Hyundai as a brand has developed an inordinately long way since the turn of the millennium, going from being a bargain-basement purveyor of rudimentary machines to a marque which could actually be said to be one of the best and most desirable in the mainstream. In some sectors of the market, this Korean brand’s cars can still feel a little cut-price compared to European opposition but there are a few of its models, like the i10 city car and Santa Fe seven-seat SUV, that are so good you should really have them over and above the equivalent Volkswagen, Ford and Vauxhall models. The Tucson looks like it could fit into this latter mould.
What is it?
A Hyundai Tucson in range-topping four-wheel drive, Premium SE trim with the most powerful engine you can have.
Why are you driving it?
Mid-sized SUVs are big business nowadays and the premium manufacturers offer plenty of choice – but all their machines are considerably more than £30,000. There’s also a blurry line between the phrase ‘crossover’ and the term ‘SUV’, which is normally defined (as best it can be) by how many driven wheels the vehicle in question has. If it’s a tall, high-riding machine but two-wheel drive, it’s a crossover; SUVs generally have to have four-wheel drive. Luckily, this model of Tucson does have four-wheel drive, so what you’re getting here is a genuine SUV with masses of toys, for less than a basic BMW X3. Could you really make that switch from a German brand to Hyundai as a result?
What do you like about it?
A heck of a lot. There’s a 1.7-litre CRDi at the other end of the Tucson range that can be paired with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, but this 4WD, 185hp 2.0-litre diesel is strong and punchy where that smaller diesel is lethargic and slow. The ride comfort, cabin refinement and ease of driving all add up to make the flagship Tucson’s driving experience every bit as premium in feel as you’d expect of an SUV costing nearly £34,000, and it’s also a spacious machine within that’s blessed with a large, extremely usable boot, too. Factor in Hyundai’s superb five-year, unlimited mileage warranty, a bulging kit list that includes items such as leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, cruise control, split-zone climate control, satnav and much more, and the Tucson’s lovely exterior looks, and this is starting to look very promising indeed for the Korean vehicle.
Well, the interior is solidly put together and features some nice materials in places, but there are also some pretty scratchy plastics to behold on the main fascias, plus the dials and console are already starting to look dated. The 2.0-litre engine is great for performance, yet its mediocre on-paper economy and emissions stats do not help the 185hp Tucson’s cause. And while it’s absolutely fine for cornering and road-holding, the Hyundai is never much fun to drive – it has pretty average steering, in terms of weighting and feel, if truth be told.
What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?
It’s not the greatest in terms of CO2 emissions as we’ve already mentioned; at 170g/km, that means 33 per cent Benefit-in-Kind taxation, whereas the 1.7 Tucson at the other end of the range sits in the 20 per cent bracket, as a result of 109g/km CO2. That output also means high first year’s road tax of £500, although as it’s comfortably less than £40,000, the Hyundai soon drops down to the lowest flat rate of £140 from year two onwards. It also has the aforementioned long warranty and impressive predicted residual values, thanks to the massive amount of desirable equipment it comes with as a Premium SE, so it’s at least a compelling if not a no-brainer choice for the business user.
Where does it rank in class right now?
The Hyundai Tucson launched in 2015 and the case could be made that it went straight to the top of the class inhabited by that perennial crossover/SUV yardstick, the Nissan Qashqai. And we still think it’s near the top of its segment now, because it’s more likeable than the staid Nissan, it’s significantly cheaper than a Volkswagen Tiguan in anything like comparable specification and it’s better to look at than its closely-related Kia Sportage stablemate, a car which is a roaring sales success here in the UK.
Yes, we’d be more than happy living with a Hyundai Tucson Premium SE like this on a long-term basis and it is usefully a few grand less to buy than Audi, BMW and Mercedes alternatives. But they’re not the problem. Since 2015, SEAT has launched the Ateca and Peugeot the 3008. The former is sharp to look at and wonderful to drive, and although its interior is nothing special, it is of a higher quality overall than the Hyundai’s. The Peugeot’s weakness is that, unlike the Tucson or the Ateca, it can’t be had with four-wheel drive (yet), but it counters by having possibly the best interior in the present-day industry and exceptional levels of refinement. So, the Tucson has to settle for bronze; it’s an honourable third place, but the two newer cars have just edged the Hyundai out of the running for overall class honours.
- Model: Hyundai Tucson 2.0 CRDi Premium SE 4WD Auto
- Price: Tucson range starts from £19,450; car as tested £33,715
- Drivetrain: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
- Economy: 43.5mpg
- CO2 emissions: 170g/km – £500 VED first 12 months, £140 annually thereafter; 33% benefit in kind
- Top speed: 125mph
- 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
- Power: 185hp at 4,000rpm
- Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,750rpm