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Used test: Hyundai Tucson vs Vauxhall Grandland X vs Volvo XC40
As two-year-old used buys, these family SUVs are around £5000 cheaper than new, plus their hybrid tech should save you even more cash over time. But which of our trio should you choose?...
Hyundai Tucson 1.6 T-GDi 230 Hybrid Premium auto
List price when new £34,455
Price today £27,000
Available from 2020-present
The Tucson may have sharp looks and hybrid power, but don't assume practicality has been forgotten
Vauxhall Grandland X 1.6 225 Hybrid Business Edition Nav AT8
List price when new £32,390
Price today £27,000
Available from 2018-present
This plug-in hybrid Grandland X aims to keep running costs low, but does it succeed or underdeliver?
Volvo XC40 B4 R-Design auto
List price when new £35,055
Price today £30,000
Available from 2017-present
While it's the most expensive family SUV here, the XC40 looks suitably premium inside and out
*Price today is based on a 2021 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. Originally, that was the complete phrase – a compliment rather than a diss, in fact. We bring this up because the best used family SUVs thrive on being multipurpose, being practical and affordable purchases, yet also stylish ones.
The Hyundai Tucson is a keen example, especially in hybrid form. It'll do the sensible stuff, like sipping fuel en route to the family holiday. However, that doesn't mean it plays it safe when it comes to performance and design. It's a similar story with this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Vauxhall Grandland X as well as this mild-hybrid version of the Volvo XC40.
In a sentence, these three cars want to appeal to your head and you heart simultaneously. At a couple years old, which one does it best, thus satisfying that initial phrase to the fullest? We're about to find out.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
As the most powerful of our trio, the 227bhp Tucson is, not surprisingly, the quickest in a straight line, taking just 6.9sec to accelerate from 0-60mph. A few years ago, that would have been considered a respectable time for a hot hatchback let alone a family SUV. However, with that much grunt going through just the front wheels, provoking a bit of wheelspin is all too easy when pulling away in cold or damp conditions.
Neither the Grandland X nor the XC40 come close for acceleration, with both taking 7.8sec to reach 60mph – not all that surprising given that the Grandland X weighs more than its rivals due to its larger battery, while the XC40 is down on power by more than 20bhp. With their extra oomph, the Tucson and Grandland X make lighter work of motorway slip roads and B-road overtakes than the XC40, though.
Sadly, all three are hamstrung by rather dim-witted automatic gearboxes. When you ask for a sudden burst of acceleration on the move, the Tucson and Grandland X’s ’boxes need a good second or two to figure out which gear they need to be in before they respond. That's less of a problem in the XC40, especially if you select Dynamic mode, but its foibles materialise around town, where it tends to dither when you’re pulling out of junctions.
The Tucson and Grandland X have an inherent advantage over the XC40 in that they can run quietly on electric power around town. In our hands, the Grandland X achieved 23 miles of electric-only running – not bad when you consider the temperature was just 2deg C on the day of our test. When the petrol engine kicks in, it does so relatively smoothly, although it becomes boomy and uncouth at high revs.
The Tucson can do only short bursts in electric mode. After a mile or so, you’ll notice the engine cutting in and out as the car swaps between power sources, but it does so smoothly. The engine is pretty quiet at a cruise, too, but it can sound gruff if you rev it hard and some vibrations filter up through the steering wheel. The XC40’s engine isn’t exactly whisper-quiet, but it’s undoubtedly the smoothest in feel and tone.
The XC40 leads the way in other aspects of refinement. It suffers from the least wind and tyre noise at 70mph, while the Grandland X is the noisiest.
Both the Tucson and Grandland X suffer from an unsettled low-speed ride, but at least the latter starts to settle down a little at motorway speeds. This can’t be said for the Tucson, which is not only fidgety over rough sections of bitumen but also twangs and pings off expansion joints and larger road scars.
Conversely, the XC40 copes brilliantly with undulations at speed, while also isolating you well from potholes in town. And it manages that without the suspension thudding noisily beneath you, as it does in the others. It also has the smoothest brakes (the Grandland X’s are vague and the Tucson’s grabby), making the XC40 the most relaxing urban companion.
None of our trio is going to have you grabbing the keys for an early morning Sunday drive, but the XC40 is the most composed and confidence-inspiring on a country road. Its steering, while light, is accurate, helping you place the car where you want it, plus it leans the least through corners and grips the hardest.
The Tucson isn’t too far behind and is perfectly pleasant to guide down a B-road at a gentle pace. When you push on, you’ll find it doesn’t grip as hard or as evenly front to rear as the XC40 and its steering is a little over-eager, so being smooth on the way into corners isn’t always easy.
That said, it’s preferable to the Grandland X’s vague steering, which fails to inspire confidence at faster speeds. The Grandland X also has the least grip and feels rather top-heavy through quick direction changes.
Next: What are they like inside? >>
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