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First drive: Hyundai Tucson 48V. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai Tucson 48V
Hyundai goes down the mild hybrid route with the Tucson, with mixed results...


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Hyundai Tucson 48V

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Hyundai's revised Tucson crossover-SUV line-up includes a new diesel engine and also an intriguing part-electric vehicle, but is this latter machine - a pioneer for the Korean brand - really worth the considerable outlay required to secure its services?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai Tucson Premium SE 2.0 CRDi 4WD 48V Automatic
Pricing: from £34,945 as tested; starts at £21,845
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with mild hybrid electrical assistance
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 153g/km (VED Band 151-170: £515 in year one, £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 49.6mpg
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Power: 185hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-2,750rpm
Boot space: 459-1,503 litres

What's this?

Hyundai's facelifted version of the third-generation Tucson mid-sized crossover, this particular model having first launched in 2015. In terms of the stuff you can actually see, it's one of the typically modest aesthetic updates of the 2010s; you're looking at new LED headlights and a set of combination lamps at the rear, a refreshed 'Cascading Grille' in the Tucson's nose and some additional designs for the 16- to 19-inch alloys, subtly tweaked bumpers at both ends, a tailgate that has different creases and lines here and there, a twin-tip exhaust finisher, more soft-touch materials inside and a floating infotainment screen as well.

So it's on the technological front where we glean the most important news, as - first up - the old 1.7 CRDi has been retired, in favour of the new 'U3' 1.6-litre turbodiesel, also sold under the CRDi badging. As with its introduction in Hyundai's other product ranges, it comes with 115hp and a six-speed manual gearbox, or 136hp and a seven-speed DCT.

Elsewhere, the 132hp 1.6 GDi normally-aspirated petrol and the 177hp turbocharged T-GDi petrol continue as before, which just leaves the 2.0 CRDi to talk about. It's still there as the most powerful engine you can get in a Tucson, with 185hp and 400Nm, and indeed those are the figures it made in the pre-facelift Tucson range-topper.

However, compare its economy and emissions with the older 2.0-litre CRDi and you'll notice something odd. They're improved: from 170g/km and 43.5mpg previously, to 153g/km and 49.6mpg now. How has that come about? Is it to do with the new eight-speed automatic that is fitted as standard to the 2.0 CRDi? No, it's more to do with the '48V' bit of its name, which doesn't mean it has some rather outré 12-valves-per-cylinder technology, but more that it's a 48-volt mild hybrid. Sound familiar? Yup, it's much the same thinking that Audi is employing in its bigger models, such as the recently-launched A6 saloon.

Hyundai's take on the tech sees a Mild Hybrid Starter Generator (MHSG) sandwiched into the drivetrain, which is served by a 0.44kWh/48-volt lithium-ion battery, a low-voltage DC/DC (LDC) converter and an inverter too. Unlike the 48V Audis, the Tucson mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) doesn't 'stall' its combustion engine when coasting, but the MHSG can add a 12kW boost to the engine during acceleration to reduce fuel consumption, while it also discharges the battery to reduce engine load under light acceleration and provides additional torque further up the rev range for acceleration. When coasting, energy is recuperated by the Tucson 48V to recharge its Li-ion battery and in heavy traffic, the stop/start system keeps the diesel mill inactive for longer to ensure better use of fuel reserves.

It's all very impressive and it's actually Hyundai's first-ever MHEV to make it to showrooms, meaning we're likely to see this technology appearing in all manner of the Korean firm's other products before too long (it has already made its way into the revised Kia Sportage, with similar 48V badging), but those improvements in CO2 emissions don't do anything to further the Tucson's VED cause here in the UK, as it's in exactly the same tax band as the old, unelectrified 2.0 CRDi.

How does it drive?

It's a question that isn't exactly answered in the most satisfactory way by the Tucson 48V once it's on the move. At first, you pull off in it and the car feels solid, buttoned-down and suitably refined. The 2.0-litre engine performs as brawnily as it ever has and the new eight-speed automatic really is an excellent transmission, being by far Hyundai's best self-shifting unit yet sold.

But, as the miles progress, you kind of find yourself wondering what the MHEV technology is adding to the party. Except from a load of extra weight. The 48V is a good 60 to 100 kilos heavier than any other facelifted Tucson and it feels it, especially when using its less-than-confidence-inspiring brakes. There's also a nervous fidget to the ride quality at higher speeds, which we don't recall from previous test drives of the Tucson (and this is a point we'll come back to very shortly). As we've already said, unlike the Audis we've mentioned, the Hyundai never turns off its combustion engine until it's stationary and so you are very hard-pressed to feel the supposed beneficial effects of the MHEV crossover at all.

It's all a bit dispiriting, truth be told. We've always really liked the Tucson, but this is a model that we're not massively enamoured with. Its case is further undermined by two things: one, it's hugely expensive in the Tucson line-up, only coming in four-wheel drive guise and in top Premium and Premium SE trims, meaning it starts at 55 quid shy of 33 grand in the former and is a breath-taking £34,945 in Premium SE spec, as tested here; and two, there's the vexing problem of the U3 CRDi.

The smaller, 1.6-litre diesel engine is a little peach and it has more than enough grunt - in its 136hp/320Nm format, with the DCT gearbox - to deal with the Tucson's frame. It also rides with a far more fluid grace than the 48V, which is strange because extra weight normally helps with ride comfort. And it's at least £2,950 cheaper, model-for-model, than the 48V. And it has far better CO2 and economy figures, without losing much in terms of performance.


The MHEV idea is not a flawed one and we can understand why Hyundai chose to explore it, and also why it selected the strong-selling Tucson crossover as the model deigned important enough to receive the technology for the first time. But this 48V crossover is too flawed and too expensive for what it is to earn a glowing recommendation from us. Having said that, you can get yourself into an excellent facelifted diesel Tucson - just pick the smaller 1.6-litre engine and the DCT gearbox, and you'll have yourself a fine mid-sized, high-riding machine.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 29 Jul 2018    - Hyundai road tests
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- Tucson images

2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.

2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.2018 Hyundai Tucson. Image by Hyundai.


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