Hyundai Tucson: head-turning SUV shines a light on interesting design

The Tucson’s new styling is bold but can it back up eye-catching looks with decent performance?

Monday, 20th September 2021, 9:42 am

“Not an evolution but a revolution”, so claims Hyundai for this latest version of the Tucson family SUV.

The rival to the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Seat Ateca etc is now into its fourth generation and there’s no denying that this latest model is quite the departure from what came before it.

The last generation was a solid but fairly anonymous entry in the packed C-SUV segment, where conservative looks are generally the order of the day. However, for this new model Hyundai has gone the other way, making sure that you’ll be noticed wherever you go.

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From every angle, it’s a riot of eye-catching design. I’m fully on board for that front end with the jewelled lights so cleverly integrated into the huge grille. With the engine off they’re hidden from view, giving the Tucson a solid diamond-effect front that’s both striking and a touch sinister. With the engine started, the angular DRLs emerge, blending seamlessly with the rest of the grille.

It’s really bold and different and makes the Tucson stand out like nothing else on the roads. At the rear, the full-width light bar with pixel LEDs, honeycomb lower bumper and sharp, downward pointing tail lights are equally striking. But in between things fall apart slightly. There are just too many lines, creases and angles along the doors are rear three-quarter panels and it looks like you’re viewing the car through a kaleidescope.

The interior is a slightly calmer affair, with a few simple surfaces and minimal physical controls intended to create a harmonious and organised environment. From the driver’s seat a neat double line of chrome trim sweeps across the cabin from one door top to the other, smartly integrating the air vents and wrapping around the completely smooth centre stack.

That stack houses an all-new configurable 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen as well as all the heating and ventilation controls. It creates a clean, organised look and Hyundai boasts that the Tucson is its first car to remove physical heating controls. However, as multiple other cars have already proved, this simply makes basic functions harder to see and harder to operate. The flat, featureless stack is also at odds with the giant Fisher Price-style drive controls beneath it on the centre console.

The new Tucson is bigger than before, boot space is increased to a huge 620 litres and there’s more leg and shoulder room for rear passengers. Yet it still feels cramped compared with other cars in its class, legroom is some way behind a Qashqai or Kuga and the rear bench feels noticeably narrower.

So passenger space isn’t the Tucson’s strong suit, but drivetrain choice is. Hyundai says that the Tucson has the broadest range of electrified powertrains in its class. There’s all sorts of combinations of petrol and diesel, mild, full and plug-in hybrids, two- or all-wheel drive and manual or automatic. But the model we’re interested in today is the full hybrid 1.6 GDi with an auto transmission and two-wheel-drive.

With combined output of 227bhp and 258lb ft, it’s a punchy and generally very smooth unit that gets on with the business of slipping from EV to petrol to everything-at-once neatly and unobtrusively. In fact, I’d say it’s among the Tucson’s strongest features, offering pleasing responsiveness and refinement along with smart hybrid operation and solid economy - 51mpg in my time with it.

Its road manners are also pretty impressive. Not as sharp handling as a Kuga, perhaps, but with control and responsiveness to rival the Mazda CX-5 it’s still among the best in class. That composure is matched by a well balanced ride that carefully treads the line between comfort and control.

Hyundai is usually pretty generous when it comes to equipment and our Premium spec car (one down from top-spec Ultimate) is no different. At £34k it’s largely in line with the less powerful Kuga hybrid and comes with a 10.25-inch digital instrument display to sit alongside the internet and smartphone-connected infotainment system and eight-speaker Krell stereo. Safety kit includes adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist alongside forward collision mitigation with cross-junction assistance and rear cross traffic avoidance tech. Heated front seats and steering wheel plus dual-zone climate control keep those in the front comfortable and features such as high beam operation and wipers are controlled automatically.

The Tucson’s revolutionary design is likely to divide buyers but if you can get on board with the looks there’s a lot to like. The design is striking, equipment is strong and the drivetrain is an excellent balance of performance and economy. It’s only some questionable interior design and mediocre passenger space that let it down.

Hyundai Tucson Premium

Price: £34,435; Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol, 44.2kW electric motor; Power: 227bhp; Torque: 258lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed automatic; Top speed: 120mph; 0-62mph: 8 seconds; Economy: 49.6mpg; CO2 emissions: 130g/km