EYE ON THE PRIZE

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The latest and fourth version of Hyundai’s acclaimed i-Series cars is here, and it breaks new ground in the Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) segment of the market.

Hyundai’s South African dealers took delivery of their first iX35s early in May, putting them in a position to offer customers the very latest engine and safety technology in a user-friendly size which boasts exceptional refinement, quality and comfort.

 A number of surprise and delight features often not expected in this sector, along with avant-garde styling – with the practical benefit of wind-cheating properties – are an added bonus.

“The iX35, which replaces our popular Tucson, is another manifestation of the rapid progress which the Hyundai brand continues to make,” says Hyundai’s Director of Marketing Stanley Anderson. “We are confident it will do the same in the important compact lifestyle vehicle segment as the i10, i20 and i30 hatchbacks have done in the segments in which they compete.”

To this end Hyundai Automotive South Africa has introduced a range comprising six derivatives, four of which are powered by the sophisticated new Theta-II petrol engine in either 2,0-litre or 2,4-litre capacities, with the remaining two featuring a potent new R2,0-litre CRDI turbodiesel.

Drivetrain options include four-wheel-drive versions of the R Type turbodiesel and 2,4 petrol (in which case a six-speed automatic transmission is fitted), while the 2,0-litre petrols are mated to a five-speed manual or the six-speed automatic driving the front wheel. Finally, the R Type turbodiesel is also available with this 4×2 drivetrain and a six-speed manual gearbox combination.

Apart from the entry-level 2,0-litre petrol, all versions are specced in luxurious GLS trim while the range-topper gets a number of additional comfort and convenience items over and above this.

Pricing starts at R239 900 for the 2,0-litre GL 4×2 5-speed, with the flagship R2.0 CRDi 4×4 GLS Automatic is priced at R369 900. This includes Hyundai’s acclaimed 5-year/150 000 manufacturer’s warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km service plan on all versions. All of South Africa’s iX35s are sourced from the highly automated Ulsan plant in South Korea and are built to the highest standards.

“We think both the perceived and actual quality will speak for itself and the iX35 represents not only a massive step forward for Hyundai but also for this class of vehicle. From the standard of the materials used, to the tactile satisfaction which comes from an action as routine as using the stalk controls, we believe it can stand up to the closest scrutiny and intense comparison with those brands which are traditionally considered premium-level,” says Anderson.

CONCEPT AND DESIGN

Hyundai decided to move away from the distinctly hatchback proportions of the Tucson when they penned its replacement and the result is a sleek, low-line one-box shape. This new “fluidic” design language breaks new ground and finds confident expression in the sweeping, gently curved lines which flow rearward and provide a level of athleticism not typically associated with this class of vehicle.

To achieve this dynamic and sporty effect, ix35 gets an aggressively high waist line, coupled with a low-to-the-ground feel which is enhanced by the 225/55 R18 wheels on all but the baseline model.

The ix35 is longer and wider than the previous Tucson, but is slightly lower. It rides on a 2 640 mm wheelbase which is 10mm up. At 4 410 mm and 1 820 mm, it is 85 mm longer and 20 mm wider than before, greatly improving the interior cabin space. Reducing overall height by 20 mm to 1 660 mm has been achieved without affecting headroom.

A key design feature is the hexagonal grille previewed on the ix-onic concept revealed at the 2009 Geneva Auto Salon. The grille, in this case bisected by a bold chrome styling line, is a defining look that will serve to unify the family of future Hyundai products. A pair of character lines on the bonnet, and the dramatically swept-back headlights, leads the eye to the grille, making it the focal point of the nose.

The flanks are defined by the rising beltline, and a bold black plastic sill moulding which arcs upwards between the wheelarches. Curvaceous pressings on the front and rear fenders, and a similar one lower down on the doors, reinforces the fluidic design theme. Elongated tail light clusters extend well around the corners into the prominent wheel housings, the shape of the glassware mimicking what is at the front and providing additional safety by improving side-on visibility.

With its dramatically sloped rear glass topped by a pronounced rear spoiler, it is obvious that the iX35 was designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind and the svelte shape confirms this at first glance. Sleek yet generously-proportioned exterior mirrors incorporate side repeaters on GLS models. Standard front and rear foglights on all models and roof rails on the GLS models, confirm the iX35’s dual-purpose role.

