Hyundai Terracan

Enfant Terrable
With their Terracan Hyundai look all set to indulge in some serious mud-slinging

With their Terracan, Hyundai look all set to indulge in some some serious mud-slinging.Right up front, the Terracan wants to tell you it takes its offroading seriously. From the driver’s seat inside the car, glance upwards, and you are greeted with a nifty little digital display that reads out the direction in which you are headed, the altitude and even atmospheric pressure. I couldn’t care less whether or not my car had a digital compass, altimeter and barometer, but I suppose those who habitually wear camouflage jackets and sport crew cuts would love these gizmoids. For the overtly outdoorsy types, it wouldn’t matter that they aren’t climbing up some remote mountain pass in Leh, but just going up Peddar Road during rush hour traffic. It would still be cool to hook up a two-way radio in the Terracan and tell your Pajero-driving mates that you’re headed 22-degrees south-west, and the altitude is 100 feet up from sea level. Heck, if you are driving up to Lonavla, you could even give them altitude/atmospheric pressure updates every five minutes. Just to rub it in, of course. After all, no other SUV sold in India comes with either a compass or an altimeter.

Forgive me if I’ve dwelt upon the Terracan’s lot of gizmos for too long, and ignore the sarcasm. It’s just that I’m slightly cheesed-off at the raft of large, high-priced SUVs making their way to our shores. Far as I’m concerned, SUVs only represent wasteful excess for our road and traffic conditions. They drink too much fuel, take up too much road space,
and don’t do anything particularly well. 

Coming back to the Terracan, it’s a 7-seater turbodiesel SUV, and it’s here probably because SUVs seem to be the flavour of the year. From the Mahindras to Mercedes Benz, and everyone in between, every manufacturer wants to sell an ‘active lifestyle 4x4’ that’ll help shore up their image in showrooms, and your image amongst your peer group. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. And with the Terracan, it might, too, because Hyundai seem to have got most ingredients right. Though I don’t know if styling is one of them. To me, the Terracan’s lines looks over-wrought and contrived. There is none of the old Pajero’s brutish simplicity or the Forester’s straightforward honesty or even the Vitara’s or the CRV’s city-slicker elegance. I would say even the Scorpio looks better that the Terracan. What’s with the air-scoop on the hood? Why did the headlamps and taillamps have to look so heavily worked upon? And the profile is just plain nondescript. No, the Terracan doesn’t look like it’s the result of some inspired hard work by a stylist. Bits and pieces borrowed from a mish-mash of Japanese SUVs is more like it. I’m sorry I’m having to say this, but the car has no presence whatsoever. 

Things are considerably better inside. The Terracan’s cabin looks at least reasonably contemporary. After all, the car was first shown in 2001, so it’s only two years old anyway. In India, the Terracan is positioned in the luxury SUV segment, and has the requisite ‘deluxe’ trimmings. There is full leather upholstery, and all that soft, black stuff lends a plush air to the Terracan’s insides. There’s also a smattering of plastic-wood inserts all over, but quality is quite passable, and I even liked it somewhat. 

Controls offer straightforward functionality and are simply laid out. The dash isn’t very substantial, which only makes for more space for front seat occupants, though I must say I would have liked a larger glovebox. This one’s a bit too small. The steering wheel is adjustable and though there are no power-adjustments on any of the seats, the seats themselves are quite comfy. There’s a front-loading Alpine six-CD changer in there which music buffs would appreciate (loud graphical display notwithstanding...), and an automatic aircon which chilled quite well. There’s the aforementioned gizmo (digital compass + altimeter + barometer) which quietly sits above the inside rear-view mirror, and then there’s a small rotary switch which lets you change from 2WD to 4WD and back, on the fly. I thought this was one very convenient feature, certainly better than having a secondary transfer lever next to the gearshift. And unlike, say, the Honda CRV, the Terracan also has low-ratio four-wheel drive. We didn’t get the opportunity to test that, but I do think the Terracan should be quite capable in the rough stuff. The car’s Electric Shift Transfer (EST) has been developed by Borg Warner, and since BW are the specialists for this kind of stuff, the Terracan’s shift system should work without any hassles at all. In addition to that, the car’s body-on-chassis construction would be well-suited to off-roading. More so, perhaps, than cars like the the new monocoque Pajero, CRV or Forester, whose unitary construction make them better suited for tarmac usage.  

