SUV’s rugged good looks

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COMPACT 4x4s are more popular than ever and, it seems, just about every manufacturer has at least one or two on its fleet.

Better roadholding and improved fuel economy play their part but, probably just as importantly, is the fact that these are now some of the best equipped cars on the road at some of the most realistic prices.

The Hyundai ix35 comes in both two and four-wheel-drive but our test car was one of the entry level two-wheel drive versions.

Of course, this means you don’t get the benefit of all-wheel drive come the winter but better handling and fuel economy may outweigh this consideration.

You still get the extra ground clearance to ride out the bumps and lumps, too, as well as benefiting from the elevated ride height common to all SUVs.

When launching the ix35 back in 2010, Hyundai had a rather innovative way of describing its appeal: “chocolate cake taste with salad calories.” They qualified this by saying it had the look of a coupe, the style of an SUV, the practicality of an MPV but with costs equating to that of a hatchback.

Although you can dismiss this is as a lot of press office hype, the fact is the ix35 does look the part and despite being compact has an imposing rugged look that is visually pleasing.

The hexagonal front grille is a neat touch that links it nicely to the others in the Hyundai family.

Mated with a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine, our test vehicle proved a competent mover and the six-speed manual gearbox was faultless.

Equipment levels are more than adequate. Even the entry level comes in with 17-inch alloy wheels, ESP, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front and rear seats, electric heated door mirrors, leather steering wheel and gearstick, reverse parking sensors, six airbags – two front, two front side and two full length curtain airbags – and a trip computer.

Our Premium model was even better turned out, with a massive panoramic sun roof, automatic headlights, chrome interior and exterior trim, cruise control, dual zone climate control, electric folding door mirrors, keyless entry with engine start/stop button, automatic wipers, part-leather upholstery, touch-screen sat-nav and a reversing camera. Impressive! And all that for just over £19,000.

The interior has plenty of luggage capacity (591 litres with the rear seats up, or up to 1,436 litres when all folded flat) and enough leg, head and shoulder room for five large ones.

The 1.7 diesel engine has low running costs, returning 48.7mpg with a CO2 level of 139k/km.

The ix35 is very easy to live with. It drives beautifully, with a tight turning circle and refined road manners.

The interior is smart and functional and the blue backlight of the dials once it gets dark are a nice touch. With plenty of storage space including a massive central console and cupholders for all, the ix35 is very family-friendly.

As well as a low sticker price, all Hyundai’s are backed up by a five-year warranty and a 10-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty, meaning your investment will hopefully last you for many years to come.