The people’s mover has evolved from being a functional bread-box to a comfy, versatile, premium 6-7 seater over the last decade. The Toyota Innova was lonely at the top, and nearly all of the remaining MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) have been stacked at the bottom end. Funnily enough, the bread-boxes are fading away and the newbies have all been attempting to grab a share of the pie that has been hogged greedily by the Innova in the past. It is a measure of the market’s maturity that buyers, higher up in the price category, have been migrating to a different body style.
Also a huge chunk of the new breed of premium MPVs are being bought by individual buyers today and the volumes are not coming in from institutional sales. The market for SUV-like MPVs is on the rise and cutting across size and price segments, just like the SUV category and the spread of popularity of this body style across segments. The 3-row SUV is in vogue now, and like the sub-four-metre sedan, this too could become an uniquely Indian invention.
More such are in the works, but the latest is the Hyundai Alcazar, which will attempt to ride the current wave of popularity for premium, people’s mover SUVs. Much has been written in anticipation of Alcazar’s arrival. It is time to get behind the wheel of this ‘Creta-derived’ XL-sized compact-SUV.
It is nearly impossible not to see the Creta in the Alcazar’s design. But the good news is that most of that familiarity is only from the front. Specific features of the Alcazar would remind you of the new gen Creta, but that doesn’t mean that they are identical. The headlamps, for example, look similar, but the light configuration and features are different. The grille too is familiar, but it is larger overall in the Alcazar, with a thicker frame and an interesting pattern of dark chrome rectangles. The extra length and the bigger footprint is all too obvious. And the extended creases on the side and door panels make this visually seem longer than it is actually.
The front fender is a busy unit with a number of additional sashes, chrome accents and features like cornering lamps, faux aluminium skid plate etc. The wheel arches, the special 18-inch alloys and the character lines on the side boost the Alcazar’s longer profile view. The rear door grab handle has been given a unique position. Large, diamond-shaped third-row glass merges into the blacked-out C-pillar. The Alcazar’s rear is entirely new in terms of its design inspiration. The wraparound tail-lamps and the slightly larger (compared to Creta) tailgate give the rear a more flush, rounded profile. Faux skid plate in the fender, twin exhaust pipes and the thick chrome garnish connecting the lamps. Overall, the fit and finish quality of the exterior feels special. With tight shut lines and clean surfaces, the design gives off a more suave vibe.
Space is the first thing that strikes you stepping into the Alcazar. The three row seating has been configured with the typical focus on versatility of use and with premium levels of comfort being factored into the feature list. Depending on whether it is a 6 or 7 seater, you get captain seats in the middle row or a bench. There are dedicated aircon vents for all rows and the second row can be adjusted for legroom and backrest angle. With all seats in use there is still about 180 litres of boot space. The 3-row twins seats fold flat for opening up more luggage room.
The Alcazar gets dual tone cognac brown and dark grey interiors with a cascading design for the centre stack. Unique aircon vents and flush integration of the 10.25-inch touchscreen make the centre stack look very appealing. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is similar in construction to other Hyundais and feels good to hold. My test mule’s unit came with steering mounted paddles for manual gear selection. One of my favourite features in the Alcazar that really contributes to its premium feel is the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster screen. The twin pods for the instruments doubles up as a blind spot live video feed display when you engage the turn indicator, also displays the proximity sensor’s feedback, and can be changed from a choice of four different themes.
Perforated leather seats, with the front two being ventilated in the top trim, piano black accent trim, the very European feel to the gear knob, ambient lighting and the Bose 8-speaker music system were some of the other features in my test car that really made the Alcazar feel truly like a premium 3-row SUV. Even though the driver seat alone getting power adjustment is a bit underwhelming considering that many, if not all, owners will be chauffeur driven, it is also focused on pampering other occupants. Second row passengers also get a wireless charger in the armrest.
There are soft pillowy headrests for the second row captain seats and retractable window blinds etc.
Entry into and exiting from the third row is easy with the one-touch tip and tumble second row seats and the door opening is also larger. There are a host of connected car features too that are on offer in the Alcazar, including voice commands and remote engine start.
It is good to see that the Alcazar is being offered with an equal number of trim and powertrain variants for both the petrol and diesel engines. With the diesel engine’s better fuel efficiency and with petrol prices crossing the 3-digit mark, diesel may well make a comeback. A choice of three trim levels, and manual and automatic transmissions allow for a decent mix, for a car that is being positioned as a premium 3-row SUV. The Alcazar is only about 80 kgs heavier than the Creta. Its longer wheelbase (150mm) makes it feel a bit more sure-footed, but more about that later. My test mule featured the new 2-litre petrol engine, paired with the 6-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. This is the same Nu family, petrol engine with variable valve timing tech that is also offered with the Tucson. Assuming petrol engine buyers will need the extra power for lugging a full-house in the Alcazar, this 1,999cc engine’s higher 159PS power output and 191Nm of torque should be appreciated. On the road, power delivery feels measured initially, but flows free to exploit in the engine’s mid-range.
The cabin stays really quiet, except under hard acceleration. The Alcazar also gets three drive modes – Comfort, Eco and Sport, and three traction modes – Snow, Sand and Mud. Any of these can be chosen using a rotary controller on the centre console. Drive modes don’t dramatically alter the character of the engine. After mixed use on city roads and the highway, my test mule delivered a mileage of about 12.3 litres per 100kms (8.1kmpl). The 1.5-litre Diesel engine carried over from the Creta is the other option. This is also offered with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Rated mileage for the diesel is a higher 20.4/ 18.1 kmpl (MT/ AT).
The Alcazar’s suspension is a highlight. Bordering on being willowy, it feels most comfortable over mildly undulating, but relatively well-paved tarmac. It almost feels too pliant, but there is no body roll or even the possibility of a bottoming out of the suspension. It keeps its poise even over bad patches and while the extra length of the wheelbase helps, the suspension has also been tweaked with the addition of rebound stoppers for the front struts. In the handling department too, the Alcazar is good, though I’d have liked more weight to the steering.
In typical Hyundai fashion, it has brought down features from the luxury class to the premium class Alcazar. Puddle lamps with logo projection, 360-degree camera view, blind spot cameras, ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, a cabin air purifier with perfume diffuser and voice commands for cabin operations are all bound to be appreciated by buyers. The cabin feels special, though it is not clearly in the league of the luxury class in terms of materials used, the difference is only in touch and feel. The cabin’s fit and finish is excellent and the features so loaded that it is undoubtedly the segment benchmark already. Prices for the new Hyundai Alcazar start at ₹16.3 lakh (ex-showroom) and go up to ₹19.99 lakh (ex-showroom).