Self-similar solutions to the compressible Euler equations with nonlinear conduction are considered as particular instances of unsteady radiative deflagration – or ‘ablation’ – waves with the goal of characterizing the actual hydrodynamic properties that such flows may present. The chosen family of solutions, corresponding to the ablation of an initially quiescent perfectly cold and homogeneous semi-infinite slab of inviscid compressible gas under the action of increasing external pressures and radiation fluxes, is well suited to the description of the early ablation of a target by gas-filled cavity X-rays in experiments of high energy density physics. These solutions are presently computed by means of a highly accurate numerical method for the radiative conduction model of a fully ionized plasma under the approximation of a non-isothermal leading shock wave. The resulting set of solutions is unique for its high fidelity description of the flows down to their finest scales and its extensive exploration of external pressure and radiative flux ranges. Two different dimensionless formulations of the equations of motion are put forth, yielding two classifications of these solutions which are used for carrying out a quantitative hydrodynamic analysis of the corresponding flows. Based on the main flow characteristic lengths and on standard characteristic numbers (Mach, Péclet, stratification and Froude numbers), this analysis points out the compressibility and inhomogeneity of the present ablative waves. This compressibility is further analysed to be too high, whether in terms of flow speed or stratification, for the low Mach number approximation, often used in hydrodynamic stability analyses of ablation fronts in inertial confinement fusion (ICF), to be relevant for describing these waves, and more specifically those with fast expansions which are of interest in ICF. Temperature stratification is also shown to induce, through the nonlinear conductivity, supersonic upstream propagation of heat-flux waves, besides a modified propagation of quasi-isothermal acoustic waves, in the flow conduction regions. This description significantly departs from the commonly admitted depiction of a quasi-isothermal conduction region where wave propagation is exclusively ascribed to isothermal acoustics and temperature fluctuations are only diffused.