Review

Hyundai Tucson N-Line 1.6 CRDi 48V Hybrid review: lots to like, but little to love

3/5

The general-purpose SUV gets a new trim and a hybrid system but does it have what it takes to stand out in an ultra-competitive market?

Hyundai Tucson N-Line 1.6 CRDi 48V Mild Hybrid
The new N-Line specification apes the looks of Hyundai's high-performance range, if not the go

In theory, cars such as this shouldn’t really exist in our right-on country. Hyundai’s Tucson and its rivals the Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca, Renault Kadjar, Mazda CX-3 and Skoda Karoq tap right into the heart of SUV/crossover land, which has come under fire for being more polluting than ordinary cars by their nature of being bigger, heavier and less wind-cheating than their hatchback or estate counterparts. 

Yet they do exist and are one of the most numerous of car types. Families like them, people like them. They like the sense of space, the ease of use and the high-set driving position, and they are prepared to pay a bit extra for the privilege.

How much more? Navigating Hyundai’s website isn’t the easiest thing, but the Hyundai i30 estate in a similar if non-hybrid, high-spec trim costs under £26,700, whereas this diesel N-Line mild-hybrid Tucson is £29,645.00. Both, of course, are covered by Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.

What's so special about the N-Line trim?

N-Line is a relatively new trim line and while it’s entirely cosmetic, it apes the N Performance Hyundai models, which started with the i30 hot hatchback in 2017. It sounds a bit wishy-washy, but this combination of revved-up trim and slightly firmer suspension has been a fairly sure-fire hit in rivals such as Ford’s Kuga S-Line, Volkswagen’s Tiguan R-Line and Renault’s Kadjar GT-Line.

For the Tucson, the N-Line trim sits slightly under the top specification and gives you lots of red highlights, specific front and rear bumper packs and grilles with LED running lights, blacked-out trim on the door mirrors, larger 19-inch wheels and tyres, along with sports suspension on petrol versions only.

Red highlights struggle to lift a gloomy but practical and roomy interior

Inside the N-Line provides vestigial red stitching and a bit of scarlet trim on the gear lever, which comes from the full N Performance i30. Standard equipment consists of heated front seats, leather/suede trim, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and traffic-sign recognition, and while the spec doesn’t run to smart cruise control or a powered tailgate, it does have autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, which you can switch off. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as well.

Mild hybrid drivetrains explained

The engines consist of a 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo petrol, with 134bhp or 174bhp, or a 1.6 turbo diesel with 134bhp and 236lb ft of torque. All the drivetrain choices have a simple 48-volt hybrid system consisting of a beefed-up starter/generator on the front of the engine, which harvests over-run inertia as electrical energy and puts it into a small 0.44kWh lithium-ion battery, adding an additional 16bhp to the engine’s output when required. 

There’s a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic gearboxes driving the front wheels.

The N-Line spec provides restyled bumpers, lots of black trim and larger, black 19-inch wheels

We drove the 1.6-litre turbodiesel manual model with a top speed of 112mph, 0-62mph in 11.2sec, 48.7mpg in the WLTP Combined cycle and 113g/km of CO2 emissions, which is 12gkm better than its non-hybrid predecessor and drops the vehicle from 33 to 30 per cent for BIK taxpayers.

Looks and interior appointments

In the car-park glamour parade it looks longer and wider than it is (4,475mm long, 1,850mm wide) and the black trim gives it the menacing resemblance of the more premium vehicles in this crowded sector.

What it might lack in style, the interior makes up for in comfort, space and user-friendliness

The interior doesn’t quite pull off the same trick. Initial impressions are of morose, black-grained plastics sloshed over the facia with bits of red stitching and contrasting piping struggling to bring life to the gloom. It’s well put together but pretty ordinary. 

The big buttons are welcome, however and the conventional twin-dial instrument binnacle is clear. The seats are comfortable and accommodating, and there’s a fair bit of useful storage space around them, along with a deep-but-narrow box in the centre console. 

The rear bench is also comfortable, with head and leg room to spare, although the centre seat is going to be cramped for a third adult and is better employed as an armrest. The seat backs fold on to the bases 60/40 per cent, but the load bed isn’t entirely flat when you fold them. 

English's hound doesn't appear delighted by the trim in the luggage area

The boot floor lifts to reveal a well for a spacesaver spare wheel, but our car only came with a pump and a tin of gloop. Tie-down eyes are made of plastic and the trim back there is fairly low-rent, giving the impression that this car has been built down to a price.

