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Driven: Hyundai Tucson a two-pronged proposition

Middle child: Hyundai has brought back the Tucson name for its new mid-size SUV, which replaces the smaller ix35.

Tucson expected to outsell its popular Hyundai ix35 predecessor


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31 Jul 2015

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) is counting on its nearly all-new, third-generation Tucson to challenge the best-selling Mazda CX-5 as the leader of the mid-size SUV pack.

This is despite the forced name change from the successful ix35 – still currently the second best-selling SUV in Australia even in runout, and responsible for 18 per cent of total vehicle volume for the brand – thanks to a raft of advancements over the old model, including more space, safety, technology, refinement, equipment, performance, and dynamic capability.

Speaking to GoAuto at the Tucson launch in Thredbo, New South Wales, this week, HMCA chief operating officer John Elsworth said the boom in medium-sized SUVs will help the Tucson gain traction.

“Our forecast is to sell more than ix35,” he said. “The Tucson is a very important model for us. The mid-sized SUV segment’s sales are up 13 per cent year-on-year, making it the second-largest segment in the industry behind small cars, and on track for around 140,000 units this year.

“So from our point of view, it really is an incredibly positive time to be launching a new model, and capitalising on Australia’s love affair with SUVs.”

Mr Elsworth said he is confident that the switch from the LM-series ix35 nameplate will not deter or confuse buyers, although safeguards exist just in case.

“We have stuff going on digitally to help steer people searching for ix35 towards Tucson. The name change from ix35 is a global decision, and that sort of thing happens in a big entity like Hyundai.

“They’re made, and we fall into line. We didn’t actually spend too much time talking about it because there is no point. We get on with the task of solving the issue of creating awareness for a new car like Tucson, rather than worrying about what would have been. We march on… and solve the issues.”

Mr Elsworth said that stocks of the entry level Active, which will probably be the least popular variant, arrive in October, while the Elite and Highlander land in August/September. That leaves the Active X as the only version in dealerships until then.

Mirroring the Mazda, the Active, Active X, and Elite two-wheel drive variants have 2.0-litre four-cylinder atmo petrol power, while the more expensive Elite and Highlander all-wheel drivers gain higher-output engines, in either turbocharged petrol or diesel configurations.

Interestingly, only the Active X is sourced from South Korea, while the rest – including the base version – hail from the Czech Republic, with some curious specification anomalies as a result (outlined further down).

Announced in mid-July, Tucson pricing kicks off from $27,990 plus on-road costs for the Active manual – $800 more than the CX-5 Maxx equivalent and $1000 over the corresponding ix35 – although the Active X that is expected to account for up to 40 per cent of demand starts off from $30,490. Automatic transmission adds $2500 to each.

Larger dimensionally than the ix35, the Tucson is the brand’s first production model fully overseen by Hyundai Motor Group design chief, Peter Schreyer (who continues to preside over Kia’s styling renaissance).

Designed in Germany, it carries clear family resemblances with the larger Santa Fe in proportion and the Sonata mid-sizer up front. Aided by streamlining detailing such as underfloor trays and strategically located airflow directors, the TL rates a 0.33Cd aerodynamic figure.

The Tucson sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase (2670mm) and 25mm wider tracks, and measures in at 4475mm long (plus 75mm), 1850mm wide, and 1655mm high (plus 5mm). Ground clearance is rated at 172mm (2WD) and 182mm (AWD).

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s Californian studios created the interior design and packaging, with the aim of matching or beating rival medium SUVs in terms of occupant room, the feeling of space, and quality ambience. Special attention was also paid to dashboard layout and ergonomics. Boot capacity jumps to 488 litres, or 1478L with reclining rear seats folded, even with the standard full-sized spare wheel included.

All models feature a touchscreen, although only the South Korean-sourced Active models will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from September and “early 2016” respectively. Earlier Tucson deliveries can have them retrofitted at no cost.

Built on a heavily revised version of the preceding platform, with elements of the i30 and Elantra small cars, the newcomer’s body structure features a 51 per cent increase in Advanced High Strength Steel, for a skeletal rigidity rise of 48 per cent. In turn, it improves noise, vibration and harshness levels, aided by a step up in isolation components, including better sound-deadening, special rubber damper placements, Like the outgoing SUV, this Tucson features MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear suspension set-up – with dual lower control arms now fitted to front-drive as well as AWD models for added strength. Steering is electric rack and pinion, with Drive Mode Select offering three settings in Elite and Highlander – Normal, Eco, or Sport Active X has just two all alter transmission programming, throttle mapping and steering effort.

