Hyundai ix35 Series II road test: Good car made better
TWO months of living with the brand new Hyundai ix35 Series II brings me to one if its key selling points: its Australianisation.
That is, the Korean car maker fine-tuning its suspension and steering especially for us.
It's an interesting concept. Has it suddenly taken to wearing thongs and a cork hat? Getting drunk with its mates in front of the footy or playing Men at Work repeatedly through its entertainment system?
Of course not. But I'm always a bit sceptical when I hear about car companies optimising their cars specifically for the market they're sold in.
It's an excellent idea on paper. But are Australian roads really that different to Europe's? To America's? China's? Even Iceland's?
In all the countries I've driven in (and it's a lot), I've found excellent super-smooth freeways, pitted and pot-holed city streets, bumpy and cambered country roads and bone shaking unsealed trails. And every country seems to have a mix of each.
So what are "Australian conditions"? I know the roads in central Sydney are a hell of a lot different to what I'll find in the Adelaide Hills; across the Nullarbor Plain; in the Snowy Mountains or up the never-ending Stuart Hwy to Katherine.
Just how you fine-tune a car's suspension and steering for conditions so varied seems an impossible task to me, but Hyundai has, to its great credit, given it a go.
With an SUV, especially a mass market one, it's about striking the right balance. No, it won't handle like a Porsche 911 or be as bump-absorbing as an S-Class Merc, but it needs to do most things well. To that end, I can happily report the ix35 achieves this. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of its mid-corner willingness and amount of body-roll while chucking it into the bends, there are SUVs that do this better, but also others that lag behind.
The basics are this: The ix35 does ride quite firm compared to a lot of its rivals, but personally I tolerate and quite like this in any car (as long as it's not too pronounced), and as my "Australian conditions" are typically excellent road surfaces, I've no grumble here.
The Series II ix35 has been given a 28% increase in spring rate, decreasing body roll over its Series I predecessor, and making it a tad more assured over bumpy surfaces.
In my mind, the Series I was never bad, but the Series II has moved the game on somewhat, as it should have after all the work performed.
Hyundai employed former Formula One suspension expert David Potter to oversee the suspension and steering changes in the new ix35, and was tasked to make the SUV feel right in all Australia's huge range of conditions.
Mr Potter and his team employed new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars for the ix35, and by all accounts the Hyundai feels well balanced with impressively direct steering, not least for an SUV.
If I've anything to complain about, the tyres lose decent grip a bit early when I start pushing into the corners, and the traction control does kick in eagerly and early to take throttle control away from the driver.
Then I remind myself it's an SUV typically used by my wife and thousands of other families to ferry the kids around in.
Finally, I was impressed with the Series I ix35's dirt road abilities, and pleasingly, the new model seems even more assured and if not comfortable, certainly not ruinous to the spine on the rough stuff.
A good car made better? I'd say so, and respect is due to Hyundai for trying to make the Series II ix35 a winner no matter the Australian conditions.
No easy task considering how varied our vast land is, but if it's about being good at everything rather than excelling at one, it's been time and money well spent.