Car reviews - Hyundai - Tucson - 30 Special Edition
Sharp styling tweaks, smooth Santa Fe V6, unchanged practicality and value
Room for improvement
No interior aesthetic treats
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30 Aug 2016
IT IS no secret that most SUVs never make the full use of their boosted ride height and all-paw traction, with many confined to the menial school run or daily urban commute, so it was satisfying when three people and their luggage boarded the Hyundai Tucson ‘30’ Special Edition and plotted a course to Thredbo.
We could have been cruising along the increasingly rural roads from the nations capital in any Tucson ActiveX variant, with the limited edition’s cabin unchanged over the standard car on which it is based, but that needn't be a bad thing.
The Tucson’s interior is light and spacious and perfect for watching the beautiful winter countryside go by, although we would have liked at least a little indication we were in on of the 300 limited versions, such as an individually numbered plaque or dusting of different trims.
From the outside it is a different story, with a butch set of 19-inch Rays alloy wheels in matte black, complemented by side steps and a dual exhaust at the tail. The exterior tweaks may not sound like much but with Ash Blue paint finishing the look, the Tucson looks very smart indeed.
The route to one of Australia’s finest ski resorts is very simple but we had a smartphone hooked up to the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible information system and navigation running just in case we got lost in conversation or the scenery.
A 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder may not sound like enough for a mid-sized SUV with three occupants and stuff on board, but the 135kW and 265Nm is adequate for easy cruising and the occasional overtaking of slower fully laden vehicles.
A scheduled stop in Jindabyne allowed us to stretch the legs and pick up our boots, boards and skis, which all slotted into the Tucson’s boot with ease, thanks to the 60/40 folding rear seat and high roof. Four people and kit would have been a squeeze but the Hyundai accommodated our trio comfortably.
As the terrain turned increasingly mountainous and the temperature headed toward freezing, we hoped we might get an opportunity to test the Tucson’s four-wheel drive on the most challenging of slippery surfaces, but the early spring thaw had already cleared all roads to Thredbo.
With more grip under tyre we were able to enjoy the Tucson’s lively chassis and its turbocharged engine naturally compensated for altitude so we were able to keep up the same pace all the way to the village.
For most driving conditions, the ‘30’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a bit of a wallflower, performing tight-ratio gear changes quickly and smoothly, but it can be made to swap more aggressively with a heavier right toe.
We were particularly impressed with the transmission’s ability to progressively slip the clutch in tricky situations such as reversing up a very steep driveway, without the all-or-nothing delivery of some other dual-clutch gearboxes.
Later, and after a few rides down some of Australia’s most enjoyable and well-maintained pistes, we took the Santa Fe ‘30’ Special Edition for a blast over some of the highest roads in the country.
With the arrival of the limited-edition large SUV, the Santa Fe gains V6 power for the first time in the current generation, with a 3.3-litre naturally aspirated petrol unit driving the front wheels.
Kia offers a similar arrangement in the mechanically related Sorrento and we are pleased to report that the Hyundai has the same likeable characteristics of its cousin.
The V6 is surprisingly revvy if you want to get enthusiastic through mountain passes, but the smooth power is best appreciated keeping the revs low and letting the six-speed auto manage the 199kW and 318Nm as well as it does.
For more spirited driving we flicked the drive modes into sport which adds a pleasant extra weight to the steering and holds the revs higher, while increasing throttle sensitivity. The note from the six-cylinder when poked is satisfying and not what you might expect from a large SUV.
Like its smaller sibling, the Santa Fe’s unchanged road manner is composed and confidence-inspiring, especially in freezing and changing conditions, but with just front-wheel drive, the reduced overall weight adds to a more lively drive.
Describing the V6 Santa Fe as sporty may be pushing the bounds a little but with two extra cylinders then the current petrol and diesel, the model has an added refinement and will suit customers looking for a seven-seater that eats up the miles in comfort.
Over the other standard features applied to the Santa Fe Active, the special version also gets a host of comfort and convenience features including heated door mirrors, which were perfect for the chilly alpine air.
Most importantly, the Santa Fe ‘30’ Special Edition also has unique wheels and paint to set it apart from less exclusive versions, and we like the effect of 19-inch dark grey alloy wheels and Mineral Blue paint with the exclusive badging and chrome-effect door handles to complete the prestige look.
There was a time when taking a Hyundai to Australia’s often elitist ski resorts would have you laughed at from the cabins of posh European wagons and British SUVs – that’s if you made it there at all, but 30 years after the brand arrived, its Tucson and Santa Fe are right at home in the high country and Australia’s cities alike.
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