Without a junior crossover in your product line up you're missing more than a trick. The segment, invented by Nissan and its Qashqai, is constantly growing. But though Hyundai had plenty of experience with its full-size Santa Fe and its Tuscon (the IX35's predecessor) it wasn't until the IX35 was launched in 2010 that it was taken seriously. Distinctive looks, excellent equipment levels and a spacious interior are backed up by the firm's generous five-year warranty. We tested the 1.7CRDi 2WD Premium (£20,450) which is both cheap to own and buy in this tightly contested segment.
This one's another opinion splitter -- it's not as bold as the Skoda Yeti or the Kia Sportage, but there's certainly a lot going on. Best viewed from the front, where the oversized grille flows neatly in to the sharp headlamps, things take a turn for the worse when moving down the flanks of the car -- the creases, or swage lines, doing nothing to hide the slightly awkward proportions. But time with the IX35 soon softens the blow, and if you opt for the Premium edition (with standard 18inch alloys) and a dark shade for the paintwork, the IX35 actually looks quite classy.
Hyundai's quality has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and its interiors are now just as impressive as those offered by its mainstream European competitors. The dashboard is as bold as the exterior with blue backlighting for the instruments and plenty of geometric shapes throughout the design. There's plenty of gadgets in there as well, and like other crossovers you sit fairly high with a decent view of the road ahead. Those in the rear enjoy decent leg and headroom while the 465-litre boot is one of the larger in the segment.
Performance & handling
The 1.7CRDi engine may not be the smoothest or fastest unit out there -- it can get a bit rattly towards when pushed and the 0-60mph sprint takes around 12 seconds -- but the 260Nm peak torque at only 1,250rpm ensures it always feels willing. If you require more pace then best look towards the 2.0-litre diesel with its extra 60Nm of torque and 20bhp of performance.
Regardless of engine, all IX35s are easy to drive, thanks to light and accurate steering and easy-shifting six speed manual gearbox -- there's also an automatic option for those who prefer. And though it doesn't offer the best ride and handling balance in the sector, it does prove comfortable both in town and on longer journeys. Even the front wheel drive models will tackle rough tracks with ease, but for extra grip it's wise to buy a 4WD model -- it's hill descent control and differential lock making it much more capable away from tarmac.
Economy & environment
Buyers of cars like the Hyundai IX35 value frugality over almost anything else, and the firm has realised this, concentrating on frugal diesel engines and low-emission front-wheel drive options. There's currently no 'green' version, though the 1.7CRDi 2WD emits only 139g/km and can achieve 48.7mpg. That's broadly comparable with the Kia Sportage, with which it shares its engines and similarly powered Skoda Yetis. The more powerful diesel, only available with 4WD is actually slightly more economical at 49.6mpg though CO2 emissions are 10g/km higher. Still, it's nice to have the option of four-wheel drive without too much of an economy or emissions penalty.
Equipment & value
First thing worth mentioning is the five-year Triplecare warranty, a package that not only covers your first five years of maintenance but also includes roadside assistance and annual health checks as well (for the car, not the driver). The range starts with the £17,300 1.6GDi 2WD Style model and is rounded off with the £25,060 2.0CRDi 4WD Premium auto. All are well equipped with air conditioning, reversing sensors, Bluetooth and front and rear heated seats as standard. Premium models add such luxuries as leather seats, climate control, panoramic roof and cruise control, while the £1,000 Media pack with sat-nav, parking camera and upgraded audio is great value.
Just like its KIA Sportage brother, the Hyundai IX35 was awarded the full five stars when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2010. Like many of its competitors it offers its occupants great protection, and pedestrians rather less so.
There's no doubt there are rivals that are more talented -- the Skoda Yeti is more fun to drive, the Kia Sportage more striking and the VW Tiguan better quality -- but the IX35 manages to tread a fine line that makes it one of the most complete all-rounders available. The interior is both spacious and of high quality, while the range of engines are mostly refined and economical. Consider also that the IX35 comes with the firm's five year triplecare warranty, and its squeaky clean reputation for customer satisfaction and it's no surprise that the IX35 is a very credible long term proposition.
Model tested: Hyundai IX35 1.7 CRDi Style 2WD
Engine: 1.7-litre diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 12.4 seconds
Top speed: 108mph
Emissions: 139g/km CO2