December 8, 2021

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Hyundai Alcazar review, test drive

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Hyundai Alcazar: what is it?

One look at the Hyundai Alcazar and there’s no denying its roots. It’s a three-row SUV derived from the brand’s bestseller, the Creta, and that’s plain to see in its similar face and overall design. Hyundai, however, says it shouldn’t be viewed as merely a ‘Creta Plus’, as it has done a lot to differentiate it from its 5-seat counterpart, and they’re right – the Alcazar is a full 200mm longer and 40mm taller, has 10mm more ground clearance and critically, a 150mm longer wheelbase. It also gets a larger 2.0-litre petrol engine and some impressive additions to the already lengthy equipment list. With all this and the option of six or seven seats, could the Alcazar be worth the, forgive the pun, stretch?

Hyundai Alcazar: exterior design

While the Alcazar does appear similar to the Creta at the front, there are some changes. The grille is bolder, finished in dark brushed metal with horizontal blocks instead of slats, and it extends subtly to join the headlamps. Lower down you’ll find larger, chrome-encased fog lamps with LED illumination, and a different scuff plate. Handsome 18-inch alloy wheels, again a size up, help with the SUV stance, as do a set of metallic running boards under the doors.

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Bolder grille, larger fog-lamps, different scuff plates and taller roof help differentiate the Alcazar from the Creta

Aft of the B-pillar is where it’s all new. The roof is taller to accommodate the heads of your two newest passengers, and though this erodes the Creta’s spot-on SUV proportions slightly, the profile is not as van-like as some others. There’s still a thick character line on the rear haunch that leads to the new tail-lamps; these are not as polarising as the Creta’s, but then they’re not particularly interesting either. They’re joined by a chrome strip embossed with the word Alcazar, and here too, the bumper and scuff plate are slightly different. Interestingly, petrol variants have a bold ‘2.0’ badge on the tailgate, while diesel variants have none; more on this later.

Hyundai Alcazar: Space and practicality

Here is where the magic has really happened, and let’s go from back to front. The boot, with all rows in place, is an impressive (and class-leading) 180 litres, which is easily good enough for 3-4 soft weekend bags. Fold the last row down and, though Hyundai hasn’t quoted a number, there’s vastly more luggage room than in a Creta. The second row folds down too, of course, but if you’ve chosen a 6-seat model, the centre console between the chairs will eat into the load bay.

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180-litre boot can hold 3-4 soft weekend bags; seats fold down for more space.

The Alcazar may be the smallest car in the class, but it has the longest wheelbase, allowing for greater usable interior space, and Hyundai has turned out a really well-packaged SUV. Yes, you will have to find a legroom compromise between the third and sliding second row, but unless all your passengers are tall, this balance can be achieved. Let’s just say it’s an occasional 6- or 7-seater, not a regular-use one.

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Third row space not as vast as in some rivals but it’s sufficient.

Space in the last row is not as vast as in a Tata Safari but it’s not a punishment post for naughty kids either. You don’t have to curl up into a foetal position to sit here, and headroom too is more than sufficient. You get USB ports, cup holders, as well as AC vents with their own blower control. Access is also relatively easy, considering the climb into the car is not too high, aided by the running board step and then by a one-touch flip-fold for the middle row (on both sides, irrespective of bench or captain’s seats).

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While similar to the front seats, middle row captain’s seats placed lower and not as comfy.

The captain’s seats in the middle row are aimed at the chauffeur driven, and to that end, there’s a centre console between them for a bit more of that business-class sensation. Sure, it means you can’t just walk through to the third row, but instead you get an armrest, cupholders and even a second wireless phone charger! The seats seem to mirror the ones at the front, albeit with soft cushions attached to the headrests, but sit in them and you’ll realise they aren’t quite as comfortable. They’re placed lower to the floor and the squab isn’t as generous, so you don’t get as much thigh support as you’d like. Still, if you don’t have passengers behind you, you can slide them all the way back and recline them like a proper CEO. There are also pull-up window shades for the second row and small fold-out tables on the front seatbacks with slots into which you can prop an iPad.

