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First Drive: Hyundai Tucson

Jonathan Musk drives Hyundai’s refreshed mid-size SUV to find out what’s new…

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SECTOR Medium SUV   PRICING £21,845-£29,745   FUEL 37.7-58.9mpg   CO2 125-173g/km

Hyundai has sold a considerable 15,250 Tucson’s this year and 29,430 vehicles in 2017, making it the brands best-seller in the UK and nearly a third of its entire sales volume. Now due a mid-life refresh, the company hopes to continue that momentum with customer-led improvements, new engines and a more premium appeal.

On sale from 26 July, the new Tucson benefits from a raft of changes, with Hyundai stating they’ve listened to customers (and motoring writers alike) to learn what people liked and felt could be improved.

Most obvious are cosmetic changes to the exterior, which now sports a more aggressive grille and bumper, as well as new full LED headlamps and day time running lights. Less obvious is a new tailgate and rear tail lights, as well as a choice of updated 16-, 17- and 19-inch alloys and new 18-inch rims. On top of the car, a new panoramic sunroof is available too.

Inside, much of the same mentality has been applied, with Hyundai clearly not wanting to reinvent the wheel. A totally new dashboard looks smart and makes use of higher-grade soft-touch materials for a more upmarket feel. And, like most other Hyundai these days, there’s a ‘floating’ infotainment 8.0-inch screen atop the dash. An original criticism of the 2015 Tucson was it lacked the space of its rivals, which Hyundai has now address with what they claim to be class leading boot space of 513 litres extending to 1,503 litres with the seats folded – a football or two bigger than rivals Renault Kadjar and Seat Ateca.

Drivetrain wise, the new Tucson is available with a 1.6-litre petrol, 1.6-litre diesel or 2.0-diesel. The latter is perhaps the most interesting and is equipped with a 48V mild-hybrid setup, and is available with either a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic (as opposed to Hyundai’s seven-speed DCT) and four-wheel drive. With 183bhp, it sits firmly at the top of the range, while the “all new” 1.6 CRDi diesel with a choice of 113 or 134bhp will serve as the most popular choices; “Diesel is still the right choice for SUVs”, commented Hyundai’s head of powertrain, Dr Michael Winkler. Buyers wishing to opt for automatic transmission will have to go for the higher power 134bhp car, which is available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT (not the new eight-speed auto), while the lower power CRDi comes with a six-speed manual as standard. Of note, both the 1.6 and 2.0 now come with SCR technology, meaning AdBlue tank fills need to be remembered to keep emissions low.

Any anti-diesel sentiments can be fulfilled with the 1.6-litre GDi and T-GDi petrol units, offering 130bhp or 175bhp respectively. These are additionally available at higher trim levels than on the previous model Tucson.

Prices start from £21,845 for the base petrol model 1.6 GDi 2WD 6 speed manual, and ranges to £34,945 for the 2.0-litre diesel mild-hybrid.

The Tucson also now comes newly equipped with Hyundai’s SCC with Stop & Go plus a new surround view monitor (SVM) that should aid customers in avoiding obstacles while manoeuvring.

On the road, the new Tucson is much like its predecessor, while the new 1.6-litre diesel with manual makes for a reasonably enjoyable drive. It does, however, feel a little underpowered and would likely be better with the higher power variant with seven-speed DCT. Meanwhile, the 2.0-litre 48V mild hybrid is a different kettle of fish entirely and makes light work of shifting the mid-size SUVs bulk around. The hybrid system is seamless too, and in the real world should help save a few mpg here and there thanks to its added torque boost taking some of the strain away from the main petrol unit.

What we think

Hyundai is on a bit of an SUV roll with the recent introduction of the fun Kona and plush Santa Fe. Tucson sits neatly in the middle and offers premium features at affordable prices and with excellent practicalities. Equipped with the new 1.6-litre diesel unit and DCT it does the job, while the 2.0-litre with mild-hybrid tech is interesting but doesn’t change the game with regard to emissions or fuel economy. Overall, Tucson is a good all-rounder with sensible updates that keep it in the running.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.