Despite the science-fiction underpinnings, the ix35 Fuel Cell is remarkably conventional to drive – assuming you’ve sampled an electric car previously.
From behind the wheel, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that you’re just in a remarkably quiet Hyundai SUV. Thumb the starter button and the instruments spring into life to reveal a conventional-looking fuel gauge with a handy range guide.
The rev counter is replaced by a dial that shows either power consumption or if energy recuperation when braking. Between the seats is a gearstick shared with the automatic ix35; slip this into Drive and you pull away with barely any noise. The worst you’ll get is a faint whine under hard acceleration.
Thanks to maximum torque being available from zero rpm, initial acceleration is far brisker than the 12.5sec 0-62mph time suggests. Thrust tails off noticeably after this point but the delivery stays smooth at all times. As with most electric cars, there’s only one gear in the transmission.
Thanks in part to a 100kg weight increase over regular versions of the ix35, the fuel cell variant can be painfully slow past 60mph. It will happily keep pace with motorway traffic but you can’t be afraid to lean on the throttle hard, although at this point you’ll watch your range tumble pretty quickly.
You also feel the portliness of the car around corners. While there isn’t too much additional body roll due to so much of the extra mass being mounted low, Hyundai can’t change the laws of physics.
Direction changes feel ponderous, with the stability control kicking in early to try to prevent the nose from washing wide. There’s also very little in the way of feedback through the steering wheel.
Like most electric cars, you’re much better taking a relaxed approach with the ix35. Not only will smaller throttle openings preserve the range, but you also get to appreciate the exceedingly comfortable ride. Imperfections are soaked up without fuss, while bigger bumps are dealt with equally well.
As for the interior, you’d be hard pushed to notice you’re in anything but a normal ix35. This has both positive and negative points. The good news is that the cabin is for the most part spacious and not too bad to look at. It’s easy enough to get comfortable up front and you sit high up, with a commanding view of the road ahead.
The rear seats offer a decent amount of leg room, although the sloping roofline does eat into head room significantly. Where the ix35 does score over the Toyota Mirai, its rival fuel cell offering, is that it offers seating for five, not four. There won’t be masses of shoulder room but it’s good to have the ability to carry three in the back.