New car review

Hyundai Tucson test drive

Can the updated Tucson keep up with some very talented competition in the family SUV sector?

What is it?

You can’t really be a car manufacturer in 2018 without an SUV in your portfolio, but luckily for Hyundai, it has some form in this area. The Tucson is just the latest product in a line dating back to the early 1990s.

Hyundai SUVs tend to be capable yet forgettable, but the brand’s latest crop of cars have been a little more stylish and emotive. Can the recently facelifted Tucson continue this trend?

What’s new?

While an all-new mild hybrid powertrain is available, we’re not actually driving it here. However, all cars gain a new ‘cascading’ front grille, new headlights and new bumpers, which combine to sharpen up the Tucson’s appearance.

The interior has received a major redesign, too, with a floating infotainment display, a less button-heavy centre stack and revised materials for a plusher feel.

Finally, smart new alloy wheel designs are available, ranging from 17 inches on entry-level models right up to 19 inches.

How does it look?

Though the newly facelifted Tucson does look smart, it’s still rather anonymous both inside and out. The bold Hyundai family face gives it a clear connection to the likes of the i30 and all-new Santa Fe, while the alloy wheel designs on higher trim levels are sleek and attractive.

The flat blue paintwork and small 17-inch alloys of our test car don’t look quite so premium, however.

What’s the spec like?

Trim levels start with entry-level SE Nav, which as the name suggests offers satnav alongside LED rear lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, dual-zone climate control and cruise control.

Stepping up to Premium adds some glitzy chrome to the grille, brings electric adjustment for both front seats and adds some more safety kit, while Premium SE cars have ventilated front seats, a panoramic roof, powered tailgate and keyless entry.

What’s it like inside?

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Crossovers intended for family use have to be super-practical, and the Tucson doesn’t disappoint here with a spacious and flexible interior and bags of room. The split-folding rear bench isn’t quite as clever as the VarioFlex seats in a Skoda Karoq, but they fold down easily to increase the boot from an already-impressive 488 litres to a cavernous 1,503 litres.

When you’re using them for passengers, they’re also fairly good. There are two ISOFIX points to prevent your children from sliding all over the back seat, and plenty of leg- and head-room for all occupants.

Material quality is excellent too – a step down in plushness from a Volkswagen Tiguan, but easily on par with the Nissan Qashqai. Everything feels well screwed together, too.

What’s under the bonnet?

A range of revised powertrains is on offer, including a pair of 1.6-litre petrols, two 1.6 diesels and a 2.0-litre diesel – plus that all-new mild-hybrid 2.0-litre diesel. Our car had the entry-level diesel powertrain, however – a 1.6-litre unit producing a modest 115hp.

Given the Tucson’s size, it’s not actually as gutless as it sounds – it gets up to motorway speeds without much drama and cruises effortlessly. There’s not much power in reserve for overtaking, though, and for peace of mind we’d be tempted to step up to the 134bhp version of the same engine.

Economy is decent at around 50mpg on a long run, and it settles down to a refined grumble at a cruise. It’s rather agricultural on start-up, however.

What’s it like to drive?

2019 Hyundai Tucson on the road | The Car Expert
(PA)

Though some fairly powerful engines are on offer, as well as four-wheel drive, the Tucson is never exciting to drive. Instead, it majors on comfort, which it does very well. Our entry-level model was equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, giving a generous amount of tyre sidewall to absorb bumps and potholes, while squishy suspension makes mincemeat of poor surfaces.

The payoff is a rather wallowy experience in the corners, and a floating sensation on undulating faster roads which might make kids in the back a little queasy. It’s certainly not the sharp driving experience you’d get from a SEAT Ateca, for instance.

Summary

The Tucson won’t attract keen drivers, but ought to be a hit with families thanks to its super-practical interior and comfortable drive.

However, it’s no longer the bargain Hyundais once were, and so has to be considered alongside some very talented competition. The Skoda Karoq, for example, is bigger and more practical still, while the SEAT Ateca is better to drive.

Not to mention the Tucson’s sister car, the Kia Sportage, which offers the same package with a longer warranty. It should still be on your list to consider, though.

Similar cars

Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq

Key specifications

Model as tested: Hyundai Tucson SE Nav
Price: £26,010 on-road
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel
Power: 115 hp
Torque: 280 Nm
Top speed: 109 mph
0-60mph: 11.4 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 58 mpg
CO2 emissions: 129 g/km

Tom Wiltshire
Tom Wiltshire
Articles by Tom Wiltshire are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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