The ‘directional’ wheelarches are a unique feature, and they frame alloy wheels on every model
Probably the first word to come to mind when describing the Tucson is ‘imposing’. Its front end is dominated by a huge hexagonal grille, and the bold lines along the sides rise to a zig-zag pattern above the rear wheels. The ‘directional’ wheel arches (where the curve of the arch doesn’t exactly follow the shape of the wheel below it) are a unique feature, and they frame alloy wheels on every model in the range. Even the most basic cars have body-coloured bumpers and door handles, as well as a rear spoiler, with SE trim also getting roof rails and front- and rear skid plates. Premium models add plenty of extra (some would say unnecessary) chrome and silver body mouldings, while range-topping Premium SE models come with LED headlights as standard.
Inside, the Tucson is a typical Hyundai, but that’s no bad thing. All the basics are done well, with enough adjustment on the driver’s seat and steering wheel for pretty much anyone to get comfortable. There’s a great view ahead and to the sides, as well. On top of that, Hyundai does a neat line in big, chunky buttons that are well marked and easy for fumbling fingers to find. That said, it’s not all good news. First, too many of the materials on view are hard and scratchy, and feel low-rent. These sort of plastics might be ok on a supermini, but feel out of place on a supposedly upmarket SUV. Secondly, while the small rear windows and wide rear pillars may give the car real style, they do limit the driver’s view out to the rear and over-the-shoulder. Little wonder that rear parking sensors are standard on all but the most basic S-trimmed versions.
The Tucson immediately impresses as a family car. Not only do the rear doors open nice and wide to give easy access to the rear seats, the seats themselves provide plenty of space. Even with a couple of six-footers in the front seats, two more six-footers will have room to spare in the back. It’s only the fact that the centre seat is a little narrower than the outer seats that prevents the car from being a comfortable five-seater. To cap it all, the tailgate gives a wonderfully wide opening, and that combines with the lack of any lip to make loading and unloading really easy. What’s more, the 513-litre capacity is more than you’ll find in a Nissan Qashaqi or Mazda CX-5, although that figure includes the space under the floor, which will is taken up by a full size spare wheel on most models. Only the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 offer more room in the back, and it’s easy to fold down the 60/40 split rear seats to leave an almost entirely flat load area.
Ride and handling
Bumps feel sharper than they do in rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar
A comfortable ride is the most important dynamic aspect for any car that’ll primarily be used for ferrying your family, and although the Tucson does a decent job, other SUVs do it better. There’s a distinct patter to be felt over rough or grainy surfaces, and bigger bumps also feel sharper than they do in rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar. Choose a version on larger wheels, and these effects are even more pronounced, so although the big rims look great, they’re best avoided. It’s a similar story with the way the Tucson handles; it’s fine, but at the same time, it’s no great shakes. Body control is decent and there’s plenty of grip, but the Tucson feels like the big, substantial car it is, so it prefers to be eased, rather than hurled, through the bends. A Qashqai, for example, is a more rewarding and involving car to drive. Next to the Nissan, the Tucson’s steering has less feel, and there’s some hesitancy around the straight-ahead position that limits your enjoyment.
There’s a wide range of engines to choose from, and so far, we’ve tested four of them, the high- and low-powered versions of the 2.0-litre diesel, the entry-level 1.7-litre diesel, and the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit. We’re impressed with the 2.0 diesel. It’s all about easy performance rather than outright pace, and the strong low-down pull is a perfect partner for the Tucson. Rather than rev the engine hard – whereupon it gets quite noisy – things are much better if you stick to lower revs and take advantage of the peak torque that’s available from below 2,000rpm. The 1.7-litre diesel is the most popular choice, however, but not because of its performance. It feels rather flat and lazy at the bottom of the rev range, and even when the turbo chips in to help out, the acceleration feels rather leisurely, with 0-62mph taking 13.7 seconds. This engine isn’t the quietest or smoothest of its type, either. Good job it’s economical. Still, it’s better than the petrol engine, which admittedly, so far only we’ve tried in conjunction with the automatic gearbox. Even so, it’s not a great combination. The engine needs to be worked hard for too much of the time, and the gearbox is far from smooth, especially when it kicks down. The auto works better in the low-powered 2.0-litre diesel, but it still doesn’t like to be rushed, and can take a few moments to find the right gear when you need to accelerate in a hurry.
While the Tucson isn’t cheap, you do get a lot of car for your money
Hyundai is a brand that prides itself on the value for money its cars represent, so while the Tucson isn’t cheap, you do get a lot of car for your money. The most economical engine is the 1.7-litre diesel that averages just over 60mpg and emits 119g/km of CO2 – figures on a par with the Tucson’s best rivals – but the lower-powered version of the 2.0-litre diesel isn’t far behind. Even with four-wheel drive, it averages well over 50mpg. Your car should also be worth a decent chunk of its original value after three years of use as well. Hyundai usually does pretty well in this important area, and the Tucson should on a par with pretty much any rival, with the exception on the Mini Countryman.
According to figures from Warranty Direct, Hyundai’s cars in general – and the previous-generation Tucson, in particular – are above average for reliability. Owner reviews of the ix35 on our website are mixed though, it’s fair to say, but the majority report good reliability. And, there’s always the reassurance of Hyundai’s five-year warranty, which gives new buyers cover for all the major mechanicals for up to 100,000 miles of motoring.
In Euro NCAP tests in 2015, the Tucson scored a maximum five-star rating. Every model comes with six airbags, Downhill Brake Control, stability control and a tyre pressure-monitoring system. SE trim adds a Lane Keep Assist system, and the sat-nav on SE Nav versions features a Speed Limit Information system, displaying the prevailing speed limit on the screen as your drive. Beyond that, Premium models come with a Blind Spot Detection system and Autonomous Emergency Braking.
We think SE is worth the extra, adding dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and heated front seats
The Tucson may not be a cheap car, but the good equipment on all five of its trim levels makes it look like good value. Every model from S upwards comes with DAB radio, air-con, Bluetooth, automatic headlights and alloy wheels, but we think SE is worth the extra, adding dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and heated front seats. As the name suggests, SE Nav adds sat-nav with an eight-inch touch-screen, and a seven-year subscription to TomTom live, which adds traffic data. Premium also brings you leather upholstery, front parking sensors, automatic wipers and heated rear seats. At the top of the range, Premium SE features a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, an electrically operated tailgate and a panoramic sunroof, but it also starts looking seriously pricey.
There’s much to like about the Tucson – particularly its imposing looks, excellent standard equipment and its spacious and practical interior – but we’d avoid the pricier models, which are costly, uncomfortable and not very efficient. Stick with the front-drive, lower powered diesels and you’ll have a car that rides better, and is lighter on your pocket. Still, there are better SUVs out there if you plan on venturing off the beaten track, or if you want something a little more fun to drive…