Car reviews - Hyundai - Tucson
Smooth and quiet diesel, solid ride quality, ergonomic interior, smart active safety tech, punchy 1.6-litre turbo-petrol, AWD handling
Room for improvement
No standard AEB, atmo 2.0-litre petrol a bit gutless, FWD understeer, hard plastic interior on Go
Hyundai refines volume-selling Tucson SUV in mid-life refresh
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17 Aug 2018
Hyundai has developed a recipe for success with its Tucson medium SUV. The second-best selling model for the brand, the Tucson also finished 2017 as the second-most popular offering in the highly competitive medium SUV segment behind the perennially popular Mazda CX-5.
So far in 2018 it is placed fourth – not an unusual occurrence for a car that is due for an update.
The refreshed Tucson range ushers in new variants, increased specification, and some small styling updates to keep it competitive in the segment that is constantly increasing in popularity.
Overall, the changes made to the Tucson are relatively minor, but will the refresh be enough to see it reclaim the silver medal in its segment?
Hyundai has come a long way in the last 10 to 15 years. Once considered a bargain-basement brand, its portfolio now rivals the best vehicles Japan has to offer, and its sales performance in Australia is a reflection of that.
The brand currently sits third behind volume-sellers Toyota and Mazda, while the Tucson is one of the strongest performers for Hyundai.
One of the reasons the Tucson is so popular is that it has a lack of obvious weaknesses, something that the updated version hopes to maintain.
Tucson buyers are offered ample choice with three powertrains and four spec levels on offer, including the new Go variant which lowers the point of entry to the range over the outgoing Active by removing features such as alloy wheels and rear parking sensors.
Stepping into the Go for the first time, you do get the impression that it is the cheapest version of the range with abundant cabin plastics and cheap cloth seats, however there is still a solid level of specification including a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, automatic headlights and LED daytime running lights.
All other variants gain an 8.0-inch screen with satellite navigation and DAB+ digital radio, leather seats, alloy hoops and reversing camera, while higher grades add kit like push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, and a heated steering wheel.
Interior layout is simple and uncluttered, and the infotainment system is logical and easy to use. Higher grades have a particularly premium feel, while we really enjoy the no-cost option beige leather upholstery.
Specification across the range is generous, however one obvious omission is range-wide autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard. Elite and Highlander grades gain Hyundai’s SmartSense active safety pack, however Go and Active X buyers have to fork out an extra $2200 for the pack.
While SmartSense is comprehensive, with features like AEB, blind-spot warning, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and active cruise control, it would have been great to see Hyundai include AEB as standard across the range like Mazda does with its CX-5.
Driving variants with SmartSense shows that Hyundai’s active safety systems work well, particularly lane-keep assist which does a better job of keeping the Tucson in its lane than many more expensive offerings from premium marques.
Like the pre-facelift version, three engine choices are available on the Tucson comprising of a 121kW/203Nm 2.0-litre aspirated petrol, 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol and 136kW/400Nm turbo-diesel, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses.
The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol is offered on all grades barring the top-spec Highlander, with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic (or six-speed manual on Go and Active X), and is an adequate engine choice for couples, but might struggle to haul a whole family and its luggage.
Power delivery is fine when the car is up to speed, but accelerating from start and up hills leaves a little to be desired. We recorded a fuel economy figure of around 8.5 litres per 100km, a bit thirstier than the official figures of 7.8-7.9L/100L for the manual/auto.
The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol unit, offered on Elite and Highlander with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, is the most exciting powertrain but also the thirstiest.
It is immediately apparent that the 1.6 litre is the most eager off the line, accelerating heartily and channelling its power to all four wheels. The dual-clutch auto is a tad clumsy at low speeds, but otherwise shifts well.
However, in our time with the new Tucson, the 1.6 recorded the highest fuel consumption figure, 10.5L/100km, which is well above the official 7.7L/100km measure.
Last of all is the range-topping 2.0-litre turbo-diesel offered on every variant, which is the most expensive engine choice but also the best.
Driving characteristics are smooth and noise levels low, and fuel economy is the best of the lot with a recording of 7.6L/100km.
The diesel is best suited to a family application or long-distance travel, while it also gains a new eight-speed automatic that shifts smoothly and holds gears when coasting downhill to aid braking.
Both turbocharged engines feature all-wheel drive, which does a much better job of aiding handling than the front-drive versions, which are prone to understeer through corners, particularly when the road is wet.
Hyundai has made some comprehensive revisions to the Tucson’s suspension and steering calibration for Australian roads, with redesigned front strut tops, rear assist arms and bushes, thicker rear forward locating arms with redesigned bushes and an increased steering ratio.
The result is a comfortable and easy driving experience that soaks up potholes well, and generally leads to a settled ride on uneven road surfaces.
Styling has largely been left untouched, with some minor tweaks to the headlights, grille and bumpers to keep it fresh for the rest of its life cycle.
Hyundai has not needed to reinvent the wheel with the new Tucson. It is already a strong seller in one of the most hotly contested segments in the country, and is the brand’s second-best seller behind the i30 hatch.
While the Tucson has dipped to fourth in its segment so far this year, the update should see it improve, especially with the offer of driveaway pricing on certain variants through August.
It offers a great alternative for medium SUV buyers with a five-year warranty, affordable entry point, solid powertain and trim choice, a well laid-out interior and, perhaps most importantly, a lack of obvious weaknesses.
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