The base model can be identified by its body-coloured rather than chromed door handles and the fact that side repeaters are in the front fenders rather than the mirror housings.

The overall effect is of a sleek yet purposeful vehicle with a serious dose of attitude, despite the compact footprint.

INTERIOR & ACCOMMODATION

While the growth in wheelbase is minimal, careful packaging has helped to achieve the maximum amount of interior space.

An additional 40 mm of front seat fore/aft adjustment gives more legroom and headroom for taller drivers while rear legroom is maximized – it’ll satisfy all but the very tallest South African males – by scalloping the rear of the front seats. Rear legroom is a few millimeters shy of one metre, as is rear headroom.

Large door apertures confirm that the needs of those in the rear compartment have not been overlooked.

In terms of overall look and feel, the interior lines echo the dynamic flow of the sheet metal. A feeling of quality and luxury is immediately apparent too, combined with a sense of practicality that makes the iX35 perfect for families on the move.

The widely-spaced front seats are separated by a massive centre console box capable of swallowing the paraphernalia which comes with 21st century living.

Ahead of this lidded compartment are generously-proportioned cupholders, one of which doubles as a removable ashtray if so required. Wide door pockets front and rear accommodate drinks bottles, and with only two occupants on the rear seat a fold-down armrest with integrated bottle/cup holders can be swiftly deployed.

With most of the additional length achieved by increasing the rear overhang, luggage volume has increased significantly. The mounting height of the retractable cargo screen has also been raised by 71mm and 591 litres of space is now available, increasing to 1 436 with the rear backrests folded flat.

Like the rest of the interior the cargo floor is impeccably finished and the floor board can either be folded forward to release additional space around the full-sized alloy spare, or removed completely.

A sense of class is immediately apparent from behind the four-spoke steering wheel, which has a stylish metal grain trim to complement the precisely stitched leather. The gauge cluster borrows Supervision technology from Hyundai’s Genesis luxury sedan and displays key information with crystal-clear clarity and minimal eye stress. All instruments and gauges are backlit in Hyundai’s signature blue colour which is being applied across the Hyundai family.

The same look and feel is apparent in the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, which has been upgraded with a new blower and dual temperature controls for the driver and front passenger, the automatic control of the temperature now more precise thanks to the use of new and improved sensors.

This dual zone arrangement incorporates an ambient temperature readout in a liquid crystal display and is fitted to all but the base model. Both the manual air con and automatic climate control systems are characterized by a pair of large rotary dials, which allow for ease of use with minimal need to take one’s eyes off the road.

Features and equipment across the range extend to steering wheel-mounted audio remote controls, multimedia interface, reversing camera integral with the rearview mirror, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob, roof-mounted sunglass holder, full-function driving computer (including instant and average fuel consumption, range to tank empty and average speed), alloy wheels, 60:40 split rear seat, auto-arming central locking and electric windows all round.

With the exception of the base 2,0-litre petrol all models are equipped with black leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, electric folding mirrors and cruise control with switchgear on the steering wheel.

The two 4x4s add an electrically-adjusted driver’s seat with lumbar support while the diesel flagship model also has dual panoramic sunroofs, push button start with smart-key proximity sensor, and – to maximize the sound quality of the 6-speaker/6CD sound system – a separate amplifier.

DRIVETRAIN

Engines

Hyundai engineers have taken their World Engine – the largest petrol engine programme in the world – and created the lighter, more fuel efficient and cleaner-running Theta-II. Available locally as both a 2,0-litre and 2,4 four cylinder, these all-aluminium multivalve engines now feature variable valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust camshafts, compared to Theta-I which only adjusted the inlet cam phasing. Dual CVVT has benefits for both fuel efficiency and exhaust emissions.

Another major improvement for the iX35 application is the change to a two-stage Variable Intake System (VIS) which enables switching between long and short intake manifold lengths, resulting in an across-the-board performance increase, especially as far as low-end torque is concerned. To reduce internal friction, engineers have applied various technologies – such as special, hardened surfaces – to moving parts.

