Bringing Hyundai's UK model range to eight vehicles, the Terracan will sit alongside the Santa Fe SUV and will be available in one luxury specification and with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
It is powered by an engine new to Hyundai in the UK, a 2.9-litre turbodiesel unit, the third and final engine in a range of common rail units alongside the 1.5-litre in the Accent and Matrix and the 2.0-litre in the Elantra, Santa Fe and Trajet.
When it reaches showrooms on July 1, the Terracan will cost £18,495 on-the-road for the manual and £19,345 for the automatic. It has an insurance group of 12D and a maximum towing weight of 2,800kg.
The standard equipment list is impressive. It includes driver and front passenger airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, power steering, side impact bars, remote central locking with anti-theft alarm, electric front and rear windows, alloy wheels, climate control, front fog lights, roof bars and six-speaker radio/CD player.
Key to its on and off-road flexibility is the electronic 'shift on the move' 4WD transfer, allowing the driver to switch between high ratio four-wheel drive and two-wheel-drive at up to 50mph. There is also a low ratio four-wheel drive setting for tougher conditions.
Hyundai UK's sales forecasts for the first 12 months are, by its own admission, modest at 350 units, rising to 500 in 2004. But Andy Morrison, regional sales manager, said that Hyundai's experience in mainland Europe, where the Terracan has been on sale for two years and where sales forecasts are regularly exceeded, meant there was the capacity to meet even double the demand.
The Terracan, he said, would be sold at two-thirds of Hyundai UK's 160-strong dealer network. He said:'Our target owners are farmers and landowners or those in rural or isolated areas requiring the need for a go-anywhere vehicle that also has impressive towing ability.
But we are also ready to accept business from the commercial sector; the self-employed businessman or sole-trader. This is a new sector for us and we are finding our way. The Isuzu Trooper is no longer in production and with a lot of those being used as true commercial vehicles there is an opening there for us.'
Behind the wheel
The Terracan proves itself an impressive off-roader and on-roader. The press launch at the off-road course at Rockingham Castle highlighted the strengths of its engine braking, which means even 30-degree down slopes are achievable with ease in low ratio 4WD without using any of the pedals.
Then to cope with the upward climbs, maximum torque at 2,000rpm means enough grunt is there the moment the nose starts to rise and despite its weight (2,155kg) and length (4,710mm) the most challenging obstacles are conquered.
It's rare that a vehicle which proves itself off-road can also cut it on-road, but the Terracan achieves both. Interior design and finish is clean, uncluttered and fault-free – only the wood-effect panelling in the centre console and around the electric window controls is hard on the eye.
The ride and handling are impressive. It is more upper-medium estate than off-roader; with minimum body roll, sharp brakes and adequate acceleration with the 148bhp engine powering the Terracan from 0-62mph in 13.7 seconds. The diesel engine clatter is intrusive at start-up but on the move noise is reduced thanks to a seven layer dashboard bulkhead, bonnet insulation pad and soundproof insulation in the wings.
Add a capable off-roader and a comfortable on-road vehicle and mix in a low on-the-road price with impressive specification, high build quality with a frugal common rail engine the result is a four-wheel-drive vehicle that will easily hold its own against more established competition.
Sales this year will exceed forecasts – but I think Hyundai already knows that.
Model: Hyundai Terracan CRTD
Engine (cc): 2,902
Power (bhp/rpm): 148/3,800
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 246/2,000
Max speed (mph): 104
0-62mph (sec): 13.7
Fuel consumption (mpg): 32.8 (auto: 28.8)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 227 (auto: 260)
Transmission: 5-sp man/4-sp auto
Price (OTR): £18,495 (auto: £19,345)
On sale: July 1