiliser bars. Engine mounts have also been changed to deliver less vibration.
The end result is a smoother, quieter ride and improved body control. Hyundai says this also translates to better towing.
A faster computer processor has also enabled quicker ratio steering. We're not fully convinced about the changes, as the steering felt heavy at low speeds despite now having less turns lock-to-lock. At speed and in corners the ix35 did its best work and was impressive on gravel, where it felt surefooted as a mountain goat.
What do you get?
Active models have steel wheels, CD stereo with 12.7cm touch-screen, Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming, six-speaker audio including tweeters, steering wheel audio controls and cruise control, USB auto input with iPod compatibility, auxiliary audio input jack, five-star safety with stability control and six airbags.
Elite provides a worthwhile step up, gaining alloys, sat nav, cloth/leather trim, keyless entry with push button start and DVD capability on the larger 17.7cm screen.
The top-of-the-range Highlander has full leather trim, larger 18-inch alloys and panoramic sunroof.
Larger cup holders up front can cater for bottles, and there are also some great storage spots in the doors. There is useful space in front of the shifter to throw your phone or MP3 player along with a deep centre console.
Drop the back seats using the 60-40 split fold functionality and there is an excellent space for awkward items like bikes, surf boards and furniture.
Three-year capped price servicing is locked in, but Hyundai is working on extending that period to match the five years offered by other manufacturers (including Kia).
Fuel consumption has been improved, with the diesel now down to 7.2 litres for every 100km.
The petrols are about one litre thirstier and for number crunchers they are the better long-term value with fuel prices traditionally lower along with cheaper servicing costs.
External changes are minimal, with small changes to the headlights, roof rails and some new alloy wheel designs - now 10-spoke on the 17-inch Elite variants and machine-look five double-spoke 18s on Highlander.
While not monumental, the changes make a very good car better.
Improved suspension and steering delivers greater car control with less roll. That translates to an inherently safer car - and it means you don't have to rely on stability and traction control to get you out of trouble.
The ix35 is really a mid-size SUV despite just scraping into the small segment and it remains a perfect fit for growing families.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
What we liked: Quiet ride, composure on gravel surfaces, performance from all three engine variants.
What we'd like to see: Additional soft-touch cabin materials, lighter steering feel at lower speeds.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with seven years roadside assist if you maintain servicing by a Hyundai dealer. Servicing is annual or every 15,000km, prices are capped for three years at $259 (2WD petrol), $289 (4WD petrol) and $399 (diesel).
Model: Hyundai ix35 Series II.
Details: Two- and four-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder GDI generating maximum power of 122kW @ 6200rpm and peak torque of 205Nm @ 4000rpm; 2.4-litre four-cylinder GDI 136kW @ 6000rpm and 240Nm @4000rpm; 2.0-litre turbo diesel CRDi 135kW 4000rpm and 392Nm 1800-2500rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 2.0L GDI - 8.2 litres/100km (combined average, manual), 8.4L/100km (a); 2.4L GDI - 9.8L/100km; 2.0L CRDi 7.2L/100km.
C02: 2.0L 197g/km (m), 200 (a); 2.4L 233g/km; 2.0L diesel 189g/km.
Bottom line: 2.0-litre GDI - 2WD Active $26,990 (m), 2WD Active $29,190 (a), 2WD Elite (a); 2.4-litre GDI - 4WD Elite $35,490 (a), 4WD Highlander $38,090 (a); 2.0-litre CRDi - 4WD Elite $38,090 (a), 4WD Highlander $40,490.