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REVIEW – Hyundai Tucson T-GDi Premium SE

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Hyundai Tucson 1.6 T-GDi 2WD Premium SE
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
3.5

Summary

The Hyundai Tucson is a practical family car with a lot of charm and, in the case of the Premium SE, an awful lot of equipment. The 1.6 T-GDi is neither fast not fun, making it difficult to recommend. The 1.6 CRDi is more economical, has more torque and is only marginally more expensive. The Premium SE looks great, but if you’re happy to sacrifice some gadgetry for a more sporty appearnace, then the N Line may be for you.


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Exterior Styling

The Hyundai Tucson has been around for a few years now, but has recently received a mid-life nip and tuck to keep it feeling fresh.

The changes are most apparent at the front. The grille is enormous – seemingly a family trait of a Hyundai. On our Premium SE model it’s finished in stand-out chrome too, for extra visual impact.

The headlights are also re-styled. They definitely look sleeker, with pixel-style LED headlights and signature daytime running lights.

It’s also worth noting that the Premium SE is not the sporty Hyundai Tucson, which is now left to the N Line trim. Nonetheless our test car, finished in Fiery Red, looked relatively athletic.

There are further flashes of chrome on the lower window surrounds and door handles. 19-inch alloy wheels are finished in two-tone black and silver, filling the arches nicely.

The Hyundai Tucson has an element of ruggedness in the form of a black plastic ‘skirt’. It runs around the car completely, but is most obvious on the wheel arches.

To the rear of the Premium SE the black plastic skirt contains a silver plastic insert. This being the 1.6 T-GDi model, you get a twin exhaust on one side. There’s even a subtle roof spoiler with gloss black side blades.

On the whole the Hyundai Tucson has aged well. But the addition of N Line specification to the range has spoiled the show for other models. It looks so good that it’s hard to imagine not picking it; like the GT Line model does to the Kia Sportage.

Interior Finish

The changes to the inside of the Hyundai Tucson are a bit less fresh-feeling. The main change is to the dashboard. The multimedia screen was previously integrated, but looked clunky and lacked aesthetic.

Now though, the touchscreen multimedia screen is perched on top of the dashboard. Although we weren’t a fan of these at first, there are so many manufacturers going down this design route that it’s grown on us.

And it’s apparent why it’s a popular design. It allows for a slimmer dashboard. In the case of the Hyundai Tucson it makes for a sleeker-looking passenger side. There’s even a bit of faux leather on the dashboard, a stark contrast to the plastics of old.

And yet it could go a step further. Because some problems remain with the cabin of the Hyundai Tucson. The main one is that there are still some iffy plastics knocking around.

Admittedly they are mostly confined to the door cards now, but there’s nothing “Premium SE” about it. The only saving grace is that the build quality is robust. There are no trim rattles, and the cabin feels well put-together.

And with the vast improvement to the multimedia screen setup, it’s about time Hyundai brought a virtual cockpit to the table. The dials, with their small multi-function display in the middle, are just a bit plain.

The seats on the Hyundai Tucson Premium SE are finished in a soft, perforated leather. Switchgear seems to be everywhere; from the centre console and dashboard to the steering wheel and driver’s door. But that’s largely due to the sheer amount of tech on this car: something we’ll come on to later.

Engine/Performance

There are quite a few drivetrain options available on the Hyundai Tucson. A mixture of petrol and diesel, and some diesels with mild hybrid technology. Then you can choose from manual or DCT automatic. And finally there’s the 2WD/4WD consideration.

Our test car featured a 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine, 2WD and a manual gearbox. On paper the power output sound promising: 177PS and 265Nm of torque. Sadly that doesn’t translate into exciting performance: 0-62 takes a leisurely 9.2 seconds and the top speed is 126mph.

Let’s start by getting some good points on the table. At motorway speeds the T-GDi is refined, and the engine itself is quiet.

