BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Just when you thought every Far Eastern off roader was turning a little fey, Hyundai launched the Terracan, a vehicle that offers old school ruggedness and solidity with old school pricing to boot. With the grit-spitting Terracan at the head of the range, cars like the Santa Fe and, latterly, the Tucson 4x4 could concentrate on offering a tarmac bias without fear of ridicule. Tracking down a used example might take some time as they were never big sellers, but a Terracan can make a very interesting buy when the initial slug of depreciation's been taken care of by somebody else.
Models Covered: (5dr 4x4 2.9 turbodiesel)
The Terracan had been around for quite some time in its native market before it was launched to mildly puzzled British car buyers in summer 2003. Here was a car that seemed to buck every trend in 4x4 motoring. Where was the monocoque body and the svelte lines? Despite appearing a little antediluvian, the Terracan is in fact the fruit of a $240 million dollar investment, developed in-house by Hyundai at the Namyang Research and Development Centre. This sort of big, bruising all-wheel drive vehicle is essential in many global markets and the truth is that Hyundai don't expect the UK to account for a significant proportion of the Terracan's global figures. What it does represent is a worthwhile alternative to the more rugged Isuzu, Mitsubishi and Nissan products that have long eked a steady if unspectacular living on these shores.
What You Get
Emboldened by their success with the Santa Fe compact 4x4, Hyundai have launched into the family 4x4 sector with a vengeance. The tale of the tape shows the Terracan to be longer, taller and wider than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport and the Nissan Terrano, so there's no shortage of metal for your money. But, as we often find in this market sector, quality and quantity are often mutually exclusive. Hyundai aim to prove otherwise. The styling is fairly generic 'big 4x4' from the side, with wheelarch extensions and skirt cladding giving it a beefy appearance. The seven-slatted grille and clear-lensed lights give the car a rather surprised face but the overall effect is far more appealing if the cladding and front air dam is finished in body colour rather than in a darker two tone. As you would expect from an upspec Hyundai, the Terracan has had all manner of equipment levered into it. Expect to find twin airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, side steps, a rear limited slip differential, climate control and electric windows all round. Add electric heated door mirrors, a CD-based stereo, alloy wheels, remote central locking, an alarm/immobiliser and fog lamps and you end up with a car that starts to look good value for money. Cabin space is above average for the class although Hyundai don't offer seven seats. As a consequence, there's plenty of legroom in the rear and the back bench features a 60/40 split and double fold to offer a wide array of cargo carrying options. A net and tie down hooks do their best to keep your goods in one place at the back while a sliding cover keeps your valuables out of sight of prying eyes.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
There haven't been any reported issues with the Terracan as yet. When buying do inspect the underside for evidence of enthusiastic off-roading. The tyres should betray no symptoms of wonky tracking and the wheel arch liners and exhausts should be in tiptop condition. The interiors don't wear as well as some rivals but the engine is a magnificently bulletproof thing. You should be able to buy with confidence.
(Approx - based on a 2003 Terracan) Spares for the Terracan aren't the cheapest but perhaps this should be expected with a big, low volume vehicle. An alternator retails at £370 whilst a headlamp will cost £250. A starter motor is around £240 while front brake pads are just over £70 a set.
On the Road
Motive force comes courtesy of a 2.9-litre CRD common-rail diesel engine. Although 148bhp may not sound a huge amount of power, a vehicle of this size and type depends to a greater extent on its torque and with 246lb/ft the Terracan isn't found wanting. Despite the massive frontal area and gutsy engine, the Terracan CRD will still average a creditable 32.8mpg. Straight line speed isn't really the car's forte; a fact reflected by a sprint to 60mph in 13.5 seconds and a top speed of 104mph. The Terracan features a part time four wheel drive system with a 'shift on the fly' facility that allows the driver to flip between rear and four wheel drive at speeds of up to 50mph. Hyundai's Active Torque Transfer (ATT) system detects when the rear wheels are starting to slip and automatically diverts a percentage of power up front to help out. Like any serious off-road vehicle, the Terracan also features a low-ratio 4x4 setting that will haul it out of the most awkward positions. A five-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard although an automatic option is available. Naturally, the extent of the traction available off road depends to a large degree on the tyre choice and Hyundai have plumped for fairly benign dual-purpose tyres that offer a decent compromise between off road grip and on tarmac refinement. Ground clearance is slightly hampered by the side steps although the relatively tidy front and rear overhangs help in severely pitching terrain and the macho rigid rear axle looks virtually indestructible. On the road, the Terracan is much as you'd expect from a vehicle that's so adept in the mud. The steering is a little slow-witted and there's a fair amount of body roll but the engine is fun to gun hard despite having two tonnes of metal to motivate. The 75-litre fuel tank means that the Terracan can travel comfortably over 600 miles between fills.
Big and tough rarely goes hand in hand with affordable and modern. The Terracan changes all of that and used examples that still look like new can be yours for little more than family hatch money. There's not a whole lot that goes wrong and they can soak up a lot of punishment. If the product is more important to you than the image, the Terracan could well be a sound left-field buy.