2021 Hyundai Alcazar First Drive Review: Much more than a three-row Creta
Mid-size SUVs that seat seven seem to be the flavour of the season. Last year, we got the MG Hector Plus, followed soon after by the Tata Safari based on the Harrier. Mahindra is currently working on its XUV700, but today we’re interested in Hyundai’s latest offering — the Alcazar. The Hyundai Alcazar is based on the 5-seater Creta, but rather than simply stretching the overhangs like Tata did with the Safari, Hyundai has gone through the trouble of stretching the wheelbase and making this platform longer. The Alcazar also gets a new engine that the Creta doesn’t have in its line up, and has a lot more features than the Creta, in addition to that third row of seats. What’s it like to drive? Let’s dig a little deeper and find out.
The Alcazar makes the fact that it is derived from the Creta very obvious when viewed from up front. However, the grille has much more chrome and the headlamps have a slightly different signature. The styling is just as polarising as the Creta’s, and I leave it up to you to decide if you think it is an improvement on the Creta’s face or not. From the side, the changes are more obvious. You get a longer wheelbase (150mm over the Creta’s), large enough to be noticed by the naked eye — the rear doors are visibly longer. The Alcazar’s top-end variants also get 18-inch wheels, which is one size up on what the Creta gets for its top-end trims. There’s a running board on the side which is new for the Alcazar, a small touch that makes ingress and egress in to the third row easier, while the rear end has been significantly reworked. It looks far more conventional now, and I much prefer this styling to what my long term Creta has.
The idea with the Alcazar is to take the Creta’s cabin and make it more premium and upmarket. And Hyundai has actually done a rather good job here. The first thing you actually notice when you step in to the driver’s seat, is the new instrument cluster. Hyundai has replaced the Creta’s digital cluster with an all-new, fully digital cluster that looks rather good. The information it throws up is clear and legible and it has some cool graphics when it changes through the drive modes. There’s a dual tone tan and black theme on the dash and upholstery which is another attempt at making the Alcazar a little more premium. From the driver’s seat, everything else feels pretty much the same including the large infotainment screen and the smattering of features that include ventilated seats, a panoramic sunroof, Bose sound system, an air purifier and a whole host of connected car features. You also get a 360-degree camera and a blind spot monitor that flashes a feed from the ORVMs on the instrument cluster whenever you tap the indicators.
The second row is what really matters here. This is where most Alcazar customers are going to be spending most of their time. While the Alcazar can be had with a bench in the second row, it was the 6-seater with the captain seats that we had on test. And honestly, it is one of the nicest second rows in this segment of SUVs. Lets start with the seats themselves — they are supportive and wide, and with those cushy neck pillows, they really pamper you when you sink in to them. Hyundai has placed foldable tray tables on the seat backs — with a little groove in them to hold your phone or tablet upright. Neatly done. The only issue here is that this little tray table eats in to 1 to 1.5 inches of knee room and that mean your legs don’t have as much space as they would in something like a Safari. The big talking point is the console that Hyundai has provided in between the centre of the two seats. It has a storage pocket, along with cupholders and wireless phone charger and this one bit really elevates the Alcazar’s rear seat experience. It is super convenient as you have a large storage space within an arm’s reach while it negates the need for cables at the back to charge your phone. Full marks to Hyundai, here.
Meanwhile, the third row of seats is quite a squeeze. You can liberate more room here be sliding the second row forward, but knee room there is already at a premium. You’ve got separate AC controls and USB slots here so its not completely spartan, but the third row is best reserved for kids even for shorter journeys.
The Hyundai Alcazar comes with two engine options — a 2-litre petrol and a 1.5-diesel, both mated to manual and automatic transmissions. The 2-litre petrol is taken from the Hyundai Tucson, but has been updated and now makes more power: 157bhp and 191Nm. How does it perform? Well, at low speeds when you’re being undemanding of the drivetrain, it is refined, quiet and works well. Its superb for the city — crawling through traffic effortlessly with the automatic we had on test and keeping it hush inside the cabin. However, when you want to get a move on, you really have to wring it out. It gets loud and sounds strained, and it doesn’t have the performance you’d expect of it. You need to remember that the Alcazar is 200kg heavier than the Creta, and will lug around more people and luggage as well. And to that end, this 2-litre petrol doesn’t seem as fit for purpose as the diesel.
The diesel engine, on the other hand, is identical to the Creta’s. It makes 113bhp and 250Nm. But crucially, that torque is available low down in the rev range and it has solid grunt. It feel far more effortless getting the Alcazar up to speed. Despite being a diesel, it doesn’t sound as strained when you rev it out. A hint of diesel clatter enters the cabin but for the most part, it stays quiet and effortless in the way it goes about getting a move on. There’s also the added benefit of efficiency. The ARAI rated fuel economy of the petrol is 14.5kmpl, while the diesel’s is a cool 20.4kmpl.
Ride and Handling
The Creta’s ride and handling balance is very impressive — one of the nicest Hyundai’s around. The larger wheels on the Alcazar do affect the low speed ride compared to the Creta — it is a little firmer and the suspension does feel slightly busier over smaller bumps and imperfections in the surface of the road. The Alcazar has also been stiffened up compared to the set up on the Creta — it needs to carry more people and more load and the suspension has been firmed up so it doesn’t squat as much, and can deal with that weight moving around better. That said, it has an uncanny ability to deal with really bad roads without causing too much discomfort in the cabin. The Alcazar gets hydraulic bump stops and it never crashes through large potholes or over large breakers, but moves through them with a fair amount of composure. At highway speeds too, it stays planted and composed.
As for the way it handles, it feels pretty much on par with the Creta. It does have larger 18-inch wheels, but it also has a longer wheelbase. It also has driving modes, where Sport mode weighs uptake steering nicely. That said, this is not a car you buy if you’re looking for a keen handler. This is an SUV that is built for comfort and should be driven in a manner than flatters its strengths.
The Hyundai Alcazar is an SUV that takes everything we love about the Creta and refines it just that little bit. It is extremely easy to drive around town — the control are light, the car isn’t unwieldy despite its length and you have good visibility. It has improvements to the chassis that suit its purpose and has a wide range of drivetrains to choose from, with the diesel being the pick of the lot. The highlight of the Alcazar though, has to be the comfort in the second row. It really does an exceptional job of pampering you in there, with the plush seats and intelligently thought out solutions to keep you comfortable. The Alcazar is worth a look even if just for that second row of seats. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time with a chauffeur driving you around, few cars provide a better experience in the second row at this price point.
The Alcazar’s prices start at Rs 16.3 lakh for the base petrol manual that seats seven. The petrol automatic six-seater we tested is Rs 19.9 lakh while the diesel manual six-seater is Rs 19.03 lakh. The price gulf between the petrol and diesel isn’t too much (the diesel is Rs 10,000-15,000 more expensive) since this is a large petrol engine, and thats another reason to seriously consider the diesel. At these prices, the Alcazar’s top end variants undercut the Safari’s top-end variants and offers a feature-loaded SUV for the price, though it must be mentioned that the Safari’s base price is lower than the Alcazar's. The Creta can be credited for really taking the mid-size SUV segment to new heights, and the Alcazar has the potential to take this 7-seater SUV segment mainstream as well.