Hyundai Tucson Premium review
The Hyundai Tucson Premium is generously equipped offering a refined drive, but the expensive mild hybrid model is difficult to recommend
Blending the looks and high driving position of an SUV with the running costs of a family hatchback is not anything new, and while the Nissan Qashqai can claim bragging rights to have had the first and best-selling ‘crossover’, the Hyundai Tucson has always been snapping at its heels.
There’s a lot to recommend it too – the Tucson is smart looking, well equipped and has one of the best warranties you can get. Many buyers will use the savings they’ll make by not buying a so-called ‘premium’ badge to get themselves a top-of-the-range trim level Hyundai Tucson, which is neatly badged ‘Premium’.
We wouldn’t blame them either. On the outside, the Premium has a stylish-looking chrome grille and 18-inch wheels to differentiate it from lower trim-level models. The inside shows the progress that Hyundai continues to make on dashboard design and quality, with a neat, functional layout that features an eight-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard.
In addition to the screen, you get wireless smartphone charging, leather seat coverings and chrome trim around the cabin. Both front seats are electrically adjustable and heated; in fact even the rear passengers get seat warmers as standard.
To help keep the Tucson looking smart and unblemished, the Premium has front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. A towing assist function which will prove helpful for anyone who has a trailer or caravan and finds reversing a chore.
If that’s not enough for you then Hyundai offers an even better equipped version called the Premium SE; although it costs an extra £2,000. It adds a few nice options such as an opening panoramic sunroof, larger 19-inch wheels and a ‘smart’ electric tailgate, along with some less essential gadgets such as a windscreen wiper de-icer and heated steering wheel.
The engine range is a bit of a novelty too. The entry-level 1.6-litre petrol, which is confusingly named GDi despite not being a diesel, produces a reasonable 130bhp but isn’t available on the flagship Premium SE. Then there is a version of the same engine with a turbo to boost output to 175bhp and a 1.6-litre diesel with two power outputs – 113 and 134bhp - and a choice of either a six-speed manual gearbox, or a Dual Clutch Transmission automatic.
At the top of the range is an innovative mild hybrid which is a curious machine, but difficult to recommend. While most rivals are pairing electrification with petrol engines, Hyundai has mixed its 48V starter-generator with its 2.0-litre diesel engine. Instead of using a separate electric motor, the starter doubles up as a generator and propulsion motor to aid efficiency and performance. But it only has a tiny 0.44kWh battery, which offers no ability for the car to run on electric power alone.
Instead, the 48V system cuts the engine slightly early as you come to a halt, safe in the knowledge that it has the electric power to get you moving again if you require instant acceleration. That aside, it supports the diesel motor for extra grunt, adding an extra 16bhp as required when you accelerate.
This is all linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and is only available with four-wheel drive; in fact it is the only Tucson which is a 4x4. The result is a family SUV that can crack 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds – which is fairly quick for this type of car. Fuel economy is impressive as well, with up to 49.6mpg possible under the new, tougher ‘real-world’ WLTP official economy test cycle, too.
And the clever powertrain works pretty well in practice. It never really feels strained unless you’re really flooring the throttle. The integration with the eight-speed auto is solid enough, too; it can get a bit confused if you demand very quick acceleration, but in general, you quickly learn to work with it to maintain relaxed progress.
It never feels that fast, though, despite that sizable power output. The extra weight of the hybrid set-up and the four-wheel drive transmission also makes itself known if you try to throw the car around with any sort of gusto, too. The steering is nicely weighted but very short on any kind of feedback, and the body has a tendency to roll about in the corners. It’s much more at home cruising along at speed, when that soft nature of the suspension works in its favour to deliver a fairly refined ride.
However, think carefully if you really need the four-wheel drive and the hybrid system. The space taken up by the transmission and the electrics reduces the available luggage space, although the flat-floored boot should still be enough for most families’ needs.
But it adds to the price too. While the Premium range generally starts at £26,060, the Tucson 48V is a near-£33,000 car. That nudges the Hyundai into premium badge territory – and the CO2 emissions and hefty list price mean it won’t be that cheap to run either.
For now, then, we’d say the best way to enjoy the benefits of the Tucson are further down the engine range, where you get better efficiency, slightly less compromised practicality, and notably stronger value for money.
The Hyundai Tucson is a good value, well-built and generously equipped crossover SUV, which will make sense for many families. The range-topping Premium is a tempting alternative to prestige brand rivals, with a list of equipment which would cost thousands if added as options to a German brand car.
But the Tucson is only good value if you stick to the smaller-engined versions. The 2.0-litre diesel 4x4 has some impressive 48V mild-hybrid technology, but it is just too expensive to recommend, especially as the running cost benefits are negligible and it has less space for luggage.