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Dashboard is similar to Creta’s but gets tan upholstery inserts.

The front of the cabin is quite similar to the Creta’s, with some notable changes. There’s a tan colour for the upholstery and on the dashboard, and here it does a better job of disguising the fact that there’s no soft material like you would find on, say, a Kia Seltos’ dash. The gear lever and steering wheel have a perforated effect, and there is a bit more brushed silver trim on the steering wheel and door cards, as well as a gloss black centre console, to uplift the cabin ambience. Fit and finish are good, but despite all the colours and embellishments, it’s not quite in the league of the bigger Tucson.

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Big and well cushioned front seats offer great forward visibility; driver seat is power adjustable.

The front seats, like in the Creta, are big, superbly cushioned and ventilated. You get power adjustment for the driver’s seat and great forward visibility. The 10.25-inch touchscreen is standard on all variants, but new here is the full-digital instrument cluster, which looks and feels incredibly premium. In fact, the displays change according to the drive modes, and it even incorporates a handy blind spot monitoring system that shows you a camera feed of what’s coming up from behind when you use the indicators in either direction!

Hyundai Alcazar: Features and equipment

It’s clear now that some features that could have been offered on the Creta were being saved for the Alcazar – this is one fully loaded SUV! Things that are carried forward from the Creta are the 10.25-inch touchscreen with connected-car tech, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ventilated front seats, auto climate control, a wireless phone charger, tyre pressure monitor, Bose sound system, air purifier, drive and traction modes, auto LED headlamps and the big panoramic sunroof.

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10.25-inch digital instrument cluster changes, depending on the drive mode.

In addition to these, you get the full-digital instrument cluster (the Creta’s is only part digital), 64-colour ambient lighting, puddle lamps that project the Hyundai logo, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a second wireless charger for the middle row and a 360-degree surround camera array. In fact, the equipment list is likely to be a big draw for customers, as it is far ahead of what any rivals offer.

Hyundai Alcazar: Engines and performance

As mentioned before, there’s a new 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine on offer; a newer version of the one in the Tucson that makes 159hp and 191Nm of torque. Incidentally the Creta’s 1.4 turbo-petrol engine makes 9hp less and 51Nm more, but that is not on offer here. Shared with the Creta, however, is the 115hp, 250Nm diesel engine, but Hyundai says the gear ratios and state of tune have been altered for better low-down responses. But how does it come together on the road?

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Engine options include a new 159hp, 2.0-litre petrol and the familiar 115hp 1.5-litre diesel.

The diesel first, and Hyundai was keen to point out in the product briefing that its relative lack of power is made up for by the car’s light weight, giving a power-to-weight ratio that’s about the same as heavier (by about 300-400kg) rivals with their bigger engines. Still, this is probably why you don’t see a 1.5 badge on the tailgate.

In practice, however, the diesel engine feels adequate in the Alcazar, as it did in the Creta, provided the car is not fully loaded up. It’s incredibly refined, right off the bat, and will pick up speed from standstill quite ably. We drove the 6-speed automatic version, and the smooth torque-converter ’box is smart enough to know precisely when the engine needs a downshift. However, at some extremely slow speeds when the engine goes off boost, it does hesitate and feel a little jerky upon shifting.

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1.5 diesel offers adequate performance but feels out of its depth going uphill when fully loaded

Once in its stride, this powertrain chugs along smoothly and silently, making for an able – if not strong – highway cruiser. However, it’s when we loaded the Alcazar up with five passengers and attempted to climb a hill that it started to feel out of its depth. Downshifts were frequent and the motor felt strained, so this is something to bear in mind if you frequently do long trips with the extended family.

