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2015 Hyundai Tucson review: First drive

The Good

  • Striking looks
  • Well-specced
  • Engines are refined

The Bad

  • Better interiors available
  • Steering is a bit vague
  • Engines could be more frugal
5

Hyundai Tucson review: Ben Griffin heads to Frankfurt in Germany to see if the Santa Fe’s smaller sibling can take on the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Fiat 500X.

Hyundai has sold more than 130,000 sports utility vehicles in the UK since the Santa Fe first graced our shores in 2001, 61,641 of which came from the ix35 launched in 2010.

As popular as it was, the IX35 arguably wasn’t as good as some of its rivals. To that end, Hyundai is now replacing it with the Tucson. But will this new challenger be enough to take on established rivals like the Qashqai?

Design

Sports utility vehicles seem to either look very awkward or very striking. Hyundai has managed to create something in the latter camp with an attractive design you will be proud to have on the drive. 

Up front are LED daytime running lights and Hyundai’s hexagonal grille, both of which add a touch of class. The A-pillar has been pushed back for an even sleeker look, while various lines along the side of the car make it look sportier than it is. 

The cabin is very comfortable and spacious, while the centre console and logical button layout makes it easy to get the best out of the vehicle without needing to read the manual. A Qashqai offers more style but the material quality and sturdiness is top-notch.

Practicality

The Tucson is slightly bigger than the Qashqai. As a result, it has generous amounts of head and legroom throughout the cabin, and plush seats that make long journeys a pleasure. 

Boot space is 513 litres, beating the Qashqai’s 430 litres and the Mazda CX-5’s 503 litres. Ditch the rear seats and the total volume increases to 1,503 litres – just shy of the CX-5’s 1,620. The wide opening makes this a car that will accommodate serious amounts of shopping. 

Its automatic tailgate opens at the push of a button, but there’s no way of opening it with a gesture (such as waving your feet under the bumper) as seen on some cars. 

Performance & handling

We drove two engine variants, the four-wheel drive 2.0-litre diesel and the 1.60litre GDI petrol, the former available in three power outputs and the latter in two. 

Petrol engines make less sense on a family wagon but the 1.6-litre lump (available in 132PS and 177PS outputs) is punchy and refined enough to consider. It’s hard to fault, especially when mated to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which does a good job of maintaining progress without being too rev-happy. The manual is slick so is worth considering. 

Take a corner at speed and the chassis remains composed, but the steering feels somewhat detached. Therefore you can choose to drive slightly aggressively if you like but it is rarely the most rewarding experience. 

Ride quality is where the Tucson scores best. No matter how bad the terrain gets, it will ride it out while causing little discomfort for you and your passengers. 

Speaking of terrain, the Tucson can handle steep hills and nasty lumps and bumps because of the reasonable ground clearance and four-wheel drive system, which can send up to 50 per cent of power to the rear wheels. You can use Lock Mode to maintain that torque split at up to 40km/h for added control when the going gets especially tough. 

Economy & environment

Frugal motorists are served fairly well by all engines. The 2.0-litre diesel with 136PS can achieve as much as 58.9mpg in two-wheel drive form. Don’t bother with the four-wheel drive automatic, though, as that only manages a paltry 46.3mpg. CO2 emissions are 147g/km. 

The 1.6-litre petrol with 132PS, meanwhile, offers 44.8mpg, dropping to 43.5mpg for the 177PS output with an automatic and 160g/km of CO2. Most frugal is the 1.7-litre 117PS four-cylinder and its 61.7mpg combined and 119g/km of CO2. 

These are respectable figures but the Qashqai manages 65.7mpg and 98g/km of CO2 with its 1.5-litre dCi diesel, making it cheaper to run. 

Equipment & value

Five levels of equipment are available, ranging from entry-level S to SE, SE Nav, Premium and Premium SE. S models are very well equipped, making it easy to settle for the lower end of the scale. Prices start from £18,695. 

Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloys, body coloured bumpers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows in the front and rear, 60:40 split-folding rear seats, sunglasses holder and air conditioning. 

Navigation comes in with the SE Nav model (priced from £21,295). You get an 8-inch infotainment display in addition to 17-inch alloys, roof rails, heated front seats, electric folding and adjustable door mirrors, cooled glove compartment and cruise control. 

The top spec Premium SE starts from the princely sum of £28,345, but at least you get a lot of luxury for the money including a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, smart electric tailgate, ventilated front seats and LED headlights with automatic levelling.

Safety

Six airbags and Hyundai build quality should help in the even of an accident, but the Tucson is more interested in preventing a prang in the first place. Safety systems include Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detector, Vehicle Stability Management and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert for warning you when reversing out of a tight spot. 

In the event something does go wrong, the Tucson’s bodyshell is made from 51 per cent high strength steel, meaning you and your occupants are protected well.

Conclusion

The Tuscon is an impressive alternative in the saturated compact sports utility vehicle market, offering strong levels of practicality and road handling in a stylish package. 

Higher spec models seem quite overpriced, and its engines aren’t the most frugal, but the base level S and SE offer enough of the good stuff to compliment a number of competent engines. In short, our initial thought is that it’s no Qashqai beater, but it’s a great bet if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Update: Having driven the Tucson more extensively since our first drive review, we have updated its score from an 8/10 to 10/10 and have decided it is, in fact, better than the Qashqai.

Specification

Engine1.6-litre GDI petrol
Power132PS
Torque161Nm at 4,850rpm
Acceleration0-62mph in 11.5 seconds
Emissions147g/km of CO2
Economy44.8mpg
PriceFrom £18,695

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