How do you do, fellow kids? Yes, we know, it’s really hard to adult these days. Jobs are scarce, fuel prices are at an all-time high and everyone I meet talks about callisthenics or cycling. Meanwhile, possibilities of the third-wave lingers around the horizon and people are ultra-cautious about how they deal with finances. Things are pretty grim, making a monthly new car payment seem like a fantasy.
However, for those in the work-from-home brigade doing well enough to entertain the possibility of dismissing the used car blues and getting something sparkly new, we present two sensible SUVs that deliver good looks, capability to haul a couple of (vaccinated) friends and the prospect of being the do-it-all vehicle in the garage, saving the need to upgrade in the coming future should your paycheck see a decent rise.
A word of caution, these aren’t three-row SUVs in the purest sense. Sure they offer seating for seven passengers and better ground clearance than a sedan but they aren’t here to dismiss the Gloster or the Fortuner as a full-size SUV. What we’ve gathered are two entrants from an emerging segment of vehicles – stretched versions of mid-size SUVs that can swallow an added row whilst treating occupants with some additional features. Keep the bar low though, both these SUVs don’t offer 4WD.
The Hyundai Alcazar is the newest entrant here, and clearly, the one that’s drawing more customers to this segment. Taking forward the success of the Creta is its lengthier version, one that’s draped in additional kit and premium styling. Boasting of the segment-best wheelbase, the Alcazar offers technology that SUVs of this segment and even one above weren’t familiar with. There’s a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 1.5-litre diesel engine, both mated to a six-speed MT and AT transmissions, but to keep things fair and square, we’ve picked the latter of both configurations.
And that’s because the Tata Safari only has an oil-burner under the hood, also because you’d be non compos mentis to opt for its manual gearbox. Just like the Alcazar-Creta relation, the Safari is based on Tata’s Harrier but instead of adding length between the axles, it gains on the overhangs to give it a bigger, boxier rear. Styling cues like the twin-strip rear LED lights and chrome-embellished grille help differentiate it from the Harrier, and some lines like the stepped-up roof with the Safari insignia will remind you of the O.G
There’s no hiding the fact that the Safari feels half-a-segment larger than the Alcazar, appealing to ones who deem road-presence of great importance. The design feels slightly more appealing and the tall stance does give it stature. Yet as you move closer the Safari begins to reveal inconsistent panel gaps, immediately robbing it of the premium quotient. This is precisely where keen eyes begin to notice the upmarket feel of the Alcazar; tighter panel gaps, judicial use of dark chrome for the added flair of opulence and styling components like smoked headlamps, LED foglamps, running-board and twin-pipe exhaust tips that lend it a very desirable look.
It’s a similar recital on the inside too. The Safari invites you to a large, stepped-up cabin that’s further enriched with light upholstery and a panoramic sunroof. The cabin feels wider and the front seats’ elevation is supremely commanding. While the Safari covers you with plenty of tech on the inside, it just doesn’t feel as advanced or intuitive as the Alcazar. The 8.8-inch infotainment system isn’t crisp, integration of the Andriod Auto/Apple CarPlay feels futile and the dashboard layout – although functional, seems to be a confused man’s job. The gearshifter design feels tacky and so does the instrument cluster.
The Alcazar on the other hand feels so justifiable – from the choice of colours to the quality of materials. Sure it’s not as wide or airy as the Safari but it’s that much more lavish and soothing. The dual-tone upholstery feels special, and the fluidic infotainment system functions as well as your latest smartphone. Additions over the Creta like the 360-degree camera and a fully digital and customisable instrument cluster make it feel decades ahead of the Safari. Sensible placement of buttons and availability of features like front-ventilated seats, extendable sun blinds and driving modes altogether make it an intelligent cabin to be in.
While the second-row of the Safari benefits from a stadium-like setup for better visibility, it’s the Alcazar that offers a snuggly warmth with comfortable seats, a soft head-cushion, a fixed (and wide) central console and integrated sun-blinds for the rear doors. You’ll be able to settle in for a relaxing drive and should you have some important emails to attend to before that power nap, there’s the provision of a retractable tray as well. Additional features like wireless charging and ambient lighting do make it a modern place for chauffer driven executives and Gen-Y kids alike.
