As we've mentioned previously, Korean car manufacturers are on a roll. Of all the winners and losers to have waded through the quagmire that has been the motor industry in the last couple of years, two brands stand out as having emerged on the positive side of the ledger; Hyundai and their Korean counterpart, Kia.
Each of these two have brought very good new product to market recently, the result of investing many millions of Won into R&D over the past decade or so.
And things continue to get better. While we have sung Hyundai's praises for a while now, apart from one or two models, styling hasn't really been a strong suit.
But now that's changed too. Their latest offering is the cute and quirky ix35. Quite a radical styling departure from the plain and dumpy Tucson it replaces, the ix35 conveys more of a sporty image, with a more exciting, youthful appeal.
The attractive SUV/Crossover is a delight on the road too. Our drive programme at the recent Press launch took us over a variety of road surfaces, with a decent amount of open road cruising, mixed in with some slippery and unsealed surfaces.
At open road speeds the ix35 is predictable and sure footed. It's stable and direct on the long straights and turns in with confidence on the twisty stuff.
Throwing the little 4x4 around on the gravel produced feedback and handling more akin to the feel of a rally car than that of a cumbersome SUV. The Stability Control cutting in, but not too intrusively, when required to keep the nose pointing where it's aimed.
Our test vehicle was fitted with Hyundai's brilliant R Series diesel powerplant, in this instance of 2.0 litre capacity. It proved lively and flexible, with the six speed auto 'box shifting positively and smoothly.
Off road capability is quite respectable for a vehicle in this sector, with 170mm ground clearance, 28.1 degree approach angle and 26.0 degree departure angle.
If there is a criticism of the ix35, it would be noise level. On course chip roads tyre noise is more audible than we'd like, possibly exacerbated by the 18 inch wheels and low profile tyres which are standard fitment on all Elite models. So maybe a little more sound insulation wouldn't go amiss.
The ix35 is offered in five model configurations. Starting with a 2WD 2.0 litre, 122kW petrol powered version producing 197Nm of torque, Standard and Elite 4WD 2.4 litre 130kW petrol models producing 227 Nm of torque, and equivalent spec level 2.0 litre diesel models producing 135kW of power and a punchy 392Nm of torque.
Equipment levels are impressive, with numerous features across the range that we might normally associate with top end variants only. USB and iPod compatibility, hill start assist and downhill assist, cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls, front fog lights, roof rails and heated mirrors are standard on all models.
Currently the steering column has tilt adjustment only, but we're told that later this year telescopic adjustment will be added.
Elite models get leather interior, reversing camera, proximity key, upgraded audio system, heated front seats, dual zone climate air conditioning and electric chromatic rear view mirror.
Fuel consumption is quoted at 7.5L/100km for diesel models, 8.5L/100km for the 2.0 litre petrol and 9.0L/100km for the 2.4 litre petrol. Braked and unbraked towing weights are rated at 1,600kg and 750kg respectively for all models.
Pricing starts at $39,990 for the entry level 2WD 2.0 litre ix35, through to $53,990 for the range-topping 2.0R CRDi Elite diesel.
Maybe it's unfair to draw direct pricing comparisons with the Tucson because the ix35 is that much better. But with between $7,000 and $10,000 premiums over outgoing Tucson models, we wonder whether Hyundai's market penetration will continue to grow at similar rates to those we've seen in recent times.
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Reviews and comments are the opinion of drivers and do not represent the views of the AA.