A slew of Australian retuning modifications for better ride and handling properties were conducted this year, over about four months and 20,000km, and included hot-weather Outback testing. The goal was to improve stability, gear-shift logic, engine response, and towing capacity/performance to suit local tastes and requirements. Braked towing capacity is 1600kg/750kg without the stoppers. Fuel tank sizes also increase – to 62L from 58L.

The base Active 2WD and mid-range Elite 2WD employ a carryover version of the 114kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder MPI multi-point injection four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed torque converter automatic transmission. As it is still undergoing final homologation, final fuel and emissions figures are to come.

Of more relevance now is the Active X’s 2.0 GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) version, also driving the front wheels, but with 121kW at 6200rpm and 203Nm at 4700rpm on offer. The manual beats the auto by just 0.1 litres per 100km at 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres, for a 182 versus 185 grams/km of carbon dioxide emissions. Kerb weights vary from 1484kg to 1584kg.

Next up is the 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged four-cylinder petrol/seven-speed dual-clutch transmission combination in Elite AWD and Highlander AWD, and also shared with the latest Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo. Driving an on-demand part-time AWD system, it delivers 130kW at 5500rpm and 265Nm between 1500-4500rpm, yet can still average 7.7L/100km (178g/km CO2) despite tipping the scales between 1575kg and 1690kg.

Finally, there’s the ubiquitous 2.0-litre R-series Common Rail Direct injection (CRDi) four-cylinder turbo-diesel in Elite AWD and Highlander AWD, providing the most power (136kW at 4000rpm) and torque (400Nm between 1750-2750rpm) of the engine quartet.

It needs to, since this Tucson weighs in at a hefty 1622kg to 1744kg. Using a six-speed torque converter auto, it returns 6.4L/100km (6.8L/100km on models fitted with 19-inch alloys) and 169g/km, and is only available on Elite AWD and Highlander AWD versions.

Keeping all that performance in check in all models are larger disc brakes (305mm vented units up front, 302mm solid items out back).

Still on safety, all models include six airbags, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, electronic stability control, cruise control, auto headlights, LED daytime running lights, and front fog-lights.

Base Active specification details will be announced closer to the October launch, but the aforementioned equipment anomalies because of different factory sourcing sees the now-permanent Active X (which is meant to be a ‘value added’ drawcard in the same vein as the old ix35 SE and Trophy limited editions) gaining leather upholstery, 18-inch alloys, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and minor extra trim garnishes, while the more expensive Elite does not.

To help address this, the latter scores Tucson-firsts such as a hands-free remote powered tailgate, electric park brake, Trailer Stability Assist, and LED headlights with bending lamps, as well as dual-zone air-con, keyless entry/start, an electric driver’s seat, 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, rain-sensing wipers, privacy glass, and steering wheel mounted controls.

Further TL feature debuts standard on the Highlander include lane-change assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking and tyre-pressure monitoring. These are on top of the 19-inch alloys, front parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, front passenger seat electric adjustment, panoramic sunroof, and colour TFT display in the instrumentation panel.

All models feature a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

As previously reported, the new Tucson’s growth spurt over the ix35 moves it up a category in the FCAI’s vehicle classification system, from compact SUV to medium SUV.

HMCA’s first small crossover, the original KM-series Tucson was launched in August 2004 as the Santa Fe’s baby brother, but only gained traction in Australia after the price-leading City 2WD version arrived later in 2005 – pioneering an ever-growing niche that all competitors bar the AWD-only Subaru Forester have followed ever since.

Though the name carried over in other markets such as the USA, Hyundai switched to the European ix35 moniker when the second-gen version arrived in June 2010.

2015 Hyundai TL Tucson pricing*
Active 2.0 MPi 2WD$27,990
Active 2.0 MPi 2WD (a)$30,490
ActiveX 2.0 GDi 2WD$30,490
ActiveX 2.0 GDi 2WD (a)$32,990
Elite 2.0 MPi 2WD (a)$35,240
Elite 1.6 T-GDi AWD (a)$38,240
Elite 2.0 CRDi AWD (a)$40,240
Highlander 1.6 T-GDi AWD (a)$43,490
Highlander 2.0 CRDi AWD (a)$45,490
*Excludes on-road costs

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