Having a third-row in a stretched mid-size SUV should be a feature that you seldom use. It’s good to know you have space for seven, without the need to ferry them at all times. But when the time comes to do so, it’s clearly the Safari that’s capable of seating a full house with comfort. It’s an untypical story in the Alcazar, the third-row space is so tight (even for young adults) that to make the last row usable, the second and first row of seats have to be adjusted. This ruins the seating experience of the middle row as well, as now your legs would start to hit the hard plastic of the folded tray.
Features on offer for the rear occupants remain similar, yet the Alcazar benefits from a bigger boot (with all seats up) and an easy one-lever tumble down function for ingress. The Safari makes use of the space between the two captain chairs, and for some, this remains to be a more dignified way of heading in. Overall, it’s the Safari that impresses with space, and the Alcazar with its features and build.
When it comes to performance, most prefer the Safari right out the gate. The Fiat-sourced 2.0-litre does duties in many SUVs and has proved its mettle time and again. There’s a Sport mode to enhance the engine response but it also increases the harshness of the engine sound. The Hyundai-sourced gearbox works fine, however, the drivetrain does feel bulky and sluggish. On the other hand, the Alcazar borrows the Creta’s 1.5-litre diesel engine and while that might sound underwhelming for a seven-seater, it isn’t. That’s largely attributed to the fact that Alcazar is much lighter than the Safari, thus resulting in a similar power-to-weight ratio.
Ride on both SUVs remains very impressive, but it’s the Alcazar that delivers better on tarmac. The retuned suspension does factor in the larger wheels to deliver a plush, pliant and settled ride. The Safari on the other hand feels like a typical SUV – it rolls, it’s wobbly and the suspension seems too occupied at times. That said, its off-road capabilities are no match for the Alcazar, and the Safari also benefits from wider tyres, higher ground clearance and a wider track that give it a very confident ride. Yet, it’s no surprise that the NVH levels on the Alcazar are much better than the Safari, suiting the kind of driving that would generally be expected of these SUVs.
But let’s not cliché the kind of duties these SUVs would be subjected to. Despite hailing from the same segment, they’re built and designed for two very different set of audiences. The Tata Safari is more SUV of the two and better suited if space on the inside is anywhere on your checklist, especially all three rows. Long-distance trips are ought to be rewarding thanks to the anchored chassis and powerful engine. It’s got a meaner stance as well but what holds it back is the inferior build quality and lack of premium features, both of which are of extreme importance for such a sticker price.
And this is where the Alcazar gains ground. Sure it isn’t the most spacious family hauler, but then again, these aren’t full-size SUVs. What customers would be looking for is a plush, feature-rich SUV that’s big on styling, comfort and smart features. Why? Because they want their money’s worth because a vehicle worth Rs 20 lakh should feel and look like one. Because they desire good things in life. Who doesn’t?
The Alcazar promises to pamper you for the majority of times you’ll be seated in the car, it’s grand the way customers want it, be it large families or chauffeur-driven executives. The effort that’s gone into differentiating it from the Creta pays off really well, and it’s astounding how much they’ve packed in an SUV of this sort – be it in design, engine, interiors or equipment. For many, especially those in a primarily urban environment, it could be just what they were waiting for. If you’d ask for a buying recommendation, we’d suggest you trust the Hyundai.
|Hyundai Alcazar||Tata Safari|
|Price||Rs 16.30 lakh||Rs 14.99 lakh|
|Engine||1.5-litre CRDi engine||2.0-litre Kryotec engine|
|Power||113bhp@4,000 rpm||168bhp@3,750 rpm|
|Torque||250Nm@1,500 rpm||350Nm@1,750 rpm|
|Gearbox||Six-speed AT||Six-speed AT|
|L/W/H||4,500/1,790/1,675 mm||4,661/1,894/1,786 mm|