Does Hyundai’s entry-level diesel leave us feeling short-changed? We drive it on UK roads to find out

What is it?

We’ve already driven the 2.0-litre diesel Tucson in the UK and we were impressed with its breadth of talent. But, like that model, this lesser-capacity oil-burner will need to be on top form in order to topple the all-conquering Nissan Qashqai in its own entry-level diesel guise.

This 1.7-litre CRDi engine, here powering a Tucson in SE Nav spec, sends all of its 114bhp to the front wheels. Hyundai claims combined economy of 61.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km, both of which can’t match the equivalent figures of the 1.5-litre diesels used by the Qashqai and Renault Kadjar.

Interestingly, Hyundai has well and truly sat on the fence when pricing the Tucson, positioning its SUV right in the middle of the Nissan and Renault.  

What's it like?

It’s certainly an excellent car to drive around town. It feels that nimble and manoeuvrable that you’ll find yourself forgetting you're in a bulky SUV.

The 1.7-litre engine is willing at low revs and gets up to speed with little fuss thanks to a fairly linear power delivery. It is, however, almost two seconds slower to 62mph than a Qashqai, at 13.7sec to 62mph, mainly due to its significant kerb weight - the Tucson tips the scales at 2 tonnes, meaning it struggles to match its rivals for performance, economy or emissions.

Road and wind noise isn't too bad; the engine can be quite vocal under harder acceleration and it grumbles around town, sending some vibrations through the pedals and gearstick, while tyre noise builds noticeably at motorway speeds, although it is no worse than what you'll experience in most of the Tucson's rivals. The six-speed gearbox also has a substantial feel when shifting between ratios.

Despite that kerb weight, the Tucson handles well, its relatively firm suspension keeping body roll in check and maintaining composure on roundabouts and through a series of bends.

Around town the steering is light and precise but offers very little feedback. However, as the speed builds, the steering becomes increasingly vague and inconsistent, meaning you lack the confidence to commit to more challenging corners. The issue is particularly prominent when the standard Lane Keeping Assist System is active.

On smooth and well-maintained but undulating roads the Tucson feels nicely tied down, while speed humps are dealt with without too much body bounce. That said, the firm set-up struggles on rougher surfaces and can be quite uncomfortable over expansion joints at higher speeds.

Access and ride height are very good, meaning you're able to slide seamlessly through the large door aperture and into the driver’s seat. Getting comfortable is easy with seat height adjustment and an adjustable reach and rake steering wheel. There’s plenty of room for six footers and visibility is excellent all round, aided by a reversing camera and parking sensors.

Three adults can sit more comfortably in the rear than is possible in most small crossovers, thanks to a low transmission tunnel and good head, leg and shoulder room, although two adults will be happier in the back on a long journey. The boot has a square opening and its floor is level with a low loading lip. With the back seats folded down, though, the extended load bay floor isn’t quite flat. 

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High-quality cabin materials have been strategically used to give a more upmarket feel in the areas you come into contact with. However, the top of the dash comes in a harder plastic and spills too far down the facia, undermining the effort taken. The controls are easy to use and well damped, though.

Standard equipment levels are generous, with automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth connectivity, USB connections and a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty. SE Nav adds 17in alloy wheels, an 8in colour touchscreen sat-nav, DAB radio, heated front seats, lumbar support, dual-zone climate control and cruise control. 

Safety equipment includes a full-size spare wheel, six airbags and electronic stability control. The Tucson has yet to receive its Euro NCAP rating.

Should I buy one?

It's a striking looking car to our eyes, is practical and has excellent levels of equipment. Aside from its ride and steering, the Tucson 1.7 CRDi will be a likeable companion for any small family. 

This SE Nav trim is the spec to go for, with its wide array of features and keen pricing. Private buyers will like its comparatively low insurance group and servicing costs, but company drivers will face a 21% BIK rate, which is higher than the equivalent Qashqai and Kadjar.

Even so, if you're buying privately and budget is your main concern, then the Kadjar is worth a close look. Furthermore, if you can find the extra £1200 it costs to buy a Qashqai over the Tucson - a more negligible cost broken down on monthly finance - we would recommend the Nissan. It's quicker, cleaner, more fuel efficient, better refined, more comfortable and, ultimately, worth it. 

Hyundai Tucson 1.7 CRDi 116 SE Nav

Location Surrey; On sale now; Price: £22,796 Engine 4 cyls, 1685cc, diesel Power 114bhp at 4000rpm Torque 207lb ft at 1250-2500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual 0-62mph 13.7sec Top speed 109mph Kerb weight 1580kg Economy 61.7mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 119g/km, 21%.

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Matthew Griffiths

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Adrian987 7 October 2015

Lane assist - does anyone like it?

I am intrigued by "as the speed builds, the steering becomes increasingly vague and inconsistent, meaning you lack the confidence to commit to more challenging corners. The issue is particularly prominent when the standard Lane Keeping Assist System is active." I have not yet read anywhere (or seen on YouTube) anyone singing the praises of such systems. A gadget that perhaps will not be used more than a couple of times, I wonder?
Ski Kid 7 October 2015

which is likely to be 40 mpg if your are lucky

Hope it is better than the ix35 I had one and the 47.8mpg for the 2 litre 4x4 was 32 to 36 way off , a lousy car , good boot being the best feature full of problems and uncomfortable head restraints used from the Kia Sportage, save up for A Land Rover would be my suggestion.
bomb 6 October 2015

Autocar, 2000kg is the gross

Autocar, 2000kg is the gross vehicle weight - not the kerb weight!

Given that the article then presupposes other shortcomings because of the enormous (and erroneous) kerb weight I think this article is in need of some reappraisal.