On the move

The diesel unit is quiet at idle and surprisingly gutsy on the road, helped by the slick six-speed manual gearbox, which is a much better choice than the unconvincing automatic that costs another £1,300. 

The hybrid system lends a shoulder to the wheels when you want to overtake, yet also when trickling along in a high gear. This means that you need to keep an eye on the rev counter since at engine speeds above 1,000rpm the drivetrain will pick up the pace, but below that it won’t. 

The diesel version is gutsy and real-world economical. It's aided by a boost from the electric motor if required

You also need to have a care when pulling away as it’s easy to stall. There was another infuriating issue on our test car, which was a sticky, misbehaving electronic parking brake. These things are the work of the devil anyway and ours not only needed a clear second-long pull or push to engage/disengage, but it didn’t always disengage as it should, which was confusing to following drivers.

Fuel consumption overall was a creditable 47mpg but on a long run at around the motorway limit it rose to 50mpg.

Will it put a smile on your face?

None of these family SUVs are the last word in driving fun, but the N-Line Tucson is highly competent if unmemorable and its normally softish ride quality isn’t entirely ruined by the 19-inch tyres. 

On MacPherson strut front and a multi-link rear suspension, the body control is well judged with a bit of roll into the bend which is ultimately limited. The steering is well weighted but inert. And if you lift off the throttle when committed in a corner the nose points harder into the turn, which is the right and safe response.

Perhaps more of a cruiser than a back-road burner...

And while you wouldn’t take it out on a Sunday morning just for the hell of it, it does have long legs and the miles roll seamlessly under the wheels. All-round disc brakes are powerful, with a responsive and progressive-feeling pedal action.

Conclusion

At nearly 30 grand, this is far too expensive for all its N-Line pretensions. But the deals available either buying outright at around £25,000, or with a personal contract purchase (PCP), make it a lot more tempting.

There’s much on the Tucson that just about passes muster, but for all its unsparkling demeanour it’s a practical, tough and pretty comfortable family holdall, which comes with a five-year peace of mind. 

If you want handling go to Seat, if you want flash and handling, the Germans (or Jaguar’s E-Pace) will cover those bases, while for reliable ubiquity look to Nissan’s Qashqai. 

However, it’s hard not to like the Tucson’s ability to just get on with the job – even if you can’t actually remember what it looks like.

THE FACTS

Hyundai Tucson N-Line 1.6 CRDi 48V Hybrid 136PS 2WD 6-speed Manual

TESTED 1.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel with 48-volt mild hybrid system, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive

PRICE/ON SALE from £29,645/now

POWER/TORQUE 134bhp @ 4,000rpm, 236lb ft @ 2,000rpm

TOP SPEED 112mph

ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 11.2sec

FUEL ECONOMY 48.7mpg (WLTP Combined), 47mpg on test

CO2 EMISSIONS 113g/km

VED £215 first year, then £150  

VERDICT There’s a bit too much “this will do” in this otherwise likeable family SUV for it to garner a fourth star, but for all that, the way it drives and just gets on with the job, together with that five-year unlimited mileage warranty, will gain it a lot of friends. While not completely loveable, this practical workhorse does rather grow on you.

TELEGRAPH RATING Three stars out of five 

THE RIVALS

Ford Kuga ST-Line 1.5TDCi 120PS FWD, from £29,515

This family SUV is a pleasant enough vehicle to drive although its lack of space and so-so styling means it doesn’t quite lead the non-premium class. The 1.5-litre diesel lacks firepower, even if it is a bit more economical than the Tucson’s unit. The new £35,000 plug-in hybrid version is, however, a terrific choice especially if you are a company-car taxpayer.

Seat Ateca SE Technology 1.6TDI NR 110PS, from £26,170

Sharp handling and looks mark out the Ateca from the (large) herd. It uses Volkswagen parts-bin bits but the ride and handling shine. Prices start low, but the 1.0-litre four-cylinder engine can feel a bit breathless if all the seats are filled. The 1.6 turbodiesel is economical, but also a bit gutless; go for the 1.5 TSi petrol or if you must the 2.0 TDI turbodiesel instead.   

Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.7 dCi, from £27,515

Market leader and one of the UK’s most popular family cars, the Qashqai has been ceaselessly honed by assiduous market feedback. This trim spec is far from the most popular model, though it outguns the Hyundai and is just as reliable and tough. Our choice would be the 160PS 1.4-litre petrol engine and maybe four-wheel drive.

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