Hyundai’s ever popular IX35 is nearing the end of its lifespan for the current model, but that hasn’t dulled its edge in sales. However it has become a rather pricy proposition in recent years, putting it beyond the reach of many would be buyers. Hyundai has found a workaround for this though, by means of introducing a 1.7-litre diesel equipped variant – cheaper and more fuel efficient than the 2.0-litre diesel.
But cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean you get less for your money. Actually, you get more than you’d bargain for in a ‘budget’ variant of a successful model. Standard equipment still includes a touch screen media interface – a bit on the small side, but one that does the job well enough – reverse camera, climate control, cruise control, electronic power assisted steering, and the usual collection of safety features including airbags, ABS, and EBD. You even get partially leather clad seats – all the edge bits that poke out beneath an occupant look luxurious, whilst the middle bits are a comfortable, breathable fabric panel – which I’d dare say are more comfortable on longer journeys than their full leather compatriots.
The seating position is a bit on the high side though, and with great forward visibility I would’ve appreciated a lower perch. Also, the steering wheel, height and reach adjustable, wasn’t quite telescopic enough to fall comfortably to hand. The remainder of the interior fared as a rather driver-friendly one, with most controls easily within reach and the overall cabin feeling fairly comfortable. However the cabin layout did feel somewhat cluttered; not down the centre console which was neat and tidy, but in the sculpted door panels which had unnecessary valleys and peaks that neither looked great, nor had any particular function. The majority of the panels around the interior are hard plastic, which are a bit harsh to the touch and let down the somewhat modern aesthetic appeal of an otherwise very pleasant cabin.
From the driver’s seat, there was very little to separate this model from any of the higher equipped variants. Drive-wise, the 1.7CRDI engine feels much the same as the larger engines. It’s a touch noisy and unrefined, particularly at idle, but once on the boil noise and vibration settle into a steady, non-invasive thrum. Mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, and driving the front wheels, the 1.7-litre unit delivers an ample 85kW and 260Nm. The power delivery suffers somewhat compared to the larger displacement power options, with a significant dead-spot low in the rev-range until the turbo boosts and delivers a solid chunk of torque. From there on out the torque is steady – meaningful rather than particularly potent – although there is noticeable turbo-lag, especially when small changes in throttle are made. When keeping the engine on the go, the easy-shifting 6-speed and lengthy, evenly metered clutch make for a steady curve of torque that makes cruising along a simple affair and overtaking a rather brief one.
Being an SUV, the IX35 does have its driving flaws though. Sitting so high up in the driver’s seat does make the ride itself feel a little unsettling, this feeling only amplified by the electronic power steering; which for lack of a more compassionate description is as numb and soulless as a dead body. It’s disconcerting not being able to trace where the front wheels are or what’s happening beneath them – but the responsiveness of the IX35 makes up for it in some ways by offering a steady turn in and a linear responses to steering inputs. The turning circle is also tight enough to make parkade navigation rather easy – something many SUV’s would do well to imitate.
Despite being compromised by its high-up stance, the IX35 feels sharp and easy to control. The brakes are sharp, possibly even a bit too sharp, but the pedal translates neatly what’s going on below to the driver in a way I wish the steering would. But one of the most endearing traits of the IX35 is the ride quality – riding subtle bumps and expansion joints faultlessly, and traversing speed bumps and potholes with a comfortable confidence. The rear suspension is particularly impressive, absorbing large jolts competently without unsettling the occupants within the cabin. Despite this comfortable nature, the suspension yielded little to body roll and offered proficient body control around corners and bends, even handling mid corner bumps and camber changes with competence and impressive composure.
The 1.7-litre diesel engine, in addition to being cheaper to purchase, is also cheaper to run. Fuel consumption over 7 days and nearly 1000kms was a highly impressive 6.2l/100km. It goes about its business just as well as the larger 2.0-litre equipped models do for the most part, and for those who don’t require the additional towing capacity the lower displacement model has more than enough grunt for all occasions.
A well-specced, more frugal variant of an already accomplished SUV, at a discount price must be the bargain of the year for potential IX35 buyers – and for the majority of buyers the 1.7CRDI will be all the IX35 they’ll ever need. The cheaper diesel variant is a welcome addition to the model line-up, and a fine way to reduce the price of an aging model – due for replacement before the end of the year. At a price of R359 900 though, there’s little to fault.
The new Hyundai IX35/Tucson has been unveiled – read more here: New Hyundai Tucson (IX35) revealed
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85kW @ 4000RPM
260Nm @ 1250-2750RPM
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