Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2014 Hyundai ix35 Highlander.
The Hyundai ix35 lives in that small to mid-size SUV world that has become highly popular over recent years.
This market segment has become one of the most competitive in the new car market and the ix35 is right up there in terms of sales volume after receiving a face-lift and mechanical refresh late last year.
Like the rest of the ix35 Series II line-up, the Highlander promises a high driving position, hatch-like driveability and a long list of standard features for fewer dollars than most of its nearest rivals.
The Highlander features generous standard features, including a leather interior, panoramic sunroof, Sat-Nav, reverse camera and parking sensors, Bluetooth phone and audio, dual-zone climate control, proximity key and even a DVD player.
Compared to its rivals in this segment, the ix35 Highlander undercuts the vast majority of these competitors by at least a few thousand dollars.
The ix35 is a handsome little SUV, the creases which run over each of the wheel arches give some muscularity and the overall shape is well resolved.
With enough interior volume to carry five adults and their belongings relatively comfortably but a within a small footprint, the ix35 remains an easy car to drive and park.
Cargo space is 465-litres with the rear seats up, which expands to 1436-litres with them folded down and a full-size spare wheel is located beneath the boot floor.
The view forwards is good, but the A-pillars are very thick and often force the driver to peer around them when negotiating parking spots as pedestrians or vehicles can easily be lost behind their girth.
The interior is well designed and features a nicely sculptured dash panel but some of the materials lack the soft feel of some of the ix35’s rivals. The plastic that surrounds the gear stick feels a little cheap and lets the overall design down given its prominent location.
With black or grey materials covering most of the cabin, the design lacks colour and creativity, while the leather also feels hard and synthetic.
The front seats are comfortable enough for everyday cruising but seem to have been designed around big-boned humans and are very wide. Therefore side support is lacking for those with thinner frames, making twisty road driving somewhat uncomfortable.
Hyundai’s multimedia interface is a good one and is very easy to use. The Bluetooth audio streaming worked well. All Hyundai ix35 models carry a five star ANCAP safety rating and feature dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags as well as other tech including stability and traction control, ABS, ESP and EBD.
Hyundai’s on-demand all-wheel drive system uses an electronically controlled centre locking differential which can distribute up to fifty per cent of the engine’s torque rearward under certain circumstances, or be locked into 50/50 mode via a dashboard button. Hill decent control is also fitted for further off-road capability.
The ix35 is a surprisingly driver friendly car. The diesel engine produces a healthy torque to propel the relatively small body along with confidence and the transmission is responsive enough to get you out of trouble quickly or aid overtaking.
Dynamically, the ix35 is well suited to Australian roads as the suspension of this Series II model was tuned by Hyundai’s local engineers. It rides nicely, and only becomes irritated by exceptionally terrible tarmac and handles reasonably well for a car of this type.
Strangely the car has an overly-cautious traction control system which cuts power far too abruptly, especially when exiting T-intersections. This can make for irritating progress, but isn’t an issue with a gentle push on the accelerator.
On the highway the ix35 Highlander is refined and quiet enough with just a small amount of audible of wind and tyre noise entering the cabin.
With a higher quality cabin using the design and materials from some of Hyundai’s newer models and a bit more sound deadening the ix35 would be a knockout.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.0 litre diesel producing 135kW and 392Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Warranty: Five years
Origin: South Korea
Price: Diesel from $40,990