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Car reviews - Hyundai - Terracan - CRDi 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Performance, driveability, smoothness, engine noise levels, fuel consumption, ride quality, on-road bodyroll levels with tow pack, low range availability, cabin quietness, lightness of controls, auto and manual transmission shift quality, value for money, full chassis durability
Room for improvement
Remote steering feel, remote feel of full chassis, excessive overhangs, lack of wheel articulation for heavy-duty off-road situations, cabin presentation

Hyundai logo14 Jan 2005

To can or not to Terracan!

If this is the question, then Hyundai’s new turbo-diesel version, fitted with the optional tow pack, should provide an answer steeped deep inside the affirmative.

Unfortunately HMCA only provided CRDi examples fitted with the "Trek’n’Tow" suspension, so back-to-back comparisons with the current and continuing standard suspension tune was unavailable.

Nevertheless, over a very rugged mountainous coarse encapsulating some of the most scenic and challenging 4WD tracks deep in the Victorian Highlands, the Terracan CRDi tow-pack press cars performed extremely admirably.

The engine is an up-to-date 2.9-litre common-rail direct-injection intercooled turbo-diesel, and sure enough it seems like the most modern thing about the Terracan.

Power delivery is smooth and relatively quiet, as well as strong and linear, from quite low revs.

Mated to the four-speed automatic transmission, it provides plenty of punch from the word go, with decent mid-range oomph for overtaking manoeuvres.

Remembering that this is a 2.2-tonne machine, the four-cylinder unit never seemed undernourished or overstressed, and was smooth at all times.

On bitumen the steering definitely betrayed the separate chassis construction and its resulting relatively flexible body structure by being slightly slower than expected, with a slight delay to inputs.

That was easy to work around though, and you’d never describe it as sloppy or overly vague.

As the roads became rougher, the steering seemed more at ease with its environment, working with the driver to negotiate surface anomalies and obstacles in a competent and confident manner.

The ride quality, meanwhile, remained agreeably composed except for in the very deepest ridges and ruts. The trick dampers fitted to the tow kit really showed the ability and articulation of the suspension.

Meanwhile, even when going up a very steep mountain pass punctuated by rocks, ridges and sharp crests, the CRDi in low range first gear had the goods to pull up and out of any situation.

The gearing ratios seemed to fit the scenarios, and it was a simple thing to select through the ranges available (rear-driven 2H, and four-wheel drive 4H and 4L).

Ultimate go-anywhere off-roadability is still probably hampered by not-enough wheel articulation, excessive body overhang and the Terracan’s need to accommodate seven souls, but I am sure a novice to this model will be shocked at how capable it really is.

Remarkably, there were hardly any squeaks, creaks or groans from inside any of the cabins tested (which were nicely appointed and featured a smartly presented dash), pointing to a high level of quality control.

Noise levels too were contained well within reason, with none of the clattering diesel din of old 4WDs.

About the only criticism is that there needs to be more sound deadening in the wheelarches to stop flying rocks and stones pummelling passenger’s ears.

A brief drive in the five-speed manual Terracan on rough roads and (beautifully made) bitumen surprised with its car-like lightness and shifting ease, while the performance, like in the automatic, was more than adequate.

And even more shocking was how fun it was to hustle this Hyundai along manually. While it is in no means a sports car, the lightness of the controls, combined with the firmness and control of the suspension modifications, led to an SUV that is quite a lot of fun – for an SUV – to drive along.

It’s one of those big cars that shrinks around you the further you drive it.

But all the sharpening of the chassis and massaging of the motor can’t hid the packaging that betrays the Terracan’s advancing years.

In these days of vast dashboards, wide bodies and almost acceptable third-row seating for adults, the Hyundai is clearly at least one generation behind the leading Toyota Prado.

And while the deep windows and relatively narrow pillars provide a car that can be placed easily and confidently, everything around you is a reminder that the high value comes at a price.

If you’re after a tough, extremely capable, economical and enjoyable seven-seat tow-vehicle – and you don’t give a hoot about how old it looks – then the Terracan CRDi with the optional $2000 tow pack is a very good thing.

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