nd you could see it treading on the toes of internal and external rivals when it goes on sale in August, with competitive pricing from £15,000 to £18,000 and a choice of three engines, all familiar from other Hyundai models and all Euro4 compliant: 140bhp 2.0-litre and 173bhp 2.7-litre V6 petrols, and a 110bhp 2.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel.
Normally front-wheel drive, the Tucson’s torque-sensing transmission diverts power to the rear wheels when it’s needed, and the car can be locked in four-wheel drive via a dash-mounted switch.
In the past, Hyundai has struggled to compete dynamically with its rivals. The fact that the Tucson – along with the next Sportage from sister company Kia – shares a platform with the mediocre Elantra should ring a few warning bells.
On the road, those bells get a lot louder. Latvian roads are badly scarred, but no worse than some British highways. Which means that the way the Tucson behaved on the roads around Riga should be a good reflection of how it will behave in the UK, and it’s not looking good.
Fact is, the good containment of body roll through bends means poor ride quality. There’s a distinct choppiness over rucked-up tarmac, but by far its worst characteristic is the way it builds up a pogo-ing motion over undulating roads, failing to keep vertical movement in check and then crashing down when encountering even modest surface pockmarks.
ronically, these characteristics made it a decent companion over the unmetalled roads (with much worse surfaces) we occasionally came across, but unless you spend most of your time on dirt and gravel it’s going to be unacceptably uncomfortable.
Other aspects of the Tucson’s refinement are also dubious. Even at modest speeds it throws up vibration and road roar into the cabin, and by the time you’ve reached motorway pace the cacophony is augmented by wind whistle from the A-pillars and roof rails.
Sadly, the engines are no saving grace. The diesel is the biggest disappointment, lacking the lusty low-down urge we’ve come to expect from oil-burners. Noise suppression is only average, too, and the Tucson lacks the cruising and low-speed polish of the quietest modern diesels.
The V6 petrol, allied to a standard four-speed automatic ’box, is a better effort, yet this too gets thrashy when you extend it – as you need to when making overtaking manoeuvres, such is the modesty of its mid-range punch.
But it’s not all bad news. Perhaps the single most impressive thing about the Tucson is its attention to practicality and versatility. Turning the SUV into a load carrier is sweat-free stuff: either side of the 60:40 split bench folds virtually flat in one motion, pivoting both the seat back and base.
The front seats also fold back, creating a bed of questionable comfort. But, more usefully, there’s also a host of other addenda designed to make an owner’s life easier, including luggage nets, a housing for small items in the sides of the boot, takeaway hooks and a smattering of 12-volt power outlets. Best of all, the rear tailgate glass lifts independently of the hatch itself, BMW Touring-style.
Passengers aren’t getting a bum deal either. There’s enough space to luxuriate in even if you’re relegated to the mid-riding rear position, and despite the narrow glass area and thick pillars there’s good visibility and plenty of light.