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Hyundai ix35 Highlander diesel 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Aiden Taylor road tests and reviews the 2014 Hyundai ix35 Highlander with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The Hyundai ix35 lives in that small to mid-size SUV bubble that’s just about bursting with models from all the major car manufacturers.

The 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 facelift and mechanical refresh late last year.  

Like the rest of the ix35 Series II lineup, the Highlander promises a high driving position, hatch-like driveability and a long list of standard features for fewer dollars than its nearest rivals. 

Value

The Series II ix35 range kicks off at $26,990 with the front-drive Active and tops out with the $40,990 diesel all-wheel drive Highlander variant that we tested. 

The Highlander features plenty of goodies, including a leather interior, panoramic sunroof, satnav, reverse camera and sensors, Bluetooth phone and audio, dual-zone climate control, proximity keys and even a DVD player. 

The ix35’s rivals include the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Kuga. When compared in equivalent form, the ix35 Highlander undercuts of all these competitors by at least a few thousand dollars. 

The Highlander isn't exactly cheap, but represents good value given the level of standard equipment on offer. However it’s worth noting that any colour aside from white will cost you an extra $595.

Design

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 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 often forcing the driver to peer around them when negotiating carparks 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, particularly the Mazda CX-5. The plastic that surrounds the gear stick feels especially cheap and nasty 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 a treat, although the system had trouble remembering my iPhone, forcing me to reconnect each time I got in the car. 

Safety

All Hyundai ix35 models carry a five star ANCAP safety rating and feature dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags as well as all the usual skid-prevention tech including stability and traction control, ABS, ESP and EBD. 

Engine / Transmission

The all-wheel drive diesel Highlander is powered by a 135kW/392Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox with sequential-style manual mode.

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. 

Driving

The ix35 is a surprisingly sweet driving car. The diesel engine has a heap of torque to sling the relatively small body along with confidence and the gearbox is responsive enough to get you out of trouble quickly or aid overtaking.

With max torque on tap from 1800-2500rpm, responsiveness is very good for a diesel but the oil-burner runs out of steam at around 3,000rpm. In our experience, using three quarters of the throttle rather than all of it seems to result in smoother and quicker progress. 

While a little gruff and agricultural at idle and during acceleration, this engine is undeniably effective with fuel official consumption listed as 7.2L/100km. The best we saw was 6.9L/100km, while more demanding driving never saw the figure exceed 10.0. 

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.

You can certainly feel the extra weight of the diesel beneath the bonnet as the car has a tendency to understeer when pushed too hard, but the body control through quicker direction changes is good as the ix35 corners relatively flat. 

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 gentle throttle application. 

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.

Verdict

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. 

But as it stands it feels cheaper, older and less accomplished than some of its rivals. Perhaps the next-generation ix35 will be the one to take the fight straight to the segment-smashing CX-5, but at about $6000 less than the equivalent Mazda, the ix35 Highlander is definitely worth a look.

Pricing Guides

$17,990
Based on 272 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$12,950
Highest Price
$25,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ACTIVE (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $14,990 – 15,999 2014 Hyundai IX35 2014 ACTIVE (FWD) Pricing and Specs
ELITE (AWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,950 – 23,990 2014 Hyundai IX35 2014 ELITE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ELITE (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,500 – 20,990 2014 Hyundai IX35 2014 ELITE (FWD) Pricing and Specs
HIGHLANDER (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $14,990 – 25,990 2014 Hyundai IX35 2014 HIGHLANDER (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$5,990

Lowest price, based on 274 car listings in the last 6 months

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