In our preliminary performance tests, the Alcazar 1.5 diesel-automatic did 0-100kph in a decidedly average 12.57sec, with kickdown times of 7.04sec from 20-80kph and 9.12sec from 40-100kph. And this is where the petrol engine makes a strong case for itself, with the automatic version doing 0-100kph in 9.80sec, and 20-80kph and 40-100kph in 6.45sec and 8.21sec, respectively. For reference, the petrol-manual, which we also drove briefly, cracked 100kph in 11.03sec, 20-80kph in 12.42sec (in third) and 40-100kph (in fourth) in 15.99sec.

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2.0-litre petrol offer more effortless performance in comparison.

The petrol-automatic feels the strongest in practice too, and that should please those who believe there’s no replacement for displacement. It, too, feels quite refined, apart from a little boominess that seeps in halfway down the rev band, and it revs quite smoothly, though this long-stroke engine isn’t one that enjoys spending time at the redline. The 6-speed torque-converter here, too, is smooth and eager with its shifts, though not aggressively so as we’ve seen in earlier Hyundais.

There’s an effortlessness to the performance that’s missing from the diesel version, and it’s even better at hauling loads with ease. You might miss that mid-range whack that only a turbocharger can provide, but you never feel like you’re short on torque, and there’s something to be said for the smoothness and predictability of an old-school, naturally aspirated petrol engine.

Hyundai Alcazar: Ride and Handling

If you’re familiar with the Creta, you’ll know what’s in store on the dynamic front with the Hyundai Alcazar. In true Hyundai style, it prioritises ease of driving over all else. That means a steering that doesn’t attempt to be sharp or weighty or feelsome, but is instead easy to twirl for parking and darting through traffic. In fact, of all the cars in this class, this one is by far the easiest to drive (and park) and its relatively small dimensions are a positive here.

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18-inch wheels and shorter tyre sidewalls makes Alcazar feel fidgetier over broken patches of road.

The suspension is soft, but straightline stability is still rather good. Cornering, however, is something best done at eight-tenths or less, especially if you have a full complement of passengers onboard. The soft suspension does give the Alcazar a nice cushy ride quality, and though a bumpy road will move its occupants around a little bit, it definitely falls more into the plusher end of the ride quality spectrum like the MG Hector but is unlike the tough and all-conquering ride of the Tata Safari. What you will notice, however, are the 18-inch wheels, and the resultant shorter tyre sidewalls do make things a little fidgetier than a Creta on a rough patch of road. Another thing to note is that the Alcazar diesel’s steering and suspension feel a tad stiffer than the petrol’s, which feels a lot lighter on its feet.

Hyundai Alcazar: Price and verdict

Hyundai offers the Alcazar in just three trim levels, priced between Rs 16.30 lakh and Rs 20 lakh (ex-showroom), and to its credit, they’re all very well equipped. Distribute that across two engines, four gearboxes and two seating configurations, and you get 14 variants to choose from in a Rs 4 lakh price range. If you view this as merely a larger Creta, it sounds expensive, but when viewed in the context of its main rivals, the pricing is spot on. More so when you factor in just how much they’ve packed into this SUV.

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On to the Alcazar itself – it can hold its own in a segment of SUVs larger than it, where space is a key factor. Yes, space for six or seven does come at a premium and should be kept to occasional journeys only, but that they’ve even managed to do it in a relatively compact and easy-to-drive SUV is commendable. The diesel engine is, for once, probably not the better choice in an SUV, and provided you can stomach the fuel bills, the 2.0-litre petrol is definitely the way to go.

The Hyundai Alcazar, then, scores not so much as an out-and-out people hauler, but better as a more premium alternative to the Creta that’s better suited to chauffeuring someone around in the second row; and the occasional family outing with six or seven. The effort that’s gone into differentiating it from its 5-seat sibling, be it in design, engine, interiors or equipment, is worth the extra outlay. Its positioning in this relatively new ‘5+2’ segment of SUVs doesn’t hedge on outright size, road presence and space, but instead on flexibility, versatility and ease of use. And for many, especially those in a primarily urban environment, it could be just what they were waiting for.

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