Saturday 16 December 2017

Cars: All aboard - Tucson joins big drive to 'Upmarket'

Hyundai's crossover moves up a notch

Accomplished: Hyundai Tuscon
Accomplished: Hyundai Tuscon
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Everyone seems to want to move to Upmarket. And more seem to be getting there. It's not on the signposts but you know when you're there. People will tell you, especially carmakers who will holler it from the hillsides.

It's got to the stage where every second car coming on to the Irish market is aiming, or so we are told, to move to that elusive and exclusive hinterland.

Bargain Basement is becoming the abode of fewer and fewer motors. The profits are in Upmarket and people there, or on their way, have it to spend - or can get their hands on the credit.

Hyundai - not that long ago an occupant of Bargain Basementville - says it is shifting its compact SUV/Crossover, the Tucson, to the higher ground. It used to be called the ix35. Before that it was Tucson. Now it's back to Tucson again.

However, moving is not that simple. You've got to have the credentials and earn the credibility to stay there. And that means putting in some quality across the board. None of your cheap plastic and tinny sounding door closures allowed.

So how does the Tucson shape up?

It certainly has the shape, size and appearance of the classic modern-day compact/crossover but it's more macho to look at than the Nissan Qashqai. The latter is the one manufacturers all want to emulate but I don't think they should all become clones of one another in the process.

I'm serious when I mention tinny-sounding door closures being a no-no. Cars like this have to look and feel solid and sturdy. I think the Tucson made the grade on that.

The big check-in area is the cabin. I had Premium (well up the trim table) with materials of good quality all around, especially the dash where these cars can really be caught out. All surfaces were well finished and there was minimal evidence of what I call the 'grey plastic' look.

One area many fall down on now is not having decent seat adjustment on the passenger's side. The Tucson fails here. My compactly built travelling companion complained bitterly - not for the first time.

I, in contrast, was ensconced rather comfortably in an excellent driving position in a seat that seemed to suit me quite well.

There were three seats across the back, but the middle one was tight and tiny. They slide and fold and still leave a decent boot - and a proper spare wheel. Plus points.

The ix35 was/is a good car, well liked (always featured well up the top sellers). But there were areas needing a lot of improvement. The cabin was dull - now remedied by the Tucson. And it could be noisy. Hyundai's worked on that now, dampening intrusion from the engine especially. I drove it quite hard at high revs for decent stretches and I did not complain.

Moving Tucson upmarket also means improving equipment and spec. A quick appraisal of its start-off spec shows it isn't going to bother much with the 'bargain basement entry-level' nonsense that so many go on with just to get a price point.

Having air con, 16ins alloys, rear fog lights, Bluetooth with voice recognition, roof rack, rear parking assist, cruise control with speed limiter isn't world beating but it's a decent level.

As you go up the trim levels there is no doubt about the sort of buyer they are after - those looking for lots of stuff aboard.

I wouldn't give it top billing for on-road drive but it wouldn't be far off. The 1.7-litre engine is well-tried, tested and improved and the overall ease of handling means I took it for granted rather than noticed it negatively.

It's fair to say the Tucson is more an accomplished than exciting car. It had the feeling of a motor that, as I've said, you take for granted - always a good sign. If I'm correct, it has done what needed to be done to get this up another rung, or two, of the ladder.

Just like what KIA is about to do with its new Sportage (same stable) and Toyota with the RAV4 and (even a couple of years after launch) what Nissan did with the Qashqai. Welcome to Upmarket.

Facts & figures

Hyundai Tucson compact SUV/crossover. 1.7-diesel (115bhp, 119g/km, €200 road tax). Prices start at €25,245. Premium on test €31,995.

Standard spec includes air con, 16ins alloys, rear fog light, full-size spare wheel, cloth seats, USB, AUX, Bluetooth with voice recognition, roof rack, rear-park assist, cruise control/speed limiter.

Comfort Plus adds 17ins alloys, auto air con, front fogs, electric/folding mirror, electronic lumbar support. Executive adds sat nav, 8ins touch-screen, rear-view camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats. Premium adds panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers.

My side of the road

From what I've seen and experienced, ramps leading to or from a motorway or dual carriageway are among the country's most dangerous hotspots. Many joining the bigger roads think they have a right to barge into a lane. Many already on the main road refuse to make way. I've seen a lot of near misses these past couple of weeks. A little bit of courtesy would have averted most.

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