What could be the Terracan’s primary strong point is its engine. The car is fitted with a 4-cylinder, 2900 CC, common-rail turbodiesel. This 16-valve, DOHC, CRDi unit produces 148 horsepower and a sizeable 34 kgm of torque, which makes for decent enough progress. We quite love the Accent CRDi, and the Terracan’s engine is endearing in the same vein. Our test Terracan had a five-speed manual gearbox which was not bad at all – shifts are precise, and ratios are near-ideal. Actually, given the ready-to-rev CRDi engine and a clean-shifting box, it’s almost possible to drive the Terracan like a petrol car. While testing, the car posted a 5.74 second 0 to 60 kph run, and went from 0 to 100 kph in 13.58 seconds. And these figures are quite comparable with the competition’s numbers. Our test Pajero 2.8 was slower than the Terracan, taking 6.42 seconds for the 0 to 60 kph sprint, and all of 16.85 seconds to get from 0 to 100. On the other hand, our Grand Vitara XL-7, with its 170 bhp petrol V6, blasted from 0 to 60 in only 4.79 seconds, and to 100 kph in 11.28 seconds. But to truly appreciate the Terracan’s numbers, let me tell you about the Mahindra Invader’s (which is powered by a four-cylinder, 2500 CC, 72.5 bhp diesel...) numbers. How does 0 to 60 kph in 12.73 seconds, and 0 to 100 kph in 60.05 seconds sound? Yeah, so now you know.

While the Terracan acquits itself well in the engine department, ride and handling are another story. Put simply, it rolls and wallows too much. Body control and chassis composure are alient to this car. On paper, suspension set-up looks decent enough – double wishbones at front, five-link at back, and anti-roll bars on both ends. And yet, it somehow doesn’t translate to good on-road behaviour. The car pitches and heaves, rolls and wallows, and generally tosses its occupants all around at the first hint of broken terrain. Quite unsettling, I must say. At back, the suspension seems to have been optimised for high load conditions, so things might have been better if I went out testing with a ton of stuff in the boot, and/or the entire Motoring team stuffed inside the car, but as tested (two people in the car), things weren’t very good.
Roadholding was an improvement over ride quality. The Terracan is fitted with 15-inch 5-spoke alloys, which are shod in tubeless 235/75 Hankook radials. These tyres provided adequate grip during our lane-changing and cornering manoeuvres. While cornering hard (in 2WD mode) on gravel-strewn surfaces, the Terracan’s tail would step out in a big way, but the car could be brought back in line with little effort, so no complaints there. Maybe the limited slip diff at the back also helps in such situations. Brakes – four wheel discs, plus ABS – were good, and hauled up the Terracan from triple-digit speeds quickly and confidently. I’d have to drive them back to back to say for sure, but I think the Terracan’s brakes are actually better then the Pajero’s or the Vitara’s anchors. 

Overall, the Terracan is a competent car. Its engine is its biggest strength, but the rest of the package does lag behind a bit. Ride quality definitely needs some work, but otherwise, this is a big and spacious car, with lots of room to lounge around in. It’s a 5+2 seater, in the sense that you could seat two children in the last (third) row of seats at the back. However, those seats are really small, and its best to fold them down and reserve the boot for all your luggage. 

At Rs 19.40 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the Terracan is certainly not inexpensive. It’s cheaper than a Pajero, but more expensive than either the Forester or the Grand Vitara, and frankly, I don’t think Hyundai have priced this car very well. If you want a big diesel SUV that’s very off-road capable, that old slugger – the Pajero 2.8 – is still the car to have. Or, if you want something newer, you could wait for us to test the forthcoming Nissan X-Trail and the Ford Everest, and then decide.