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Road Tests

Hyundai ix35: Motoring review - smooth, smart and cheap to run, what's boring about that?


PRICE: £20,995 (SE Nav tested)
ENGINE: Capacity 1.7-litre, 4-cyl diesel
POWER OUTPUT (BHP @ rpm ): 114 @ 4,000
CO2 EMISSIONS (g/km): 139

The South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai hasn't needed to prove it can compete with the major European and American players for quite some time. In fact, the models coming out of Seoul sporting the firm's now-familiar badge and fluid lines are among the best family cars on the market.

The recently updated Hyundai ix35 is a prime example. Ever since the original Nissan Qashqai set the mould for crossovers – cars that look like baby SUVs but can't cross a muddy field – in 2007, rival car companies have been fighting for a slice of this very profitable pie.

And with a new Qashqai on the horizon, it's no surprise that Hyundai has updated the ix35 with new styling, an updated chassis for (claimed) better handling, and more kit. Sensibly, it retains plenty of storage and a commanding driving position from the previous model.

Car salesmen like to make a lot out of that last feature, bizarrely, as if you were going to direct a column of Challenger tanks across Salisbury Plain on your way back from the school run. Anyway, its unsuitability to military manoeuvres aside (it is only two-wheel drive), it's a tidy package. The ride is compliant and smooth, the cabin is solid, with some really clever storage tricks, and it comes with a five-year warranty and roadside assistance.

Why is it that whenever I suggest a Hyundai to any of my family or friends in the market for a new car, they respond that, "Sure, I've heard they are really good. Affordable and economical, too, but aren't they a little boring?" My response is that the ix35 (like most Hyundais) is a great car to look at, that drives well, and I'd always take it over a Ford or a Vauxhall.

Hyundai obviously knows it needs to spice up its image, though, and has taken the accepted automotive route to this by sending a team to compete in the World Rally Championship. It's actually the smaller, faster i20 that kicked off at the Rallye Monte Carlo this week, but I'd love to see a souped-up version of this school-run machine thrown down a treacherous rally stage, tangling with gravel tracks and muddy bends. Ideally, it would have a terrified potential buyer in the passenger seat. They wouldn't call it boring then.