IF THE Genesis was the first against-type Hyundai, then the new Tucson faithfully follows its luxobarge relative into COTY’s upper echelon. Defined by its chiselled appearance, and redefined by an entertaining chassis tuned specifically for Australia, the Tucson is one of the first mainstream Hyundais to be truly anti-ordinary.
Unlike 2012’s i30, the Tucson’s ability shines brighter the further you move up its model line, culminating in the classy Elite and Highlander AWDs with their strong 130kW turbo-petrol donks and pleasant seven-speed dual-clutch gearboxes.
In torrential weather conditions, all-wheel drive definitely proved its worth, even teamed with the Elite 1.6T’s Hankook Ventus 225/60R17 tyres, though the ritzier Highlander (in turbo-diesel CRDi guise at COTY), clad with superb 245/45R19 Continentals, was significantly more accomplished for wet-corner grip and wet braking, if not its composure on wet dirt. Those fat tyres become snowboard-like when faced with a mud bash.
The comparison between the two spec levels and drivetrains proved illuminating. The dual-clutch turbo-petrol feels and sounds more sophisticated and modern, whereas the six-speed auto CRDi puts in a decent, if unremarkable, performance. Both combine tactile leather-clad wheels with amenable steering (particularly in Sport mode), admirable balance, and a mostly supple ride, though several judges noted steering-rack rattle, not to mention somewhat tardy ESC that struggled to contain the lesser tyre grip of the Elite and the 18-inchtyred Active X with its grip-deprived Nexen NPriz 225/55R18s. No, we’d never heard of them either.
Indeed, the front-drive Active X auto ($32,990) is a bit of an anomaly in the Tucson line-up. As the only model built in South Korea (the rest hail from the Czech Republic), it’s a bit of a ‘value’ special and gains pretty wheels, leather, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto over the pricier Elite. It’s also the only Tucson to feature Hyundai’s 2.0-litre direct-injection four, which isn’t too putrid, though it becomes rather buzzy when working hard. At least its chassis is a match for AWD variants – in the dry, at least – with a proper multi-link rear end.
What the Tucson’s handsome Peter Schreyerpenned wrapping doesn’t quite prepare you for is the relative drabness of its interior. Again, in top-spec, two-tone livery, it’s a light and bright workspace, garnished by an all-glass roof and supple perforated leather. But venture down the food chain and the overwhelming lack of colour and design flair, teamed with some scratch-prone plastics, undermines Tucson’s terrific packaging.
With class-rattling room, seat comfort and luggage space, Hyundai’s newest has some talent in terms of its core medium-SUV duties.
Thing is, the Tucson doesn’t raise the bar one iota in a class that was ripe for a second coming.
And while the top-spec Highlander is dripping with features that embellish its value story significantly, the core models do little out of the ordinary.
So while Tucson is an against-type Hyundai, this isn’t the generation to really advance the game.
But it’s a big step in the right direction.
Type 5-door wagon, 5 seats Boot capacity 488 litres Weight 1484 – 1744kg DRIVETRAIN Layout front engine (east-west), FWD/AWD Engines 1999cc 4cyl (121kW/203Nm); 1591cc 4cyl turbo (130kW/265Nm); 1995cc 4cyl turbo-diesel
Transmissions 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic; 7-speed dual-clutch
Tyres 225/60R17 – 245/45R19 ADR fuel consumption 6.4 – 7.9L/100km CO2 emissions 169 – 185g/km Collision mitigation Highlander only Crash rating 4-star (ANCAP) Prices $30,490 – $45,490
Fresh design language – dubbed ‘Fluidic Sculpture 2.0’ – has thrust the new Tucson straight into the glamour category. It’s the first production Hyundai to be overseen by HMC’s President and Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, from its Design Centre in Russelsheim, Germany. Commendably, Tucson is 65mm shorter than a Mazda CX-5, yet offers more leg and hip room, and has 85 litres more boot space, while packaging a full-sized spare.