A strict diet has helped the Theta-II 2,0-litre shed over 10 kilograms compared to the Theta-I version.

The smaller engine of these two produces an impressive 122 kW at 6 200 revs/min, backed up by 197 Nm at 4 600 revs/min. Whether in two- or three-pedal guise, owners can expect overall consumption of 8.7 litres/100 km and CO2 emissions of just over 206 grams per kilometre.

The 2,4-litre versions is rated at 130 kW and 227 Nm and will use 9.2 litres of unleaded per 100, emitting 219 grams of CO2 per kilometre. It’ll also accelerate to 100 km/h in 10 seconds exactly and continue on to 185 km/h.

With 130 kW at 4 000 revs/min and 392 Nm between 1 800 and 2 500 revs/min, the CRDi R2,0-litre has all the makings of a modern classic. This is the newest member of Hyundai’s ‘R’ diesel engine family and benefits from the third generation common rail system developed by Bosch whose piezo-electric injectors deliver fuel at 1800 bar pressure, providing an unprecedented degree of accuracy and control.

Developed by a 150-man team at an investment cost of 250 billion won (R167-million), the R–Engine harnesses Hyundai´s newest and most advanced development tools.

An electronically-controlled variable geometry turbocharger and an advanced engine control unit eliminates turbo lag and ensures the highest level of communication between engine and transmission. The R also has a lower balance shaft to eliminate vibration and a 16-valve dual overhead camshaft cylinder head. Weight-saving features include a serpentine belt with isolation pulley, a plastic head cover, plastic intake manifold and plastic oil filter housing.

To achieve Euro-5 emission compliance, the R is fitted with a close-coupled diesel particulate filter. When mated to the six-speed manual gearbox, the iX35 R Type CRDi requires just 6.4 litres of 50 ppm diesel per 100 km while emitting a mere 170 grams of CO2.

To achieve the maximum possible fuel efficiency, all ix35 models incorporate a state-of-the-art Alternator Management System (AMS) whose circuitry monitors electrical loads and the state of battery charge. During periods of low electrical loads and a full charge in the battery, a clutch automatically disengages the alternator thus reducing the load on the engine and lowering fuel consumption.

In addition, the rack and pinion steering is power-assisted by an electric motor rather than by a hydraulic pump, limited power off-take to periods when steering lock is actually being applied.

Transmission

Hyundai’s all-new six-speed automatic transaxle has helped the company meet its goals of improving fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions while providing the highest possible shift quality. In addition, Shiftronic provides the option of more sporty, manual shifting via a sequential gate.

Designed for transverse engine applications in passenger cars and SUVs, the new compact transaxle puts Hyundai into an elite class of manufacturers who have designed their own proprietary six-speed automatic, demonstrating Hyundai’s advanced powertrain engineering capabilities.

The strength of the design is its totally unique layout which makes it smaller, more compact and lighter than any other similar transmission on the market today. Developed over a four-year period, this new six-speed automatic is 12 kilos lighter than the five-speed it replaces. It also is 41mm shorter and considerably simpler having 62 fewer parts, which is key to increased durability, lighter weight and lower cost.

The unit is also completely maintenance-free: it is not equipped with a dipstick as it is filled with an automatic transmission fluid that is designed for the life of the vehicle thereby reducing maintenance costs.

When it comes to ratios, more is definitely better. The addition of a sixth gear enables closer spacing between gear ratios providing a better balance of performance and fuel economy while the wide overall gear ratio helps deliver strong acceleration.

The advantages are apparent out on the road, and both the 2,4-litre petrol and R2,0-litre turbodiesel available with this transmission exhibit silky and seamless changes while also providing instant overtaking response.

On the open road it allows for relaxed cruising, intelligent management between engine and transmission prompting it to shift down only when absolutely necessary and often without the driver being aware of the fact, apart from the change in position of the tachometer needle.

Both the five-speed and six-speed manual gearboxes are proven entities, and are used largely unchanged in the iX35 apart from ratios fine-tuned to suit this application.

In the case of the two 4×4 models, torque distribution front to rear takes place automatically thanks to a viscous coupling integral with the rear differential. In addition, drivers can lock the drivetrain via a dashboard button, for a 50:50 front/rear torque distribution.

