One of the cheapest SUVs around, but feeling its age and below class average

What is it?

Not a 4x4: this is a two-wheel drive version of Hyundai’s compact Tucson SUV. It lacks the off-road ability of its four-wheel drive sisters, but the front-drive architecture, diesel engine and manual gearbox have helped Hyundai to trim CO2 emissions and boost fuel economy.

Hyundai has offered front-drive Tucsons before now, but only with either the wrong engine (the wheezy 2.0-litre petrol) or the wrong gearbox (Hyundai’s clunky four-speed auto). The new car gets the firm’s newer 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel and a six-speed manual ‘box.

What’s it like?

Acceptable, as long as you’re not expecting too much. Material quality and its general dynamic deportment barely made the grade when the Tucson was launched back in 2004, and since then more modern rivals have moved the game on dramatically.

To be blunt, Hyundai hasn’t refined this car enough to keep up with the pace of improvement. The dash is largely hard, grey, vaguely textured plastic, the steering wheel’s the same monotone grey; and while there’s nothing wrong with the fit or solidity of any of the materials, they’re just not appealing enough.

Which is a shame, because when you start moving along in this car, its case gets markedly stronger. This is a car that steers with more-than-acceptable precision, rides with a decent compromise between refinement and body control, and actually performs with as much urgency as you could expect of such a tall, heavy, four-cylinder diesel family car.

Although Hyundai quotes 11.1sec for the 0-62mph dash, the Tucson feels brisker than that would suggest on the road, and it’s both easy to pilot from that old-school, lofty driving position, and surprisingly willing to be hurried.

Should I buy one?

If you’ve got your sensible hat on, the two-wheel drive CRDi Tucson makes a decent case for itself. It’s capable of better than 40mpg and its VED rating is reasonable by compact SUV standards.

Equipment levels are keen, with climate and cruise control and rear parking sensors – all for considerably less than more prestigious competition. If you’re looking for a family SUV on the cheap, and you can live with being reminded of how cheap you’re getting it every time you look at the dashboard, you could do worse than buy this Tucson.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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REALZEUS 9 October 2008

Re: Hyundai Tucson 2.0 CRDi 2WD

A 2WD SUV? Why on earth? If you want a roomy interior get yourself an estate and if you want off road ability get yourself a 4x4 SUV. This thing makes no sense whatsoever! It's like buying a slow supercar, it defeats the purpose.