Hyundai's ix35 looks better in the flesh than in photos - which can turn it into a caricature of itself - but the strong styling comes with penalties which could put a few family buyers off
Still, those emphatic looks may prove a strength, too. Hyundai is selling this Tucson replacement as appealing to both emotion-driven and rational buyers. Some will love its characterful lines, and how easy the practical cabin and strong diesel engine are to live with (we've yet to try the petrols).
This car sits on a platform it shares with the soon-to-arrive Kia Sportage replacement, and uses the part-time four-wheel-drive system also employed by the larger Santa Fe. It's front-drive unless slip is detected, when power heads rearwards, and you can lock it into a 50-50 split at up to 40kmh. A two-wheel-drive variant is available for those who like this car and can sacrifice grip for a lower price.
The diesel we tried at launch is a smaller, 2.0-litre 135kW/392Nm version of the Santa Fe and Kia Sorrento's R-series, a strong performer that benefits from the arrival of a six-speed transmission; she'll pull from low revs, with plenty still to spare at the open road limit.
There are also 2.0 and 2.4-litre petrols, the latter delivering more power for less fuel than the outgoing 2.7.
This car is most at home on road, a cruise down the shores of Lake Taupo confirming ix35 is a confident cruiser and feels well tied-down when cornering, though there was a tad more wind noise than I'd like.
Rough-surface and urban running impressions will await a more extended test drive; as for off-seal, this is an all-roads wagon rather than an adventurous bush-basher.
So far so good, especially in the tested Elite specification, which gets a generous features list for its $53,990 (diesel, 4wd) price.
But that swoopy-looking rising waistline dramatically cuts the view from the rear; small children in kiddie seats may not be able to see out at all, and even I felt claustrophobic back there - and I'm 1.66 metres tall.
As for rear vision, it's severely compromised despite those large side mirrors - no wonder the Elite includes a reversing camera as standard, with the view popping up conveniently in the rear-view mirror.
Unless you're excessively confident, and 150% sure there will never be a bollard, a bicycle or a small child behind you, you'll want that visual assurance.
It's a shame Hyundai's designers didn't properly consider its likely market before signing it off - after all, Nissan's Qashqai manages a rising waist without the same level of functional compromise.
My only other niggle is no reach adjust for the steering wheel; I was comfy enough, but again, taller/shorter drivers should be sure they are equally happy before writing that cheque.
Prices start at $39,990 in 2.0-litre petrol 2wd format, including ESP, ABS, and six airbags.
See the Hyundai ix35 for sale here.