I approached the new Hyundai Tucson with a healthy sense of skepticism.
The old model was a dull little thing and while manufacturers tend to reuse old product names to evoke a sense of nostalgia, there was little of its ancestor that I wanted to be reminded of.
One of the undiscovered great vehicles
What I was reminded of was how quickly a good car (or any product, for that matter) can assert itself.
I knew that the Tucson was a good car within a couple of miles and was pretty sure that it was a very competent car within a dozen or so.
Now, after a week and almost five hundred miles I’m convinced that it is one of the undiscovered great vehicles in its class.
The Tucson is a handsome thing that looks like a proper off-roader rather than a jacked-up hatchback, thanks the sort of pseudo-aggressive front end that has become practically compulsory in the crossover class. I’m not being critical, mind, because it has the sort of showroom appeal and presence that draws people in for a much closer look.
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It’s what’s inside that counts
And if you do come a bit closer you’ll discover that the interior is as competitive as the exterior. It’s every bit as well equipped and durable as it needs to be, even if it doesn’t contain any of the surprise-and-delight features that could have set the Tucson apart from the (very stiff) competition.
Having said that, it’s bigger than you might expect with enough head and legroom to seat five adults in perfect comfort.
My Premium SE model’s ventilated front seats might only have puffed lukewarm air through the perforated leather in a rather asthmatic way, but in a heat-wave every little helps and the air-conditioning itself was powerful and effective.
Sprightly, yet lethargic…
The Tucson feels sprightlier to drive than the 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds might lead you to believe.
The key is the hefty slug of mid-range torque from the two-litre turbocharged diesel engine that makes it easy to make some very good progress indeed; understeer is there – as is lifeless steering – but grip levels are high and body-roll is minimal.
However, the normal setting on Drive Mode Select changes up far too early. This leaves the Tucson feeling a bit lethargic and blunt, which is almost entirely a result of EU fuel consumption game playing.
Switching to Sport mode makes a huge difference but the switch is hidden away on the centre console rather than on the gear lever itself. I had to look down to find it every single time I wanted to change, which made overtaking a bit of a faff. This was a shame because the Tucson is otherwise very effective at dispatching slower vehicles.
It’s a quiet car too and while the ride can get a bit jittery over poor surfaces, long journeys in the Tucson are more of a pleasure than a penance; I did a couple of fairly long journeys in one hit and arrived feeling fresh and ready for action. (Well, as much action as arriving in good time to sit down to a five-course meal in The Cotswolds involves…)
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Economic – with care
The jury is still out on the sort of fuel economy the Tucson is capable of: Hyundai say it will return an average of 43.5 mpg, while Honest John’s readers suggest that you can only expect about 28mpg.
For what it is worth, I managed almost 43mpg without trying at all, albeit over the space of just one tank of fuel. Clearly the Tucson will punish a leaden right foot but savings are there to be had with only a modicum of care.
The Hyundai can be had with a less powerful 1.7-litre diesel engine, which is £5,000 cheaper to buy, much cheaper to run and only a little bit slower than its full-fat brother. You’re limited to two-wheel-drive and lose a bit of towing capacity but I really can’t see much of a drawback unless you do tow heavily or regularly drive it off the beaten track.
The Tucson hides an ace up its sleeve in the form of Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited mileage warranty. Throw in potential savings of up to £3,000 off the showroom price (the range starts at just under £19,000) and the Tucson makes a very convincing case for itself indeed.
Power – 182bhp
Torque – 295lb ft
0-62mph – 9.5 seconds
Top speed – 125mph
Kerb weight – 1,615kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 43.5mpg
Honest John real world fuel consumption – 28.1mpg
CO2 emissions –170g/km
VED class – Band H
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,900kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 5 yrs/unlimited miles
Price – £30,750
Price as tested - £32,450
Best-in-class – The Renault Kadjar is slightly better to drive than the Hyundai Tucson but it only comes with a four-year warranty. My suggestion is to drive both and see which dealer will give you the best deal because both cars are excellent and the final choice will come down to your own personal preference.
The best of the rest – the Volkswagen Tiguan is beautifully finished but expensive to buy. If you value a premium feel to your cabin then there is nothing better for the money.
Left-field alternative - The Suzuki Vitara, especially in S format, has soared to the top of the class and is much cheaper than either the Kadjar or Tucson. Worth a look, even if they aren’t necessarily natural rivals.
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