The 6-speed manual gearbox is relatively pleasant to drive. If you insist on having a manual you will not be disappointed. But if you are open to an automatic gearbox then the DCT is a great choice: slick, refined and reasonably efficient.

What’s not so good about the 1.6 T-GDi is the way it delivers power. Or doesn’t delivery power. There is absolutely nothing available below about 4,500rpm. To feel like you’re making forward progress you have to push really hard, and there isn’t much premium about that.

The downside of having to rev the T-GDi hard to make progress will reveal another issue: noise. This is a surprisingly harsh-sounding engine at higher revs.

Ultimately there is just no pleasure to be had from driving it. It’s sluggish when you’re pottering around, and abrasive when you push hard. Save yourself the trouble and opt for one of the diesels. It will have more torque, and therefore will drive better day to day.

Ride/Handling

So the Hyundai Tucson 1.6 T-GDi is not that impressive in a straight line. But does it fare any better in the corners? Actually it does. A bit.

With any car this size, controlling body roll is always going to be an issue. One way to do so is to lower the ride height and firm up the damping to make the car less susceptible when changing direction in a hurry.

But when you have a car on 19-inch alloy wheels and reasonably low-profile tyres this isn’t really an option. Softer damping is required to ensure the occupants’ spines remain intact.

Given that striking a balance between comfort and cornering is seemingly impossible, the Hyundai Tucson does alright. Partly because you’ll never be going fast enough to throw it into a corner at any great speed.

But it is still comfortable on the 19-inch alloys, absorbing the majority of lumps and bumps well. We’d have no issue taking the Hyundai Tucson on a long drive.

There are three modes to the steering: ‘normal’, ‘comfort’ and ‘sport’. There isn’t a great deal of feel in any of the modes; ‘comfort’ makes it lighter and ‘sport’ makes it heavier. So it all depends on personal preference. We tended to opt for sport mode.

Ordinarily the lack of 4WD could be seen as a negative. But realistically this is a car that is never going off road. Furthermore with the T-GDi engine there is no danger of being unable to put the power down, especially at lower revs. So in this case the 2WD model makes the most sense.

Economy

If the Engine / Performance section of this review gave you any doubts about the viability of the 1.6 T-GDi engine, then let us put the final nail in the coffin: the economy isn’t much to write home about either.

Okay, so it’s not the least-economical car in the world. On the combined WLTP cycle, this particular Hyundai Tucson returned 35.8mpg.

On the face of it that doesn’t seem a bad return, but for two things. Firstly, if you try to see some sort of forward progression, you will drive the T-GDi hard. And that will dent the figures significantly.

Secondly, and more importantly, the 1.6 CRDi 2WD manual achieves 45.6mpg on the same cycle. Given the T-GDi’s lack of performance it seems like an easy decision to make…

Nevertheless, we shall continue. CO2 emissions of 173g/km result in a first-year VED of £855. With a price under £40,000 there is no VED surcharge, so it’s just £145 in subsequent years.

And although driving the Hyundai Tucson T-GDi hard will see lower fuel consumption figures, we found a different outcome. Because there was just no enjoyment from the engine, we just pottered about and resigned ourselves to the lacklustre performance. As a result we could see figures near those quoted.

The Hyundai Tucson has start/stop technology, and the 2WD version is more efficient than 4WD. It is worth noting that the 4WD is a variable system, meaning it can send power to the front wheels only under normal driving. As well as being more enjoyable to drive, the DCT gearboxes are marginally more efficient.

Practicality

The crossover market in the UK is booming. They seem to be everywhere on our roads. But with a promise of high levels of practicality for the family it’s easy to see why.

The Hyundai Tucson makes a good case for itself in this regard. Boot space of 513 litres is respectable. It’s also more than the 491 litres you get in the Hyundai’s closest rival; the Kia Sportage.

For an airport run, you’ll fit a decent amount of luggage in the back. When you have a pram or buggy, you’ll be glad of a decent boot. When you get some alone time a set of golf clubs or two will go in easily. The family pooch will find the space generous, too.

