Often, when an automaker doesn’t have the money or ability to develop a new model in-house, they’ll work a deal with a second automaker to sell a re-badged version of one of the second company's vehicles in certain markets. In other cases, they’ll buy the rights to use a specific ‘platform’ (chassis) to build their own car on, thus saving millions in development costs.
A good example of the latter would be the Hyundai Terracan, which is the South Korean automaker’s first attempt at creating an off-road 4x4 (mostly) in-house. They got the rights to use the chassis from the second-generation Mitsubishi Pajero, which featured a full ladder-type frame and an independent front suspension. Hyundai then added their own bodywork, engines, and other features to make it their own.
Hyundai’s off-roader used either a 145kW 3.5L petrol V6 (an enlarged version of the Hyundai Grandeur engine), or you get a 120kW and 345Nm 2.9L diesel after the 2005 refresh. Power was sent to all four wheels via the standard part-time 4WD system, which could be engaged at speeds up to 80km/h (shift-on-the-fly). Top-spec Hyundai Terracan Highlander models got a fulltime 4WD system, which automatically sent power to the front axle if slippage was detected. Its Active Torque Transfer system could vary the power delivery from 100% rear to 50/50 without any involvement from the driver. Neither system was particularly ground-breaking, but they did the job. And trucks fitted with the Japanese Aisin 4-speed automatic also had a Hill Descent feature, which used low-range to keep you from barrelling down a hill.
All of that hardware was wrapped in bodywork that could be described as a ‘best of’ compilation. From some angles, Hyundai’s big 7-seat 4x4 had the same basic shape as a Land Cruiser, with bits of Pajero, Patrol, and Prado sprinkled in. The 2005 update brought a much more stylish front end and sporty hood scoop for the new intercooled turbo diesel. But it still lacked any distinctive styling cues of its own.
Since Hyundai hadn’t yet invested in a serious corporate styling effort, they just seemed to pull the best bits of what was popular at the time, much like Lexus did with the first LS. That said, the Hyundai Terracan isn’t an unattractive truck, but don’t be surprised if it’s mistaken for a Nissan or a Toyota.
Unlike the exterior, the interior of the Hyundai Terracan is rather distinctive. The top part of the centre stack is sort of curved, and the controls seem to cascade down to the centre console. Thanks to the location of the air vents, the Terracan’s centre stack almost resembles an old jukebox (in standard trim). The Highlander’s woodgrain package makes it similar in look to a console radio from World War II. But either way, the interior of the Hyundai Terracan is a nice place to be.
And there’s plenty of room too. When equipped, the two rear jump seats can accommodate most average-size children. Or, they can be folded up and out of the way for more boot space. There’s lots of standard kit too, including power everything, a CD player, and dual front airbags.
The Hyundai Terracan initially came with just the peppy DOHC 3.5L V6 that made 145kW and 302Nm, while consuming around 15L/100km. After 2005, the 2.9L intercooled turbodiesel could be had with its healthy 120kW and 345Nm of torque. Fuel consumption was a much more bearable 10.3L/100km. Both engines were available with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.
Standard kit on Hyundai’s flagship 4x4 included 4WD, a full complement of underbody skid plates, limited slip front and rear differentials, fog lights, electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking with alarm, a CD player, cruise control, and climate control. The Highlander trim added the fulltime 4WD system, leather upholstery, and woodgrain trim.
Competition for the Hyundai Terracan is fairly obvious. At the lower end of the price scale, there are 7-seat off-roaders like the Holden Jackaroo and Nissan Terrano II. At the higher end, you have the Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Discovery. For the money, a used Hyundai Terracan still offers a compelling blend of kit and capability, and it even looks like those other 4x4s too.