Chris Nixon gets behind the wheel of the Hyundai ix35 Highlander.

Testing: Hyundai ix35 Highlander

$38,590 plus on-roads | Small SUV
2.4 litre petrol | 136kW/240Nm

Hyundai’s global operation had a high-profile part as a competitor in the recent World Rally Championship event in Australia, but for mere scribblers like me observing the action it also provided a chance for an extended test of Australia’s biggest-selling small SUV, the Hyundai ix35.

The ix35, as tested in the top-spec Highlander petrol version, is not the cheapest or most economical offering in this market segment, but it’s still easy to understand why it’s so popular.

Hyundai delivers in the right measure exactly what an average family needs – practicality, comfort and convenience, combined with a fuss-free driving experience.

It takes only an initial few hundred metres to feel familiar with the ix35. The Highlander includes touch-screen navigation and foolproof Bluetooth set-up for smartphones.

The ix35 comes with Hyundai’s recently-extended package of after-sales benefits – lifetime capped-price dealer servicing, 10 years’ roadside emergency assistance and a five-year vehicle warranty.

FOR: Practicality, convenience, after-sale service.
AGAINST: Boot could be bigger.
VERDICT: A solid family all-rounder.

Infiniti closer than ever with cheaper new model

Infiniti, Nissan’s equivalent to Toyota’s Lexus in the prestige car showrooms, has cut $1000 from the entry price to its Q50 sedan range by introducing a new variant with a petrol engine.

The Q50 is Infiniti’s alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS compact executive class. Despite having a very low profile, it’s a well-executed design worth consideration.

Having launched with just a diesel four and V6 hybrid, the Q50 now comes with a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol motor – developed in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz – producing 155 kiloWatts of power and 350 Newtonmetres of torque.

The Q50 2.0T is available in three specifications priced from $50,900, making it the least expensive Infiniti and cheapest among its rivals mentioned above.

The cars are good-looking, well-built and well-equipped. Their so-called steering-by-wire system is said to be a world first.

There is no steering column between the driver’s wheel and the steering box, instead a computer-controlled, adjustable electric actuator said to improve response while eliminating vibration.

Thrifty Suzis

A convoy of Suzuki S-Cross SUVs recently achieved impressive fuel economy on a 3650 km test run from Brisbane to Mount Isa and back.

The 1.6 litre wagons dipped as low as 4.6 litres per 100 kms, compared to the official minimum thirst of 5.8 litres/100 km. Even a heavily loaded all-wheel drive version could do no worse than 6.8 litres/100 km.