Car reviews - Hyundai - Tucson - Highlander
Ease of use, quiet cabin, sorted eight-speed auto, sound handling, build quality, fuel economy
Room for improvement
Muted on-centre steering feel, ride quality can be firm, adaptive cruise control quirks
Stacked against an ever-growing list of rivals, the Tucson is one of the best in its class
23 Feb 2022
By MATT BROGAN
FOR many – if not most – automotive importers Down Under, success in the medium SUV segment is a key performance indicator. Get it right, and you’ll likely gain a customer who’ll recommend the vehicle to anyone who’ll listen. Get it wrong, and you’ll lose what’s arguably your most important buyer – one that’s likely to stay with your brand as their family grows.
And you don’t have to look far to see who gets its right, and who gets it wrong in this segment. Five-seat family SUV buyers are spoilt for choice and, increasingly, know how to choose wisely.
Safety, practicality, convenience, driveability, reliability, and value for money are no longer nice-to-haves – they’re non-negotiables. Indeed, buyers expect those attributes from a modern SUV, such as the Hyundai Tucson… and they’re qualities that the South Korean brand’s model exudes.
Now into its fourth generation, the Tucson combines an eye-catching aesthetic and a smartly packaged interior with a range of dependable drivelines.
The entry-grade Tucson offers a 115kW/192Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated and multi-point injected four-cylinder petrol with standard six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The combination is also offered in mid-grade Elite and top-shelf Highlander variants.
Elite and Highlander variants are also available with all-wheel drive, as well as in combination with either a 132kW/265Nm direct-injected 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder motor (matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission), or an all-alloy, direct-injected 137kW/416Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, which is paired with an eight-speed epicyclic auto.
Official combined fuel consumption is rated at 8.1 litres per 100km for the 2.0-litre petrol, 7.2L/100km for the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol, and 6.3L/100km for the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. There are no pure- or hybridised electric drivelines offered in the Hyundai Tucson range, at least not yet.
On test is a high-grade Highlander 2.0-litre turbo-diesel derivative with HTRAC all-wheel drive.
The model is priced from $52,000 (plus on-road costs) and offers an extensive suite of safety gear including a centre-front airbag, blind-spot collision avoidance, intelligent speed-limit assist, forward-collision junction- and turning assist, leading-vehicle departure alert, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go, as well as safe-exit assist.
Other features include 19-inch alloy wheels (with a matching spare), LED head- and tail-lights, dark-chrome grille, electrochromatic rear-view mirror, LED cabin and ambient mood lighting, a panoramic glass sunroof, 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, BOSE audio, power tailgate, ventilated front seats, two-position driver’s seat memory, electric passenger’s seat with walk-in function (a segment first), a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats… to name just a few.
Hyundai’s Tucson competes with a steady stream of rivals in the 20-strong Medium SUV (under $60k) segment, including the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-TRAIL, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Volkswagen Tiguan.
There’s a familiarity to the Tucson’s driving experience that repeat buyers will appreciate. It’s a sureness, a “Hyundai feel”, if you will, that is increasingly present in the brand’s SUVs – large and small – and even those without the benefit of HMCA’s locally tuned suspension program.
From the driving position to the comfortable seats and smooth driveline to the oh-so-quiet cabin, the Tucson presents little to criticise – even when its traversing some of the crustiest roads on our 100km test loop.
The Tucson doesn’t offer as much ride compliance as some of its rivals, but it does have the kind of hang-on-at-all-costs cornering tenacity Aussie buyers prefer. Given the, er, quality of some of our roads, the confidence-inspiring handling, which nixes “nasty surprises”, is commendable.
That said, the Hyundai’s steering can feel a little lifeless on-centre at freeway speeds, which is in stark contrast with the SUV’s crisp turn-in and linear overall responses to driver inputs on winding roads. The feel improves in Sport mode, however, which endows the ‘wheel with a pleasing level of heft that is arguably more in keeping with the medium SUV well-controlled dynamics.
The turning circle is average at 11.8 metres, yet the Tucson remains surprisingly easy to park. The generously sized wing mirrors, clear 360-degree camera function and front and rear acoustic sensors make it remarkably easy to squeeze the Hyundai into (and out of) tight spots.
As one of the few remaining mid-sized SUVs to offer a turbo-diesel engine, the Tucson is remarkably frugal – and impressively quiet. We discerned very little of the clatter typically associated with diesel engines and, given how sweetly the 2.0 litre is calibrated with the eight-speed auto transmission, the motor hardly ever needs to visit the upper reaches of its rev band.
In fact, the R-series engine seems happy just to chug away and leave the transmission to do most of the work. It still gets the Tucson up to speed with relative ease and will answer calls to deliver brisk overtaking acceleration far better than it has in the past. It’s also impressively frugal; after a week of mixed urban and country driving, it returned an average of 6.2 litres per 100km.
Meanwhile, the Tucson Highlander brims with technology and most of it works exceptionally well. If we were to level one criticism at the myriad driver assistance systems, it’s that the adaptive cruise control can feel a little tardy to respond to certain situations.
In the cut and thrust of fast-moving freeway traffic, the system responded slower than we’d prefer. Even with the settings at their most heightened, the Tucson’s ACC is not as sharp as some comparable systems we’ve tested and had us feeling for the brake pedal on the odd occasion.
On balance, however, they’re minor criticisms – ones we’re certain many will either dismiss or get used to. The Tucson is an otherwise brilliant vehicle that displays the level of build quality and value Hyundai has become synonymous with – it remains one of the best vehicles in its class.
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