One of our favourite crossovers will give new 4×4 a stern test
Few corners of the new car market have witnessed the explosive growth we’ve seen in the compact SUV sector – and the Hyundai ix35 is one of the class leaders. The brand used to trade on its value and customer service, and while these remain undimmed, Hyundai has undergone a steady transformation on design and quality…
The ix35 is a head-turning 4×4, and features a host of stylish details. It looks best from the front where its angular lines, striking headlamps and chrome accents give a distinctive face. The car is less successful from other angles, particularly in profile, but it looks more expensive than it is.
Climb aboard our top-of-the-range Premium model and evidence of its fantastic value for money is difficult to avoid. Part-leather trim, iPod connectivity, voice-operated Bluetooth and two sunroofs, rather than one, all come as standard, so it’s easily a match for the SsangYong when it comes to equipment.
Most impressive of all is the cabin’s top-quality feel. It’s constructed using high-grade plastics with solid switchgear and a smart layout. Spend a few minutes inside and you’ll begin to wonder why the ix35 doesn’t command a bigger price premium over the Korando; at £24,395, it costs £1,400 more.
Grasp the attractive steering wheel and fire the 2.0-litre diesel engine into life, and the Hyundai continues to assert itself. Its CRDi engine is smoother and quieter across the rev range, and also beats the Korando for punch.
It only has a small 8bhp power advantage over its rival, but the most telling statistic is its 392Nm torque output; that’s 32Nm more than the SsangYong. As a result the ix35 has more muscular responses, aided by its sharper automatic gearbox.
Around town the smooth engine and gearshift come into their own. The lighter steering also makes the Hyundai more enjoyable to drive at low speeds.
Up the pace and, if anything, its advantage increases. The Hyundai doesn’t strike the best compromise between comfort and handling in the sector, but its suspension controls the inertia of its tall body through corners more effectively than the SsangYong’s. There’s less roll in bends and more grip, and it does a better job of dealing with ruts and bumps than the Korando.
And that’s not all, as the more precise and linear controls mean the ix35 inspires much more confidence from behind the wheel in all situations. Refinement is better as well, so the Hyundai is a more comfortable proposition over long distances.
That’s not to say this test is a walkover for the car, though, as the SsangYong has a few surprises up its sleeve. Its robust and no-nonsense feel is a benefit off-road and it was every bit as capable as the ix35 on the mild off-roading course we used.
And when we brimmed the fuel tanks at the end of the test, it turned out that the Hyundai was the thirstier choice – although it trailed by only 1.1mpg, with a fuel return of 22.3mpg in our hands.
Plus, despite its advantage in terms of performance, the Hyundai is edged out in the battle of the towing weights. Whether any of this will be enough to deter buyers is another matter.
Chart position: 1
WHY: The ix35 isn’t just good value for money, it’s highly capable. Hyundai’s customer service is very well regarded, too.
* Price: £24,395
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 181bhp
* 0-60mph: 8.5 seconds
* Economy on test: 22.3mpg
* CO2: 189g/km