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With the Tucson challenging the time-honoured CR-V, all hell breaks loose in TG’s battle between the soft-roaders

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In the past one year, I’ve driven more petrol-powered SUVs than the total number of cars I’ve driven during my life. Until last year, it was almost unimaginable that big, brawny machines could be powered by anything apart from sticky fuel. Yeah, a few things acted as catalysts to change the perception of petrol engines in people’s minds; such as the diesel ban in Delhi and the uncertainty that followed, even after the ban was lifted. But through all this, if there’s one SUV that has stood strong and made people reconsider their opinions about petrol SUVs, it has to be the Honda CR-V. With the previous two generations that have been on sale in India, it developed a cult following for an SUV that rewrote rules of refinement.

The CR-V has enjoyed a free run for the past few years, with no other petrol-powered SUV in its way. But all of that is going to change. The Hyundai Tucson, with its sharp styling and long feature list, is here to challenge the time-tested CR-V. First up, the CR-V has a few aces up its sleeves that will give the Tucson a thing or two to worry about. Such as the AWD system and a sunroof. And yes, an option of two petrol engines to match your requirements.

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What you see here is the most powerful CR-V. It’s powered by a 2.4-litre four-pot engine that makes 188bhp and 226Nm of torque. Yeah, at this point in time, you might think that it’s unfair to compare the 2.4-litre CR-V to a 2.0-litre Tucson. But look at it this way, Honda has been nice enough to let you have an option and choose a more powerful engine if you wish. Of course, what goes without saying is that Honda demands a premium for this. How much? At Rs 26.52 lakh (ex-Delhi), it is exactly Rs 4.73 lakh more expensive than the Tucson. Does it justify the price difference? Does it offer much more than the Korean SUV to justify almost half a million bucks?

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To answer all these questions, we took these two SUVs to the country’s fastest highway and also spent a full day driving them through some rough roads to see which one emerges on top. The Hyundai Tucson employs a 2.0-litre petrol block that generates 154bhp and 194Nm of twist. Yes, it’s the same engine the Elantra uses, mated to the same six-speed automatic gearbox. The power delivery is smooth and the refinement levels are great. At low engine speeds, it’s almost impossible to hear the engine at work. And when you show it some beans, it’ll happily rev right up to 6,500rpm to get all those horses galloping. The transmission, though, isn’t the best in class. It utilises the old-school torque-converter technology and takes a little more time to change a cog than you’d want. Still, it has six ratios at its disposal, which it makes good use of to offer more flexibility to the engine.

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The CR-V makes 34bhp more than the Tucson, but that’s only on the spec sheet. Out on the road, the difference in power is negligible. The Tucson can keep up with the CR-V and stay right on its tail, even with the CR-V’s throttle completely opened up. But it does have an edge over the Tucson when it comes to cornering hard and finding more traction while soft roading. It tends to understeer less than the Tucson and manages to stick to its line with far more poise than the Korean. And although with only five ratios to play with, the gearbox makes the engine work a bit harder to keep up to speed, the process of shifting cogs is utterly seamless, and gives you a jerk-free change every time, no matter where the tacho needle is pointing. It’s almost as smooth as a CVT. And yes, you’d be a bit less scared if you venture into mucky areas as compared to the Tucson.

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Both these SUVs aren’t really drivers’ delights. There’s a certain amount of vagueness to both steering units. They’re a bit light, but what comes to the rescue in the Tucson is the Drive Mode button. Once in Sport, it weights up the steering a bit to give you a tad more confidence while at high speeds.

The ride quality in both these SUVs is good. Really good. The process of absorbing bumps is done with absolute ease. Though the CR-V is almost there, the Tucson is a notch higher when it comes to ride quality. There’s noticeable body roll in both of them, but here too, the Tucson has a slight edge.

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When we drove the diesel Tucson, we were surprised with the sort of technology that Hyundai was offering in this urban SUV. It had things that you saw only in premium German SUVs until now – say the e-brake or the auto hold, or even the electric tailgate for example. But sadly, the petrol Tucson is not available in the top-spec and misses out on the electric tailgate, auto hold, e-brake and traction control. As compared to the Honda, it doesn’t have a sunroof, but offers auto headlamps and wipers that the CR-V doesn’t have.

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Both these cars have spacious cabins, and neither manufacturer has thought of cramming in a third row to make the brochure more flowery. And that leaves a lot of room for luggage. Although it is subjective, I like the Tucson’s cabin more than the CR-V’s, for the way things are put together and the overall dashboard design.

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Coming to the question that we asked at the beginning. Does the CR-V justify the additional Rs 4.73 lakh that it demands? Well, the AWD system is a plus and comes in handy on the road and even when you venture off smooth tarmac. But even with it, it’s not that the CR-V has razor-sharp handling. In terms of performance, despite having 34 horses more, it isn’t much quicker than the Tucson. And yes, despite paying a premium, you don’t get auto headlamps or Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In terms of design, too, the CR-V, with its rounded and curvy shape, doesn’t win over your heart as easily as the Tucson does.

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So, do we have a clear winner? Yes, the CR-V is a tad more refined and offers ?an AWD system. But it doesn’t make up for the additional money it demands. The handling, too, is neutral and gives you absolutely no reason to spend that extra buck to get this Japanese SUV. You’d be better off with the Korean.

Bottomline: Tucson matches the performance of the CR-V despite having a smaller engine. Is better to drive and much more affordable.

Words: Agasti Kaulgi / photography: Rajeev Gaikwad

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Honda CR-V 2.4-litre AT
Engine: 2354cc, 4cyl, petrol
Power: 188bhp at 7000rpm
Torque: 226Nm at 4400rpm
Transmission: 5A, AWD
LxWxH: 4545x1820x1685mm
Price: Rs 26.52 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Pros: Refinement, AWD system

Cons: Design, steering feel, price

Score: 7/10

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Hyundai Tucson P AT
Engine: 1999cc, 4cyl, petrol
Power: 154bhp at 6200
Torque: 194Nm at 4000
Transmission: 6A, FWD
LxWxH: 4475x1850x1660mm
Price: Rs 21.79 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Pros: Cabin design, price

Cons: Lacks AWD

Score: 7/10

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