Hyundai Tucson: Table-topping family favourite
The Hyundai Tucson has been one of Northern Ireland's favourite new cars for five years. William Scholes finds out why it so popular
HERE in Ireland we love the Hyundai Tucson, writes William Scholes. Since the handsome family SUV was launched in 2015 it has perpetually been one of the best-selling cars in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.
I have just spent a week with a Tucson to reacquaint myself with the reasons for its popularity.
A little like the Nissan Qashqai featured on these pages a few weeks ago, the Tucson excels because it manages to be a great all-round package, if not quite superlative in any one area.
This sort of general do-it-all ability is highly prized by private buyers in particular.
I think it’s no coincidence that, like the Tucson, Northern Ireland’s favourite new cars of the last few years - notably the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Fiesta - are also broadly and deeply talented.
This makes them an eminently sensible direction in which to channel your family’s hard-earned money.
It helps, too, that the Tucson offers tremendous value for that money. The added assurance of a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, roadside assistance and an annual vehicle health check add to the Hyundai’s appeal.
Prices start at £21,725, which really isn’t that much for a large, stylish, comfortable, practical, well equipped and very pleasant family car.
There are enough trim levels, engine and gearbox choices to ensure that there’s something for everyone. The Tucson can also be had with four-wheel-drive, which isn’t a given in the family SUV class.
Hyundai gave the Tucson a major refresh last year. Because there was very little wrong with the car’s styling - its chunky proportions and spot-on stance make this one of the best-looking SUVs - exterior tweaks were limited to a new grille, lights and bumpers.
Bigger changes were found inside the car, which got a new dashboard that mounted the touchscreen higher and upped the quality.
The Tucson’s general do-it-all ability is highly prized by private buyers in particular. It is an eminently sensible direction in which to channel your family’s hard-earned money
The most substantial work was carried out under the bonnet. A new 1.6-litre diesel, offered with either 113bhp or 134bhp, was fitted, complemented by a range-topping 183bhp 2.0-litre diesel.
All of the diesels now come with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, too.
Meanwhile, the 130bhp and 175bhp 1.6-litre petrol engines were made more widely available in different trim levels.
Four-wheel-drive is standard with the 2.0-litre diesel, which also got a new eight-speed automatic gearbox. Other versions are front-wheel-drive and come with a six-speed manual gearbox, though a seven-speed double-clutch automatic is also available with the 175bhp petrol and 134bhp diesel.
Safety and equipment levels were given a boost - DAB, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth are standard - and trim levels rise from the entry S Connect model through Hyundai’s traditional hierarchy of SE Nav, Premium and Premium SE.
The big Tucson news for 2019 was the addition of a racy-looking N Line model, slotting in between SE Nav and Premium.
It certainly looks the part, which is surely a large part of the attraction of any of these sport-themed cars.
Drawing inspiration from the styling of the brilliant high performance i30 N, the Tucson N Line gets new bumpers, lashings of gloss black trim, a mesh-pattern grille and black 19-inch alloys.
The interior gets tasty leather-suede heated sports seats, red stitching, black cloth headlining, privacy glass and alloy pedals. The overall effect of these cosmetic changes is convincing.
You can have the N Line with the 134bhp mild-hybrid diesel or the 175bhp petrol turbo. Both engines can be had with either the six-speed manual or the seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox.
Petrol cars get different power steering software, intended to give a more direct feel at the wheel, and stiffer suspension, by 5 per cent at the back and 8 per cent at the rear.
You would, I think, need to spend a lot of time in N Line and non-N Line Tucsons to really tell the difference between the two set-ups.
Nice to drive, loaded with equipment, good looking, practical and conspicuous value for money, it is little wonder that the Hyundai Tucson is so popular
It’s subtle, in other words, and doesn’t really transform the Tucson into a properly sporty drive.
I’m not sure that’s much of a problem, to be honest, as the regular Tucson does the comfy family car thing so well - and that, surely, ought to be its priority.
In any case, if ‘sporty’ and driving enjoyment are what you are after, there are family SUVs that do this better, notably the Mazda CX-5.
I also have a feeling that the particular N Line variant I tried, which used the petrol engine and double-clutch gearbox, is the least persuasive of the four combinations on offer.
Double-clutch gearboxes can be brilliant, as Volkswagen demonstrates, with smooth, quick shifts and an eerie ability to always be in the right gear at the right time.
The Hyundai gearbox, however, felt too often to be out of the sync with the engine and road conditions.
Steering wheel shift paddles might have helped, as they would allow the driver manual control to make up for shortcomings in certain situations, but they aren’t fitted. Nor is the gear lever itself much fun to use in manual-mode. Together, it means that as far as I am concerned the double-clutch auto can’t justify its near £1,300 premium over the manual.
Another black mark against the petrol-auto combo was fuel consumption. I managed 28.6mpg in my time with the car, which in my view is just about unacceptable for a family car of relatively modest performance.
However, the petrol engine itself is a highlight, with smooth delivery and strong performance; it even sounds good, giving the Tucson an injection of character.
The rest of the N Line is as per the rest of the Tucson range, which is to say very good indeed.
It’s a well equipped car - keyless entry, electric-folding door mirrors, climate control and parking sensors - are all part of the N Line kit.
The dashboard’s eight-inch touchscreen is worth a mention - Hyundai’s infotainment system is one of the best offered by any manufacturer, and it’s clear, quick and easy to navigate.
The back seat is roomy, accessed via big square doors, and the boot is large, with a volume of 513 litres swelling to 1,503 litres when the seats are folded.
There are family wagons that are more commodious, but the Tucson’s accommodation is, like the rest of the package, well judged.
Nice to drive, loaded with equipment, good looking, practical and conspicuous value for money, it is little wonder that the Hyundai Tucson is so popular. There are rivals that are nicer to driver, roomier and cheaper… but precious few that do everything quite so well.
The Tucson does everything that could reasonably be asked of a family SUV, and Hyundai’s long warranty just makes it all the more appealing. No wonder we buy so many of them…
AT A GLANCE
Hyundai Tucson 1.6 DCT N Line
Price: £27,535. £28,200 as tested, with metallic paint at £665
Engine and transmission: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, front-wheel-drive, seven-speed double-clutch automatic; 175bhp, 196lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 125mph, 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 36.2mpg (WLTP combined), 28.6mpg (real world), 151g/km
Car tax: £530 in first year, then £145 annually
Benefit in kind: 34 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (86/85/71/71), 2015