First Drive: Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson

You'd think that there would be no room for yet another mid-size SUV, with every manufacturer and their dog launching new models over the last few years. Hyundai disagrees and has added another machine to the mix; the new Tucson, which takes over the reins from the existing ix35.

And the stakes are high. Not only is the ix35 the Korean company's second best selling model, but the Nissan Qashqai - the UK's top selling off-roader - is one of the most popular cars in the country. Take into account the raft of other popular 'crossovers' and the Tucson will have to be exemplary to make a mark in this segment

What is it?

This medium sized off-roader slots below the seven-seat Santa Fe in Hyundai's line up, offering a practical, solid interior, a wide range of engines and plenty of high tech kit.

The Tucson is no rough-and-tumble off roader, but buyers can opt for four-wheel drive models, which will no doubt be able to take them much further off the beaten track than they ever need to go.

Hyundai's latest model is available from £18,695 and offers much more striking styling than the ix35, along with strong refinement and comfort levels and generous interior space, claims the company.

What's under the bonnet?

Two petrol and three diesel engines will be available. Most economical is the 1.7-litre diesel, which offers claimed fuel consumption of 61.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km, placing it into the £30 annual car tax band, though it requires a lengthy 13.7 seconds to amble to 62mph.

Next in line is a 134bhp 2.0-litre model, which slashes three seconds off the benchmark acceleration time while still being capable of returning 58.9mpg in two-wheel drive form. Car tax, meanwhile, weighs in at a reasonable £110 per year.

A more powerful 2.0-litre diesel with four-wheel drive is also available, offering similar performance but fuel economy which falls below 50mpg. Petrol buyers, on the other hand can choose from 1.6-litre engines with and without a turbocharger.

What's the spec like?

Hyundais typically include plenty of standard kit and the Tucson is no different. Entry-level S cars include 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, reclining rear seats and automatic headlights, plus Bluetooth connectivity and a digital radio.

SE trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control, rear parking sensors and heated front seats among other kit, while SE Nav includes an eight-inch touchscreen sat nav system with a reversing camera.

Premium spec further adds 19-inch alloys, leather upholstery, electric front seats, heated outer rear seats, automatic wipers and front parking sensors, while range-topping Premium SE features cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, LED headlights, panoramic glass roof and electric tailgate.

First drive: Hyundai Tucson

First drive: Hyundai Tucson

Any rivals?

The Nissan Qashqai is the Tucson's toughest competitor, though it also has to win buyers from the new Renault Kadjar, which shares the Korean car's focus on comfort.

Other rivals include the Ford Kuga, Volkswagen.Tiguan, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4, which all boast off-roader styling along with family friendly interiors.

What's it like to drive?

As a family oriented off-roader, the Tucson places comfort above roadholding, offering a smooth, comfortable ride, but providing little satisfaction when driving quickly. Both the most powerful diesel engine and the turbocharged petrol model that we tested provide adequate acceleration when worked hard, though they can sound a little gruff and can't mask the Tucson's substantial weight.

As a result, the equivalent units under the bonnet of the Renault Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai feel more sprightly, with higher refinement levels to boot. The Tucson's suspension, however, does do an impressive job of ironing out bumps in the Tarmac, and little road or wind noise makes its way through to the cabin.

The dual-clutch automatic gearbox, available on the turbocharged petrol, meanwhile, is reasonably responsive, though it can't match the smoothness or speed of Volkswagen's 'DSG' equivalents.

AOL Cars Verdict

The Hyundai Tucson should prove an attractive prospect to those after a practical, boldly styled and relatively affordable off-roader. It is comfortable, quiet when cruising and packed with standard kit, whichever model you go for.

However, though you may get a lot of car for your money with the Tucson, several rivals including the Renault Kadjar offer smoother, more refined and responsive engines for the money and are more satisfying to drive.

The Tucson also lags behind when it comes to the balance of economy and performance on offer, with no model able to dodge car tax, as the most economical Kadjar can. Top spec models also feel a little pricey compared to rivals - despite their lengthy equipment tallies.

Consequently, while the Tucson is an appealing machine in isolation - and for those who have to have the most kit for their money - the Kadjar and closely related Nissan Qashqai offer a better all round package for most buyers thanks to their punchy but frugal motors.

The knowledge

Model: Hyundai Tucson 2.0 CRDi 185 4WD Premium
Price: £28,945
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Power: 182bhp, 400Nm
Max speed: 125mph
0-62MPH: 9.9 seconds
MPG: 47.9mpg (combined)
Emissions: 154g/km CO2