As part of the Electronic Stability Programme fitted to these models, hill descent control system limits speed to a walking pace for enhanced safety in off-road situations while hill start assist also uses electronic control of the braking system to ensure slip-free pullaways.

Suspension

The multi-link rear suspension was adopted not only for its superior ride and handling characteristics but also because of its compact design which minimizes intrusion into the cabin thereby creating extra space for passengers and cargo.

Tried and trusted MacPherson struts are employed for the front suspension set-up and are now fitted with ‘side load’ coils, to allow the damper to react more freely, especially over high frequency bumps.

The gas-filled shock absorbers have been tuned accordingly to control spring movement accurately both front and rear, while a pair of stabilizer bars limit body roll.

The two 4×4 also have an even more sophisticated suspension thanks to special shock absorbers. These incorporate a technology called ASD, for Amplitude Selective Damping, which allows unhindered movement of the internal piston for a plush ride over small undulations.

However, when a sudden, larger suspension movement occurs, the damper stiffens up almost instantly, ensuring control by limiting unwanted body movement.

Extensive work was done to isolate sounds and eliminate vibrations. The ix35 is remarkably quiet whether cruising, or idling along in stop/start traffic.

The underside of the bonnet is fitted with a high-density insulator, while booming is reduced thanks to a sub-frame dynamic damper. The rear luggage area gets extra soundproofing to isolate exhaust sounds and road noise has been minimized by improving stiffness in the front and rear struts and rear trailing arms.

SAFETY

The iX35 has been engineered to the very highest standards and safety tests conducted in-house suggest that it will achieve a five-star rating from Euro NCAP – a feat managed by the i20.

Particular attention has been paid to increasing the stiffness of the front side members which have been enlarged and straightened. Also, the B-pillars serve as the anchors of new ring structure which improves overall side structure stiffness while also creating more room for the door armrest and seat.

The entire body shell has been made stiffer and lighter thanks to its more extensive use of ultra-high tensile strength steel which comprises 68.9 percent of the shell compared to the Tucson’s 57.3 percent. Also, the use of Tailor Welded Blanks has been expanded on key structural members.

These combine steels of different thickness and grades using a sophisticated laser welding and stamping process achieving an optimal stiffness-to-weight ratio. TWBs reduce body weight while enhancing crash energy management.

As well as the carefully-engineered body, all iX35s, with the exception of the dual-airbag base model, will add side and curtain bags to bring the total to six. All models – once again with the exception of the cheapest one – have three-point inertia reel belts throughout. Pre-tensioners with load limiters are fitted to the front belts.

Active headrests – designed to maximize neck and head support in the event of rear-end collision, hazard signals which activate in emergency braking, high level brakelight and anti-submarining seats all add up to a holistic approach to occupant safety.

Needless to say, the braking system is an all-disc affair, with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution integrated to maximize stability. Discs on the 4×4 models are approximately 20 mm larger in diameter than those of the 4x2s.

Finally, the 4×4 versions are fitted with an Electronic Stability Programme, which uses a mixture of selective braking and engine torque reduction to prevent the vehicle from deviating from an ideal path, based on feedback from steering and yaw rate sensors.

CONCLUSION

“In a climate where more and more motoring consumers are demanding strong value combined with quality in both the dynamic and static sense, we’re convinced that the iX35 is going to dovetail perfectly with the needs of the marketplace,” concluded Anderson. “Global demand for the vehicle, with the sector still growing at around 10 percent per annum, means that stock availability is probably going to be our biggest challenge…”

Retail Prices

  • 2.0 GL 4X2 Manual R239 900
  • 2.0 GLS 4X2 Manual R264 900
  • 2.0 GLS 4X2 A/T R274 900
  • 2.4 GLS 4X4 A/T R319 900
  • R2.0 GLS 4X2 Manual R299 900
  • R2.0 GLS 4X4 A/T R369 900

After sales

  • 5 year 150 000km Manufacturers Warranty
  • 5 year 150 000km Roadside assistance
  • 5 Year 150 000km Rust Warranty
  • 5 year 100 000km Service plan
  • Service Intervals – 15 000km