(Pocket-lint) - The compact SUV is fast becoming one of the more popular choices of car for families and adventurers alike. With Asian manufacturers producing higher specced vehicles at affordable prices it's little wonder the Chelsea tractor has become a common inner city sight.
After years of success with the Hyundai ix35, the company has decided to start afresh with its latest Tucson range. This SUV comes in two or four wheel drive models for petrol, diesel, manual and automatic. From the base model at £18,695 to the fully kitted top ride at £32,345 every Tucson offers lots for the money.
But can new design aesthetics, smarter driving upgrades and a newly spruced interior move hearts as well as passengers? We took the Tucson out on the road, and off-road, to put it through its paces.
Hyundai Tuscon: Design do-over
Hyundai has invested a lot of its time and effort into making the Tucson look good. The result is a more three-dimensional set of panels and trim. We were told the new lines along the side of the car offer greater variation for a more dynamic appearance.
It's fair to say the car looks good with that squared-off front and back giving a bit of aggression that wasn't found in the previous ix35. Some would argue this is missing in the main competitor, Nissan's Qashqai.
To make another comparison, the lines ride up the side from front to back and sweep down in the rear, creating a compact back end. It reminds us of a Land Rover Evoque, which is not a bad thing.
Internally, even on the base model, stitched finishes on the seats add a premium feel. Options include not only heated but also cooled seats, which worked really well when driving in the sun.
The premium models feature a panoramic sunroof and shark fin style aerial. Premium models and above feature mainly leather seating with faux leather in places of potential wear. That roof does make it feel larger inside while also offering enough tint to keep the interior cool in the sun.
Hyundai Tucson: Driving experience
We drove a four-wheel drive 1.6-litre turbo petrol automatic, a two-wheel drive 1.7-litre diesel manual and a four-wheel drive 2-litre auto diesel.
Power across the range is similar, jumping from 116PS to 185PS, but with the weight it feels largely the same. That means enough to pull for a good standing getaway or an over-taking manoeuvre, but don't expect to win any races - unless they're off-road of course.
For those going for the four-wheel drive model the off-road capabilities are respectable. There's enough clearance over the arches to tackle steep climbs and there's also a button to control the power for hills. Turn this on and you get 50-50 delivery between front and back, up to 25mph, meaning muddy hills can be handled easily. Then when you hit the road the car intelligently switches power to the front wheels to save on fuel.
The redesigned handling means the wafting cornering you'd expect from cars this size is gone. Instead we were able to throw it into turns without any worry of losing the line we aimed for, or sliding about high above the wheels.
Across the range we were getting between 30 and 40mpg, driving the cars pretty harshly. That said, we weren't using Sport mode often. This is a button-touch option that offers more sensitive wheel feedback and increases the rev range before gear changes. It felt like slight accelerator depressions revved higher than in normal mode - something we imagine would chew fuel in the long run.
Hyundai Tucson: Smart options
There are plenty of smarts that can be crammed into the Tucson, if you opt for them.
Lane assist, that auto steers you back into line, worked well and let you go hands-free for a few swerves between lane lines. Then a bleeping alert kicks in to make you return your hands to the wheel. Coupled with cruise control this makes for very robotically-controlled driving - although it's not adaptive cruise so you can't go totally hands-free.
Auto Stop is also a nice touch, this engages the brakes when stopped so you don't have to use the handbrake and can simply accelerate away when needed. Obviously this is for the automatic models only. In some models there's also Stop & Go for better fuel efficiency where the engine stops and starts at longer waits.
Heated and cooled seats as well as individual climate zones and a heated steering wheel make temperature control a breeze.
Parking can be done for you with the Smart Parking Assist option on automatic models. This means working the pedals while the cars steers you into and out of spaces - that applies to parallel parking, reversing into a bay, plus pulling out of a tight space. We didn't get a chance to test this but having used similar in the past know it's money well spent for those parking in city areas regularly.
Reversing out of spaces is safer for cyclists and pedestrians thanks to the Rear-Cross Traffic Alert system which detects a 180-degree area behind the car.
If your hands are full of shopping, and you've opted for the smart electric tailgate, standing by the rear for a few seconds will open the boot for hand-free access. This worked well, even giving an audio notification so you know when to stand back for opening.
The satnav system, which comes in the SE Nav models and above, is included with TomTom Live and a 7-year subscription. That means auto updates of maps and traffic, but if you tether your phone it'll use that data connection for regular 2-minute updates on traffic and weather for the most accurate directions. Since this is built-in, if the smart road-sign detection camera picks up a speed different to the satnav it'll override and update it on both the dash and satnav screens. This worked perfectly, even on smaller, dirtier signs.
Hyundai Tucson: Bang for your buck
Since the options on the Tucson range are so varied, and we tried many, let's start by quickly outlining what the base S model offers for £18,695. You get a fancy exterior trim, DAB radio with MP3 and Bluetooth, USX and AUX, 16-inch alloys, air con and auto headlights.
Step up to the SE line from £20,495 and you can get 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, heated front eats, lane assist, cornering headlights and dual zone climate controls.
Next up is the SE Nav model from £21,295 which can include the 8-inch touchscreen satnav system, reversing camera, shark fin antenna and speed limit detection system.
Premium upgrades to this line, from £25,045, include 19-inch alloys, leather upholstery, front parking sensor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, auto wipers, auto emergency braking, blind spot detection, heated rear seats.
Top of the line, from £28,345, is the Premium SE model, that includes heated steering wheel, keyless smart entry, engine start and stop, Smart Parking Assist, smart electronic tailgate, LED headlights, panoramic sunroof and ventilated front seats.
A large interior, generous boot, four-wheel drive option, myriad smarts and a good-looking exterior make the Tucson a strong competitor in the ever-growing world of compact SUVs.
While the entry-level model is affordable, priced to stand against its Nissan Qashqai competition, it takes a lot more wallet digging to get all the extras. Although there is an automatic four-wheel drive model, which the Qashqai doesn't offer.
For those who don't need four-wheel drive, satnav, or any other luxury extras, the Tucson S base model offers space, comfort and enough mod-cons to justify the price. But for those wanting four-wheel drive and satnav it means stretching the budget above the £20k mark.
So for off-road adventurers, families that drive long distances and anyone that enjoys a higher driving position, the Tucson offers plenty. But once you start hitting the higher prices some might prefer a bigger name with a fewer extras. However, with reliability evening out across brands, the Hyundai Tucson is a very tempting prospect indeed.