What is it?:
This Hyundai ix35, a revised version of the South Korean company’s Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5 rival, has a lot to live up to.
The model was launched just over three years ago, and quickly became one of the best-selling cars in Hyundai’s European history.
It helped to cement the firm’s rising reputation and elevated position on Europe’s car sales charts, as well as introducing the world to the ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language that’s since been rolled out across the rest of the model range.
With this mild overhaul – developed at Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Centre in Rüsselheim, Germany – the company is promising greater refinement both inside and out, powertrain efficiency upgrades and a wider choice of equipment. The fundamental underpinnings of the car remain the same, offering 591 litres of usable seats-up boot space and room for five to travel in comfort.
This diesel variant is the big seller in the UK range, managing to strike the sweet spot between good fuel economy, a comparatively low price and a decent standard specification. The assembly line for the refreshed ix35 doesn’t get into gear until August, but we’ve tested a very late pre-production version.
The UK model range line-up is due for some realignment of the specifications to bring it into line with its big brother, the Santa Fe, but the left-hand-drive GLS variant we drove near the Hyundai factory in the east of the Czech Republic broadly equates to the top-specification ‘Premium’ model in the UK.
It comes with highlights including a heated leather steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking assist, a 7in TFT satnav screen and dual-zone aircon.
What's it like?:
Perhaps wisely, Hyundai hasn’t tampered too dramatically with the ix35’s proven formula. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to spot any significant styling changes, bar new front and rear lights.
If our pre-production test car is anything to go by, the modifications inside the cabin are fairly subtle too. That’s not necessarily a criticism. As before, the ix35’s cabin benefits from a lack of clutter and fuss. It reiterates the message that this is a no-nonsense, functional car. Everything is as it should be: the driving position is good, the seats comfortable and visibility acceptable, albeit hampered at roundabouts and junctions by the chunky A-pillars.
Most cockpit controls are in intuitive positions so you don’t have to think twice about locating them while on the move. We fumbled with the button that adjusts the Flex Steer system, which is partly obscured by the steering wheel. How often you’ll feel the need to toggle between its three modes while on the move, however, is a moot point.
On the road, the 1.7-litre diesel pulls adequately when mated to the six-speed manual, although it often needs to be worked fairly hard to make quick progress. Due to that, it isn’t the quietest of units.
Even fitted with optional 18in alloys, our pre-production ix35 rode very competently over patched-up roads in the Czech countryside. The firm ride of the original car was mentioned by our road testers, but this new version is fitted with softer front suspension mounts to reduce noise and vibration. Although it would take a back-to-back test with an older ix35 to prove conclusively, it felt forgiving over imperfect surfaces like the ones we have grown used to in Britain.
When we tested the car in 2010, our testers also commented on vague steering. Hyundai has tweaked the system to give a quicker response to driver inputs and deliver more feedback. Precisely how much interaction you desire depends on which of three modes you choose from the Flex Steer system. Normal, comfort or sport modes can be selected and adjust the level of power steering support and feedback.
Unlike some rivals’ systems, there is a noticeable difference between each mode, and it’s a system that could find favour with families who have two or more designated drivers, each with different driving preferences.
But don’t think for one minute that prodding the button through to the ‘sport’ setting will unlock all manner of apex-clipping dynamic delights. Flex Steer doesn’t make any changes to the suspension or chassis settings, and harry this two-wheel-drive version of the ix35 through a corner and you’ll experience a surfeit of body roll and understeer that brings you sharply back to reality.
Should I buy one?:
On the strength of this pre-production drive, the Hyundai ix35 should definitely be on your test drive shortlist if you’re in the market for a vehicle that is equally capable on the school run, the run to the flat-packed furniture store and the family holiday.
The styling and mechanical tweaks are mild, but sufficient to keep the ix35 firmly in contention in this segment.
Prices across the UK range are likely to rise slightly when this revamped ix35 is introduced later this year, and we’ll have to wait for the final UK specifications to be nailed down to determine how much of a good financial deal it represents against its rivals. Nevertheless, it seems likely that Hyundai’s tradition of offering a lot of goodies for a reasonable outlay will continue.
Those in the market for a vehicle with more go-anywhere ability and towing potential might want to look for the 2.0-litre diesel, which is available in two states of tune and offers more plentiful punch and sounds like it is working less in the process. For most, however, this cheaper, more frugal 1.7-litre CRDi should prove adequate in almost all daily driving situations.
In short, it seems unlikely that the ix35's relatively minor refresh is going to do anything other than enhance the ongoing Hyundai success story in Europe.
Hyundai ix35 1.7 CRDi
Price £19,500 (est); 0-62mph 12.4sec; Top speed 108mph; Economy 48.7mpg (est); CO2 139g/km (est); Kerb weight 1537kg; Engine 4 cyls, diesel, 1685cc; Power 114bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 192lb ft at 1250-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual