It was no mistake that Hyundai chose the Victorian high country to debut its diesel Terracan, the company knew its new offroader was perfectly capable of conquering the tough terrain and was more than happy to demonstrate it. The diesel Terracan CRDi was a new addition to the Terracan range in 2005, and the first diesel model Hyundai released in this country.
It had been available in other countries for a year or two, but couldn't come here until the quality of the local diesel fuel improved. That had happened by 2005, so it was with great excitement that the Korean carmaker added it to its Terracan range.
The petrol-only Terracan was unveiled four years earlier, in 2001, when Hyundai was stepping up its presence here and moving from a seller of cheap-and-cheerful cars to a serious player in the market mainstream.
The addition of the diesel served to underline the shift and brought with it an important new choice for SUV buyers.
While the Terracan CRDi was a new model to the range in 2005, apart from the diesel engine it was the same as the petrol-engined wagon that arrived in 2001.
The market for offroaders is a highly competitive one, one in which Hyundai was up against carmakers with years of experience building rough, tough vehicles for the most extreme conditions.
It is one familiar to many Australians who love nothing better than a weekend away in a remote corner of the country. These people know their stuff when it comes to an offroader and mark any vehicle that fails to meet their demands hard. There was no escaping it, Hyundai was going to be closely scrutinized when it launched the Terracan here.
True, the market for offroaders has divided into a number of sub-segments as families have adopted SUV all-wheel drive wagons as their preferred means of transport, but any new model with the claim of being an offroader comes under the spotlight of serious offroaders. Before the launch of the CRDi in 2005 the only engine available was a 3.5-litre V6 with 145 kW and 302 Nm when it was being pressed at its peak.
The addition of the 2.9-litre common rail turbo diesel in 2005 changed the landscape for the Terracan, the diesel was much better suited to serious offroading and was also handy when it came to towing. Both engines carried the option of five-speed manual and four-speed auto transmissions and drove through all four wheels.
The Terracan's suspension had come in for some criticism, it wasn't that great once the black top ran out, but in 2005, when it introduced the diesel model, it also added an improved suspension option developed locally.
With a package of goodies including Edelbrock gas shocks, revised rear springs and bump stops the 'Trek n' Tow' suspension pack made a huge improvement over the standard set-up, and better still it was fully backed by the factory.
While the suspension copped some flak early on, the Terracan was generally praised for its value-for-money proposition. There were in essence two well-equipped models in the range, the Terracan and Terracan Highlander.
The base Terracan had air, cruise, remote central locking, immobiliser, alarm, power windows and mirrors, six-speaker CD sound, roof racks and fog lamps. Step up to the Highlander and you also got auto air, leather, woodgrain, as well as ABS braking with EBD brake distribution. An update in 2004 made ABS and EBD standard across the range.
ON THE LOT
Pay $10,000-$21,000 for a base Terracan, $11,500-$22,000 for a Highlander.
IN THE SHOP
Hyundai's star is on the rise as can be seen through its rising sales. That's a reflection of its model range that is hitting the spot with new car buyers, but it's also a sign that the company is getting right in terms of quality, durability and reliability.
It wasn't that long ago that carsGuide was regularly receiving queries from readers with complaints about their cars, but it's not so now. The complaints and criticisms, certainly deserved, have largely dried up.
That's a great start when looking for a used car. Hyundai's like the Terracan that have been built in the last 10 years are a cut above those built in earlier times. The Terracan can be approached with confidence, it's really only necessary to carry out the basic checks you would on any used car.
Those checks include inspecting for panel damage that would suggest a car has been in a fender-bender, and confirmation that it has been well serviced.
IN A CRASH
Before 2004 only the Highlander had the important safety features of ABS and EBD, so it's best to opt for a post-2004 model to have those essential features. All Terracans boasted dual front airbags and pretensioners from 2001.
AT THE PUMP
Like most four-wheel drives with petrol engines the Terracan V6 is a thirsty beast, not surprising given its bulk and the extra gear the engine has to drive. On average a 3.5-litre V6 Terracan will do around 15 L/100 km. The diesel is better, and the best option for most situations, and it will do 10.5 L/100 km on average.
Improved suspension after 2005 . High fuel consumption of V6 . Good performance and economy of diesel . Only has front airbags . ABS not fitted to all models . Good build quality
ALSO CHECK THESE
TOYOTA PRADO - 1999-2007 A blend of civilised on-road transport and off-road competence the Prado is as good as it gets in the mid-sized four-wheel drive market. The petrol engine is a good performer on or off the road, while the diesel is a powerful and efficient alternative. Pay $12,000-$50,000.
JEEP CHEROKEE - 2001-2007 Very good offroad, less so on-road, the Cherokee is small by comparison to others in its class. Fit and finish is inconsistent, used cars need to be closely inspected. Petrol V6 is also thirsty, but that's not unusual for this type of vehicle, diesel is a good alternative. Pay $13,000-$30,000.
MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER - 2000-2007 A tried-and-proven medium-sized off-road wagon the Challenger comes with the credibility of the larger Pajero attached to its running boards. Only available with petrol V6, but with five-speed manual and four-speed auto choices, the Challenger was a good allrounder without being outstanding in any area. Pay $11,000-$28,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Value-for-money off-roader that is capable of going the hard years in the bush.