Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
While diesel was the fuel of choice for SUVs just a few years ago, the petrol engines available for the Tucson make more sense in many ways. It’s best to avoid the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine (badged 1.6 GDi), though – it does without a turbocharger and is quite sluggish as a result. The turbocharged version (badged 1.6 T-GDi) is far easier to live with – it has no shortage of power and pulls strongly from just about any speed.
If you do want a diesel, though, there are 1.6-litre (with 114 or 134bhp) and 182bhp 2.0-litre engines to choose from. The 114bhp 1.6-litre diesel feels rather sluggish, but the 134hp version provides decent performance. The 2.0-litre, though benefits from a 48V mild hybrid system that can provide a short burst of extra power at slow speeds – this all but eliminates the usual delay you get on diesels between pressing the accelerator and the power arriving. Neat. This engine is also the best choice for towing.
The 1.6-litre engines have a manual gearbox as standard, and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s worth upgrading to the seven speed, dual-clutch automatic ‘box for a more relaxing drive. It’s only available with the turbocharged T-GDi engine, though. Meanwhile, a conventional eight-speed automatic is standard with the 2.0-litre diesel engine. It changes between gears quickly and responds to kickdowns eagerly, but is a bit overeager to change down a gear when you’re cruising on the motorway.
Suspension and ride comfort
To prevent the Tucson from leaning too much around corners or bouncing over dips and crests, Hyundai has given it a fairly stiff suspension set up. While that helps keep the Tucson feel neatly tied down on the road, it’s not the most comfortable family SUV you can go for – the Nissan Qashqai is more forgiving over sharp-edged bumps than the Tucson.
You can choose from a variety of alloy wheel sizes, but we’d stay away from larger ones if you value ride comfort over looks; the biggest 19in wheels – standard on the N Line – lead to an even rougher ride on poorly surfaced roads, so are best avoided.
The Tucson doesn't lean much in corners – certainly less than the Qashqai – and there's plenty of grip even in poor weather conditions. While the Tucson performs well in most categories, it’s far from sporty – for a sportier family SUV, head straight to the Seat Ateca.
However, while the Tucson won’t impress a racing driver, it has other more usable qualities – the steering is light enough to make parking a breeze, but weights up nicely on the motorway to prevent the Tucson from feeling nervous or twitchy.
Noise and vibration
The engines fitted to the Tucson are nicely hushed at idle and when cruising, for the most part. You’ll have no issues with the 1.6-litre T-GDI – it’s the most refined engine in the range. The non-turbo version of it can get a bit loud, though, as you’re forced to eke every last drop of power out of if just to keep up with traffic. As for the diesels, the 1.6-litre is hushed unless you’re really pushing it hard, whereas the 2.0-litre is rather louder and transmits a bit of vibration through the pedals at idle.
The Tucson’s manual gearbox has a light action but can be a little notchy, especially when changing into second gear. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – offered only with the 1.6 T-GDi – shifts quickly but can hang onto gears for too long, increasing noise levels. Meanwhile, the 2.0-litre diesel comes with a smooth, traditional eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The mild-hybrid system isn’t that great for refinement – it makes the stop/start system a tad jumpy when it restarts the car. Tucsons fitted with this system suffer from a spongy-feeling brake pedal, too, caused by the regenerative driving system, which uses energy released during braking to recharge the battery. Another undesirable effect of the system that the brakes can feel grabby, which makes smooth stops difficult to judge.
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