Car reviews - Hyundai - Tucson - ActiveX
Impressive ride comfort, well-weighted steering, generous interior space, premium cabin materials, smooth automatic transmission
Room for improvement
Autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist should be standard, clatter from turbo-diesel engine, soft braking package
Hyundai’s Tucson mid-size SUV shows – yet again – it is a force to be reckoned with
31 Oct 2018
GONE are the days when Korean automotive brands were considered cheap but not cheerful. In 2018, they are increasingly winning new-vehicle buyers over with their combination of dynamics, value and warranty.
A quick glance at the Australian sales charts shows this to be true, with Hyundai occupying third place behind market-leader Toyota and the venerable Mazda, but how did it become such a big player Down Under?
Aside from the i30 small car, the other key pillar in Hyundai’s model line-up is the Tucson mid-size SUV, which just received a light facelift. We put it to test in diesel Active X form to find out if it’s still got the goods.
Price and equipment
Priced from $39,150 before on-road costs, the turbo-diesel Tucson Active X is – for the most part – well-equipped. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/60 tyres, a full-size spare wheel, power-folding and heated side mirrors, dusk-sensing halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and side-mirror indicators, front and rear foglights, roof rails, and Hyundai’s signature front cascading grille complete with a matte-black insert and matte-grey trim.
Inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, one auxiliary input, two 12V power outlet, digital radio, an eight-speaker Infinity sound system, a 3.5-inch monochrome multi-information display, leather-appointed upholstery, two-way power-operated lumbar support for the driver’s seat feature.
Our test car is fitted with the $2200 SmartSense package that adds LED puddle and vanity-mirror lights, dual-zone climate control, glovebox cooling and an electric park brake with auto-hold functionality, plus a suite of advanced driver-assist systems that we’ll detail later in this review.
While the Tucson’s interior design is not thrilling, it is nicely understated. The dashboard and centre stack have been redesigned as part of the facelift, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen now ‘floating’ above the central air vents up front, while the infotainment system that powers it is well-established at this stage.
Other entry-level mid-size SUVs in this segment happily use lower-quality cabin materials, but not the Tucson, with it surprising and delighting with its expected use of soft-touch plastic for the dashboard, but also its unexpected applications to the upper and middle door trims in the front and rear rows. A really great touch for a brand that keeps elevating its premium game.
This theme carries over to the Active X’s leather-accented upholstery that is applied to its five seats, door armrests and central storage bin lid. A similar treatment separates the dashboard from the glovebox and centre stack. Some shiny, hard plastics are used for the centre console and lower door trims, but as mentioned, that’s to be expected at this lower end of the segment.
As expected, the driver and front passenger are in for a good time up front, with plenty of room on offer and comfortable seats to sit on.
Measuring in at 4480mm long, 1850mm wide and 1660mm high with a 2670mm wheelbase, the Tucson offers 488L of cargo capacity with its 60/40 split-fold second row upright, or 1478L when it is stowed.
Engine and transmission
Active X buyers are given three engine options, with our test car fitted with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel unit that produces 136kW of power at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1750 to 2750rpm.
This proves to be an enjoyable combination, with the 1726kg (tare weight) Active X accelerating briskly from a standing start.
Unless the accelerator is buried, the eight-speeder is keen to swap gears early and often, preferring to keep the 2.0-litre in its maximum torque band. Again, this is not such a bad thing, as there’s plenty of shove down low to keep things interesting.
While the aforementioned SmartSense package adds three driving modes – allowing the driver to alter engine and transmission settings while on the move – to AWD variants, the default Comfort mode is the smart option. Sport makes everything a little keener but not devastatingly so, while Eco takes away any semblance of performance. Safe to say, this is a set-and-forget type of situation.
Claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions have been tested at 168 grams per kilometre.
Ride and handling
Like most Hyundai models, the Tucson has undergone an extensive Australian tuning program that has resulted in ride and handling set-ups that are unique to the market. Specifically, its proven suspension consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles, while its rack-and-pinion power steering is column-mounted and motor-driven.
Needless to say, the investment was worth it, because the Tucson’s ride comfort is sublime. Speed bumps, potholes and road imperfections are met with no trepidation whatsoever, as the suspension rises to – or settles into – the challenge.
The steering is also a success, proving to be well-weighted when others are too light, while its level of communication is much higher than most. More importantly, this places it further ahead of most of its competitors. It’s still a little crazy to think that a family SUV can be an enjoyable steer.
Handling-wise, the Tucson is quite nimble around corners, with it not running wide upon turn-in at low speeds and keeping the vehicle on its line.
Unfortunately, the Tucson’s braking package does not feel quite up to the task, with it featuring ventilated discs (305mm x 25mm) up front and solid rotors (302mm x 10mm) at the rear.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the entire Tucson range a five-star safety rating in January 2016. Overall, it scored 35.53 out of 37 – or 96 per cent – while its whiplash and pedestrian protection were rated as ‘good’ and ‘marginal’ respectively.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the Active X extend to cruise control, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, hill-start assist and tyre pressure monitoring.
As mentioned, our test car is fitted with the optional SmartSense package, which bundles in autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, and driver attention warning.
While it’s great that such an extensive suite is available on a lower-specification grade, AEB and LKA should be standard at this price point. Inevitably this will become the case, but it’s a little disappointing that Hyundai didn’t take this opportunity to introduce them now. Maybe next time.
Other standard safety equipment in the Active X includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain) anti-skid brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.
As with all Hyundai models, the Tucson comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with one year of roadside assistance. While its first service occurs after one month or 1500km – whichever comes first – the intervals thereafter are 12 months or 15,000km.
The Tucson is yet another impressive effort from Hyundai, especially in Active X form. While it is considered a lower-specification grade, buyers gain access to a long list of standard equipment, but some safety features from the optional SmartSense package should be standard at this price point.
Either way, owners will be pleased with the Tucson’s locally tuned steering and suspension, which make it quite fun to drive – something you can’t say about most SUVs.
Kia Sportage Si Premium diesel (from $37,690 before on-road costs)
A mechanical cousin to the Tucson, the Sportage features the same turbo-diesel engine but separates itself with standard autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist, and a longer warranty.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport diesel (from $39,990 before on-road costs)
As the best-selling mid-size SUV in Australia, the CX-5 finds itself two spots ahead of the Tucson in the sales charts, thanks to its improved performance, efficiency, steering and suspension.
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