► Mid-sized SUV replaces ix35
► Good-looking, and a good car
► But lacks stand-out spark
Replacing the decently average ix35 (and resurrecting a nameplate last seen in the UK on a misshapen SUV ancestor around six years ago), this is the new Hyundai Tucson. It’s a little larger than the ix35 but still far smaller than the Hyundai Santa Fe, and pitches into battle against the likes of Qashqai, Kadjar, Kuga and co.
Read on for our full Hyundai Tucson review.
And doesn’t it look good?
Sure does. As SUVs go it’s a handsome one, resembling a smaller, nicer-proportioned Santa Fe, with neatly realised bumps, creases and a giant chrome grille you’ll either love or hate, but can’t ignore.
The expanded body means a great deal of interior space – there’s can-can kicking space in the back, even behind a tall driver - and a genuinely big boot, sheltering a full-size spare wheel.
Shame the interior environment’s so drab, though. Dark, dull and blighted by sub-milk carton plastics, this is quite possibly the least interesting cabin of 2015. It’s legible, practical and ergonomically sound, but oddly devoid of character, as if the design team used up their visual flair quota on the exterior.
Which Tucson’s on test here?
We're reviewing the forecast best-seller, the Hyundai Tucson 114bhp 1.7-litre diesel, with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. Engines further up the tree are available with auto and all-wheel-drive transmissions. The meatier 2.0-litre diesel is available in a choice of two power outputs (134bhp or 183bhp), and there’s also a punchy, if not terribly tax-efficient, 175bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo.
Since Hyundai doesn’t really do optional extras, the Tucson comes packed to the roof rails with kit. Our mid-table SE Nav test car included heated seats, parking sensors, cruise control, and the eponymous sat-nav system, and still cost less than £23k.
What’s the 1.7 engine like on the road?
Absolutely fine, if you don’t plan on doing any overtaking. It musters a decent slug of mid-range torque, like most diesels, but then completely runs out of ideas. At higher revs it’s about as enthusiastic a donkey as Eeyore, and makes a similar noise. Quoted fuel economy is 61.7mpg versus the 58.9mpg for a front-drive, manual 2.0-litre, and given the extra work the smaller engine needs to do to move the Tucson’s 1.6-plus tonnes around, you might wring better economy from the larger engine over time. The 1.7’s £1400 or so purchase price advantage over the cheapest 2.0-litre Tucson, and lower CO2 tax banding is still expected to seal the deal for the majority of buyers, however.
Handling is surprisingly keen, with a flat cornering stance and fast, borderline over-sensitive power steering response that feels like it’s been misfiled by a Mini hot hatch supplier. It’s almost fun to drive. Ride quality’s largely adept, but our test car was prone to a little surface patter at times, even on its standard 17in alloys.
Attractive, affordable, roomy, well-equipped, long-warrantied… There are many things the Hyundai Tucson does well, and objectively there’s nothing the rest of the current mid-sized SUV set does that it can’t, interior visuals and plastics notwithstanding.
Main issue is character. The Tucson’s not a bad car, just a curiously forgettable one. And in a sector that’s never been more competitive, that could be a real problem.