Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: All for the family
If you are as much of a Tintin fan as I am, you will know of General Alcazar, the knife throwing military dictator who hits his target with remarkable accuracy. The Hyundai Alcazar too has been precisely aimed between the Creta and Tucson to plug a big gap that existed in Hyundai’s SUV line-up.
No, the Alcazar hasn’t been named after the Tintin character but after the fortress or castles in Spain which the company says has been the inspiration for its all-new SUV. That maybe marketing waffle for which some agency must have been paid millions but the corny name apart, the Alcazar now globally unveiled points at the seriousness with which Hyundai is targeting the SUV space. The car I drove was a camouflaged prototype, not entirely to production-spec but it gave me a taste of what to expect.
Long and slim
Hyundai has stretched the Creta’s platform on which the Alcazar is based to unlock more space and slip in an extra row of seats. The Alcazar looks like a grownup Creta and has similar elements like the headlights and front doors, but it also gets a raft of external changes to carve an identity of its own. The chrome studded grille and redesigned fog lamps are exclusive to the Alcazar, but the biggest change is the all-new tail section which has a long overhang. Upsizing to 18 inch wheels (from the Creta’s 17-inchers) has made a world of a difference. Not only do the larger wheels give the Alcazar a nicely planted stance, but they help in watering down the bulky effect of that massive overhang. Overall, the Alcazar looks much more grown up than the Creta, but it still doesn’t have the same road presence as the wider and overall longer Safari or Hector Plus for that matter.
And width isn’t something the Alcazar has in abundance. Though substantially longer than the Creta, it’s just as wide (or narrow) as the car it’s derived from and that gives it a bit of a disadvantage against other three-row SUV rivals. But, Hyundai designers have used every millimetre of interior space to make the cabin as comfortable as possible.
Each row of seats has a range of adjustments which allows passengers to juggle space between all three rows and find a happy compromise. The front buckets are comfy enough, but it’s the way the middle row has been designed that is truly impressive. The 7-seater version with a 60:40 split bench gets good underthigh support, adjustable back rests and if there’s no one in the third row, can be slid back for more kneeroom which is otherwise compromised by the flip up tray tables.
The one-touch tumble operation which flips and folds the middle seats for easy access to the third row is really slick but wiggling into rearmost seats does take some effort and is best for kids, though it can used by adults at a pinch. Hyundai hasn’t shared the Alcazar’s final equipment list and with the dashboard also camouflaged, it was hard to tell what the Alcazar will come with. But given its more premium positioning, it’s safe to say it will get more goodies than the Creta.
The Alcazar gets two engine options: the tried-and-tested 1.5 115hp diesel from the Creta and all-new 159hp 2.0 petrol. Both engines come with a 6-speed manuals and 6-speed torque converter automatics, but for our test drive it was only the petrol variant with the 6-speed manual I could sample.
The 2-litre petrol is a smooth and flexible engine which pulls cleanly from 1,000 rpm to nearly 7,000 rpm in one seamless, strong surge. It doesn’t like to be revved hard, but there’s no shortage of power and the Alcazar could be the quickest accelerating SUV in its class.
Tuned more to comfort than sporty handling, the Alcazar has a cushy ride and bumps are nicely rounded off. There’s a fair bit of body roll through corners and though the handling isn’t sharp or agile, the mature dynamics makes this car easy to control.
As pure seven-seater the Alcazar works well if you limit the third row to small children, but it makes a better case for itself as a roomy and comfortable four or five seater. It’s a well-conceived and well-engineered SUV curated for Indian families. Expected to be priced in the sweet spot just above the Creta and below the Tata Safari and MG Hector, the Alcazar, like the general it’s not been named after, could hit a bulls-eye.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, April 18, 2021
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