namibia Adventure Safari HYUNDAI ix35 2.4 GLS 4×4 AT
Once upon a time, Hyundai was a fairly inconsequential vehicle manufacturer on the world stage. Today, it is one of the globe’s most powerful carmakers. It has even managed to produce a vehicle that was voted US Car of the Year at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show
How did Korean vehicle manufacturer Hyundai manage to win over the West? It all started with a pony – the Hyundai Pony.
Although the Hyundai Motor Company had been building cars with the help of Ford since the 1960s, the late ’70s saw the birth of the first true Korean car.
Styled by Giorgio Giugiaro of ItalDesign, and making use of components provided by Mitsubishi, the Hyundai Pony was born in 1975.
In 1983, the company started exporting the car to Canada, where it did exceptionally well. For a short while, it even managed to become the top-selling car in Canada.
The US would not accept the Pony, however, since it didn’t meet emission standards. But in 1986, Hyundai started exporting the Excel to the US. It did very well initially, but there was a problem: the quality of the vehicle wasn’t great. The car suffered from reliability issues, and owners weren’t impressed.
Hyundai, however, was desperate to improve its image. And over the next few decades, it spent an enormous amount of money to research and develop vehicles that were truly world-class.
How much did it manage to improve its cars from those initial cheap and cheerful attempts? A lot. The company’s crowning achievement came in 2009 when its Genesis was voted the Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show. It was the moment that confirmed Hyundai’s ability to build vehicles that were as good as any the US, Europe or Japan could offer.
The ix35 is a great example of the company’s new class-leading vehicles. Although the previous model (which was called the Tucson) was a good SUV that sold well in South Africa, the ix35 has taken quality and refinement up a few notches. The ix35 has a wonderful engine, a plush interior, good handling and plenty of safety and entertainment features.
The 2,4-litre petrol model that accompanied us to Namibia also showed that it could go farther off road than one would expect. Despite sporting nudge bars that reduced its already-low ground clearance, it scampered through all the sand and crept over all rocks that the Kaokoveld could throw at it.
To be sure, the ix35 sells well mostly because of its great on-road performance, trendy looks and fancy features, but it definitely proved that its all-wheel-drive system would allow you to go farther off road than you thought. No wonder Hyundai’s vehicles have been embraced so thoroughly by the West.
The ix35 reportedly cost US$225 million to research and develop. And once you get in behind the steering wheel of Hyundai’s latest compact SUV, you immediately notice that this isn’t a vehicle that was rushed into production.
The ix35 is wonderfully refined. The ride is comfortable and the engine performs impeccably. The vehicle in out Namibian adventure was a 2,4-litre petrol model that offered 130 kW of power and 227 Nm of torque, so getting up to speed or overtaking was never an issue.
To be sure, the ix35 is a bit softer than the old Tucson was. Ground clearance is pegged at 170mm and the suspension is set up to do its best work on tar. The reason for this, however, is simple: that’s exactly how most buyers want it. The ix35 is a trendy crossover utility vehicle that will appeal largely to urban types.
Still, if you venture off the beaten path, the vehicle’s all-wheel-drive system will be able to cope with some pretty bad tracks.
Trivia: Although it is called the ix35 here, it has retained the Tucson name in a few other markets.
HYUNDAI iX35 2.4 GLS 4×4 AT
Engine: 2,4-litre, four-cylinder, electronic fuel injection
Power: 130 kW @ 6000 r/min
Torque: 227 Nm @ 4000 r/min
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
4WD: Electronic AWD with 4×4 Lock
Ground clearance: 170mm
Price: R334 900