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Future models - Hyundai - Tucson

First look: Hyundai adds a compact 4WD

Looks familiar: Tucson apes Santa Fe styling but is actually half a size smaller.

Hyundai reveals its new soft-roader hope, the Tucson, in Chicago

6 Feb 2004

HYUNDAI’S all-new Tucson compact all-wheel drive wagon made its world debut at the Chicago motor show this week.

Australian shoppers in this booming part of the market dominated by the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 should get their first chance to get up-close with Tucson at the Sydney motor show in October.

In terms of styling, the Tucson apes its big brother the Santa Fe, and also follows it in being named after a south-western city in the US.

But it does drop half a size compared to Santa Fe and slots into the heart of the compact segment in measurement terms.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia is still mulling over exactly what spec we will get to see Tucson in, with the line-up yet to be finalised.

US buyers will get the choice of a Beta 103W 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine or the 127kW 2.7-litre Delta V6 already seen here in a number of models, including the Santa Fe and the Tiburon sports car.

The four-cylinder engine is mated to a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 is auto only.

In normal conditions a Borg-Warner electronic four-wheel drive system transfers 99 per cent of drive to the front wheels, with as much as 50 per cent heading rearward if slip is detected. The system can also be locked to split drive 50:50 when off-road.

This is a different system to the Aussie version of the Santa Fe, which splits drive 60:40 front to rear and also has a limited slip rear differential.

Other mechanical features include power-assisted rack and pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes and suspension by MacPherson struts and independent multi-link. Underpinning Tucson is a new Hyundai-Kia family monocoque platform that is also used under the new Kia Cerato and the forthcoming Kia Sportage.

In Australia the decision has not yet been made whether to offer both Tucson engine choices or just one. Budget buyers should lobby for the 2.0 as this would guarantee a sub-$30,000 starting price, something none of the big four in the class now offers.

"I guess if we wanted to maximise Tucson’s distance from Santa Fe then yes the four-cylinder would be the choice," said HMCA spokesman Richard Power.

"But then you have to look if that is a package that would be attractive in Australia with its thirst for power and bigger engines.

"And in some ways we are now moving away from the rock-bottom pricing mentality and opting for fully equipped cars that are competitively priced, so that is not the be all and end all."Also, all four main competitors in compact SUV now offer four-cylinder engines closer to 2.5 than 2.0-litres, with the power and torque superiority that brings. The V6 would not even be a class leader in power and torque terms, with the X-Trail on top of the ratings.

In America, the Tucson will come well equipped with features including 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, power windows and door locks, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, side-impact protection (side curtain airbags) for the front seat and rear-seat passengers and remote keyless entry alarm system.

Three variants will be offered in the US – GL, GLS and LX.

Inside, Hyundai claims an emphasis on flexibility with fold-flat rear seats and folding front passenger seat. The seat can be folded forward to provide extra storage room or a workspace for the driver. It can also be fully reclined as a seat. The rear mat is removable and exposes a plastic floor with multiple tie-down locations.

Hyundai was coy about seating capacity at Chicago, although previous reports have suggested the car will offer an optional third row in addition to the standard five seats.

The Tucson will be a key car for Hyundai, which is hoping it can claim a presence in the compact class that the larger Santa Fe has been unable to deliver, averaging under 200 sales per month. The belief is that Tucson can more than double that.

"This is the segment that has got all the action in it, so it is an important model for this year, it is our major launch for this year," Mr Power said.

* HMCA has just revealed a mild facelift for both Terracan and Terracan Highlander mid-size 3.5-litre V6 4WD wagon. Both versions sport a new dark grey mesh grille and headlight housing, and new design 16-inch alloy wheels.

These appearance changes are pointers to the now standard inclusion of an MP3-CD audio, ABS anti-skid brakes with electronic brake force distribution (already on Highlander) and soon, 25mm larger-diameter disc brake rotors all round, plus some other minor upgrades.

A limited-time launch offer of free automatic will also apply to both models, offering savings of $2100. Recommended retail prices remain unchanged at $34,990 for Terracan and $38,990 for the Highlander.

* HMCA will make a decision within two months on whether to expand its Terracan range to include a 2.9-litre turbocharged and intercooled common-rail diesel engine. Local engineering trials and marketing feasibility studies are progressing.

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