I’M often asked what is the best family car.
The answer is an estate of course, any estate, but they are not part of today’s uniform.
Everyone wants an SUV.
So, even if I said “Skoda Octavia estate”, the reply would be, “But what about a Range Rover Evoque? In black”.
OK, I give in. So let’s talk SUVs.
Three of the big sellers – Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson – are renewed this year. And, as you’d expect, all three will be throughly modern hybrids, stuffed with screens, and more expensive than the car they replace. First up, we have the Tucson, which I’ve been testing all this week.
First impressions: Excellent. It comes pre-dented. So you don’t have to be precious about it at Tesco. It has more door creases than a shirt in a Sherpa’s backpack.
Maybe I’m being a little bit mean because, to be fair, this all-new Tucson is much more interesting than the bland budget models the Koreans churned out in the Nineties – and I do like the front end.
It is bold and different and those lights stand out like nothing else on the road.
The cabin has had a major uplift too. It feels XL-sized for our fat American friends but still in UK-friendly dimensions – and that’s a good thing.
The seats are wide and comfy, there’s more room in the back for gangly teens, there’s buckets of storage everywhere, and it wants for nothing: heated seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, Apple CarPlay, and so on.
Central touchscreen is a vast improvement
Which brings me nicely to the screens. I like the digital instrument cluster – that’s nice and clear – and the central touchscreen is a vast improvement on the old car.
But I’m not sold on the piano black control panel underneath it.
It will date very quickly and I’ll repeat, once again: People want knobs and buttons for simple things like volume and air con.
Prices. The entry 1.6-litre petrol costs £27,900 and goes quickly north if you select 48v hybrid, hybrid, or 48v hybrid with all-wheel drive. You have to pay to be eco-friendly. The forthcoming plug-in hybrid will cost even more.
The 230hp petrol/electric hybrid in this mid-range test car would be my pick.
It’s smooth and quiet and easy, has plenty of poke when you want it, and the battery is capable of covering the slow stuff without waking the engine.
Even better, the battery recharges itself on the go, so no faffing about with a plug.
My testing nudged 40mpg, which is decent for such a big car, and it rides nicely at speed over our lumpy roads.
To conclude, then.
Hyundai has reinvented the Tucson. Advanced engines and all the tech you need, wrapped up in a fresh design.
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But will it trump the next-gen Qashqai?
We’ll see it in a week or two. The new Sportage is unveiled in June.
Personally, I’d still go for the Octavia estate.
KEY FACTS: HYUNDAI TUCSON
- Price: £34,235
- Engine: 1.6 litre petrol hybrid
- Power: 230hp, 265Nm
- 0-62mph: 8 secs
- Top speed: 120mph
- Economy: 50mpg
- CO2: 127g/km
- Out: Now
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