The Hyundai ix35 rides more firmly than most other soft-roaders. The difference between the two settings that its dampers adopt is quite subtle, the most noticeable variation being a reduction in body roll when you make more demands of its chassis.
Whether you’re asking a lot of the chassis or not, its firmness comes with a lack of isolation at low speeds, where the ix35 thumps (although doesn’t crash) across potholes and road imperfections. At higher speeds, the ride improves as it soaks up bumps and potholes better. On the motorway, it’s nearer to the top of the class for isolation, although there is also more noise through the suspension than you get with most of its rivals. For this reason, we'd recommend the 17in alloy wheels that come with Style specification rather than Hyundai's Premium-level 18s, because the extra tyre sidewall will add to the chassis' capacity to isolate bumps and noise.
The most peculiar thing about the way the ix35 drives, though, is its electrically assisted steering, which has quick responses to a few degrees just off straight ahead but then seems dulled as more lock goes on. So changing lane on a motorway takes merely a change in pressure on the rim. When maintaining a curve or taking an urban roundabout, though, we frequently found ourselves having to wind on more lock than we’d originally expected. Its weighting is good and, while there’s no feel to speak of, there’s a pleasing amount of self-centring force.
In general use, the ix35’s part-time four-wheel drive system makes no difference to its handling. As mentioned earlier, all the power is sent to the front wheels under normal conditions, aiding economy and emissions. Power is diverted to the rear only when the fronts detect spin, which is generally only under hard acceleration out of corners or on low-grip surfaces. The system reacts quickly to front slip and restores order rapidly.
The four-wheel drive system will also cut in to help keep the car on line if the nose starts to wash wide in a bend. This was only ever noticeable under hard driving on our wet track but adds another element of safety and handling precision to the set-up.