For years I’ve been staring jealously at motor manufacturers’ UK-based websites. The sheer size of derivatives in the various model line-ups is enough to turn a man green with envy.
You see, the Europeans take the quality of their fuel very seriously, which means manufacturers aren’t afraid to provide models that need a certain grade of fuel to perform optimally. For years we have been denied certain so-called pick-of-the-range models simply because the quality of our fuel wasn’t good enough.
The Hyundai iX35 1,7 CRDi is a prime example. It has been available in other countries for a few years now and we have had to sit back and listen while the international motoring media praised it for being affordable, frugal and comfortable.
As our fuel quality improved, more models started trickling into Africa, and Hyundai has finally added the entry level iX35 diesel to its range.
In my humble opinion, it’s the undisputed pick of the pack for many reasons, but let’s start with the engine.
A 1,7-litre turbocharged diesel engine sure doesn’t sound as though it would have enough power, but this particular unit delivers 85kW and 260Nm of torque. It’s no ball of fire, but the six-speed manual gearbox allows you to get the best out of the power on offer.
The bigger 2,0-litre diesel engine is a lot stronger, but at no point during my time with the 1,7-litre did I feel the need for more oomph. Even in sixth gear at 120km/h it had enough torque to easily overtake slower traffic.
Hyundai claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 6,5 l/100km but, as usual, the claimed figure was not what the car actually consumed. Our test vehicle needed only 6,4 l/100km on the combined cycle and it did so without me even trying to drive economically. That’s a stunning achievement for a car of its size.
As it’s an entry level model, Hyundai obviously had to remove a few choice gizmos to bring the price down, but they haven’t removed anything you can’t live without.
It has leather seats, a touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity, leather wrapped steering wheel with buttons to control the infotainment system, cruise control and electric windows all round. In fact, the only noticeable difference between this model and those higher up in the range is the lack of climate control. Normal air-conditioning is standard and to be honest, I did not really miss the ability to set the temperature to exactly 20 degrees Celsius.
As a commuting machine the iX35 was an utter joy. I had driven the GLA 45 AMG the day before sliding behind the wheel of this car and you’d think that would be a depressing downgrade, but I was more than happy to hand the AMG’s keys over to my colleague GG van Rooyen. After the pummeling my back had received from the Merc’s stiff suspension, the iX35’s soft, cushy ride was as comforting as a warm bath.
It’s definitely not a car for driving enthusiastically and, truth be told, it’s not a car for tackling badly corrugated gravel roads, either. The 1,7 CRDi is available in front-wheel drive only, which means it’s best suited to inner city driving and highway cruising. That’s where this car really shines.
As a car to live with day-to-day, it’s extremely hard to fault. I tried to find a chink in its armour, but the best criticism I could come up with is the positioning of the passenger-side airbag warning light. It sits in the middle of the dashboard and seems to have been placed there as an afterthought.
There is, however, one other thing to keep in mind if you are interested in this car. By the time you read this, an all-new iX35 will have made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show, so unless you find yourself in desperate need of a new car, why not wait and buy one of those with this 1,7-litre engine instead?
The iX35 1,7 CRDi retails for R359 900 and comes as standard with a five-year/150 000km warranty and a five-year/90 000km service plan.