In the cabin there’s enough space for 4 adults in extreme comfort, and 5 adults in reasonable comfort. It’s a big advantage for the middle passenger to have plenty of leg room without having any sort of transmission tunnel to straddle.

The rear seat backrest has the ability to recline slightly, which is a bonus. And when there are just two people in the back there is a centre armrest for extra comfort.

A higher driving position gives great visibility of the road ahead, and there are no bad blind spots from the driving seat.

Although we drove the Hyundai Tucson with the steering in ‘Sport’ mode 90% of the time, it has to be said that the ability to switch to the lighter ‘Comfort’ setting does help when you’re trying to manoeuvre in a car park.

Equipment

The Hyundai Tucson uses the manufacturer’s standard approach to equipment levels. You start with plenty of it, and get more with each grade. There are no options – premium paints aside – so what you see is what you get.

All models get alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, LED daytime running lights, heated door mirrors with power folding function, electric windows front and rear, rear-view camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

In terms of safety equipment, there’s autonomous emergency braking, hill-start assist, lane keep assist, trailer stability assist, emergency stop signal and downhill brake control.

And then we come to the Premium SE model, which is the range-topper. As such, its specification is utterly comprehensive.

For convenience you get auto lights, auto wipers, power tailgate, keyless entry and go and electrically adjustable front seats. The front seats are heated and cooled, whilst the outer rear seats and steering wheel are heated only.

There’s an impressive level of technology too. A full 360-degree camera system with front and rear parking sensors makes parking a doddle. There’s a wireless charging pad, satellite navigation, Krell premium sound system and several USB ports.

The openable panoramic sunroof with electric window blind is a big wow factor, but also lets light and air into the cabin.

The electronic parking brake has an auto hold function, so you needn’t worry about rolling back when setting off. When you hit the motorway, the Premium SE has cruise control with speed limiter.

DCT models get adaptive cruise control, which will adjust your speed to maintain a constant gap to the car in front. It has a stop and go function too for those times when you get caught in traffic, taking some of the stress out of the situation.

Value For Money

The Hyundai Tucson range starts from £22,060 on the road with the 1.6 GDi S Connect 2WD manual, and goes right up to £34,970 for the 2.0 CRDi mild hybrid Premium SE 4WD Automatic.

Of the Premium SE models, the 1.6 T-GDi is the cheapest, with a price of £29,970. Premium paint adds £665, but there are no other extras to think about.

It’s hard to recommend the T-GDi though. The 1.6 CRDi is £30,900. Given the fuel consumption difference it’s likely that you’ll soon save yourself the extra £1,000.

Another consideration is whether you really need all the bells and whistles of the Premium SE model. If you’re happy with a few of the gadgets omitted, but with an extra dose of kerb appeal, then consider the N Line models.

In this trim, the 1.6 CRDi gets 48V mild hybrid technology. With a DCT gearbox and 2WD (which would be our choice) it costs £29,050.

It’s up to individual preferences whether gadgets or good looks are more important, but for us the temptation of the N Line styling would be hard to resist.

Whatever Hyundai Tucson you choose, a standard 5-year, unlimited-mileage warranty applies. That gives you extra peace of mind when spending your hard-earned money, and has the advantage of a decent warranty remaining if selling the car 3 years down the line.

Perhaps the only thing missing from the Hyundai Tucson range is a properly hot version; a Tucson N. We’ve seen what Hyundai’s N division can do; with the i30 N Performance. Applying that same magic to the Tucson could only be a good thing.

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max power 177PS at 4,000rpm
Max torque 265Nm at 1,500-4,500rpm
Drivetrain 6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 9.2 seconds
Top speed 126mph
Fuel tank size 62 litres
Fuel consumption 35.8 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 173 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 1,545kg
Towing capacity 1,900kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 513 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £29,970
Price as tested £30,635
Company website www.hyundai.co.uk/new-cars/tucson

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