Tucson's a rough ride

The ‘I’s have been dotted and the ‘T’s crossed on Hyundai’s compact Tucson SUV. Customers will be tempted with a starting price of £14,995, and with standard kit that includes traction control, lockable four-wheel-drive, air conditioning, electric windows, mirrors and sunroof, a CD player, alloy wheels, front fog lights… the list goes on.

You won’t believe how much more a similarly equipped RAV 4 should set you back. Luckily, Hyundai have thought of that too; now that the Tucson is on sale, we can all stare in slack-jawed awe at the car comparison system on Hyundai’s website, and, one-by-one, pick our limp chins up off the desk, wipe the froth from our dumbstruck faces, and get on the phone to the dealer post haste.

Trouble is that rival dealers’ discounts are likely to cut the Tucson’s price advantage in half, so it’ll need every bit of what’s left to compensate for the shortcomings we identified out in Riga; a stubborn, incompliant ride and general lack of refinement, both of which would be even bigger black marks if manifested on British tarmac, in the range-topping £18,695 V6 CDX tested here.

Better get out the permanent marker then; the Cotswold’s twisty lanes proved just as unsettling for the newcomer. Small peaks and troughs in the road surface disturb the Tucson’s progress, so that a modest bump is amplified and revisited in spirit three or four times over. Softer springs and a more relaxed gait would suit a range-topping auto much better.

Where the Tucson benefits is with commendable body control. Complimented by steering that feels meaty and quicker than you’d expect, the Tucson’s springs maintain impressive composure as you guide the its nose left and right.

If the powertrain was as keen, it might make for a firm but capable drive on and off road, but instead Hyundai’s short-stroke 2.7-litre V6 is lumbered with the maker’s typically touchy throttle pedal and stock four-speed automatic transmission – and there’s no manual substitute available.

Despite spinning freely up to its 6000rpm power peak, four tall ratios never give the V6 a chance to knuckle down; it’s a strange choice of engine for a car like this, mismatched with an unflattering set of ratios.

Inside the cabin, CDX trim adds cruise and climate control, body coloured mirrors and door handles, and leather seats, steering wheel, door trim and gear lever. The cheap-looking ‘metal-grain’ centre console would be better left out, but that apart the additions add value, and will be well complemented by the body-coloured bumpers, arches and sills when they arrive later in the year.

In this case, we can’t recommend the drivetrain or the chassis that goes with them. If you buy the pride of Hyundai’s compact SUV range expecting cosseting refinement and effortless urge, you really will be sorely disappointed.

The manual petrol and diesel versions are expected to account for the majority of sales, and they’ll provide great value and practicality as well as a five-year warranty. For their more expensive sibling though, the best we can recommend is the boat back to Korea for a rethink. 

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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