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The Top Gear car review: Hyundai Tucson
For:Roomy, drives neatly, abundant in well-conceived tech
Against:There's a chance the looks won't do it for you
What is it?
Hyundai describes the new Tucson as “a design revolution” for the brand. It’s not kidding. In an incredibly saturated corner of the market – the middle-sized SUV-thingy – it’ll stand out. Which is exactly the point. Whether you like the look its Parametric Hidden Lights lend it or not, it’s surely got your attention among the Qashqais, Kugas and Tiguans of this world.
Still, eye-jolting aesthetics are just one half of the bargain. If it can’t back them up, it’s as diverting but ultimately powerless as Elmo and Count Binface standing alongside Boris on election night as the results roll in.
But this is Hyundai at its most strident and confident. The Tucson name first appeared in 2004, on a quirky looking car that put value for money above all else. The two generations which followed (one of which was called ix35 in the UK) forwent any aesthetic interest in order to chase the tidy dynamics and interior quality of rivals. Now Hyundai’s nailed those, interesting styling is truly back on the menu.
And how. Hyundai tells us the new Tucson wasn’t created by traditional sketching, but “through geometric algorithms produced by cutting-edge digital technology”. What we’re picturing is a computerised version of those spirograph kits we played with as kids. What they’ve pumped out is pretty memorable, with the headlights, DRLs and indicators hidden among little lozenges in the grille – only coming to life as they’re switched on – and the wheel arches looking like the end result of looking at a Lamborghini Countach poster before a cheese dream.
It’s notable because Hyundai’s engineering team is chockful of former BMW employees. We’d argue their current workplace is more successfully pumping out bold design ideas than their former workplace…
Backing up the bold styling is a tech-packed interior (which can’t help but feel a touch conventional when it’s sheathed by such wild wrapping) and a mixture of powertrains, which heavily feature electrification. There are three mild hybrids, with anywhere between 134 and 178bhp and optional four-wheel drive. There’s the hybrid we’ve tested here, which links a 44.2kW electric motor with a 1.6-litre petrol turbo for a 227bhp total and with 4WD – and a Terrain Mode system – standard.
And on the horizon there’s a plug-in hybrid version, which’ll boast 261bhp and around 30 miles of electric-only range. Will a fully electric version or a high-performance Tucson N follow? It’d be hasty to rule them out.
Loads more options than the cars before it, then. Dynamically it ought to have more depth, too, with development miles encompassing everything from laps of the Nürburgring to hauling trailers around the Alps. So it looks more arresting than the bulk of its competitors. But is it any more arresting to drive?