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A mid-life update improves the look and feel of one of Hyundai’s mainstay models.
Report: Greg Hill.
Compliant ride and surefooted handling
Minor blind spots in rear view
Safety pack with AEB optional rather than standard on lower-spec models
The Hyundai Tucson MY19 upgrade is an important cog in the Korean manufacturer’s drive to grow its sales. Currently accounting for 24 per cent of Hyundai’s market share, the Tucson is the company’s second-top-selling model in Australia, just behind the i30 hatchback.
A minor facelift smartens the appearance, lending a more distinctive look that identifies it as a ‘new’ model.
With the introduction of the compact Kona crossover late last year, the release of an all-new Santa Fe recently and now the upgraded Tucson, Hyundai has assembled an impressive line-up of urban-focused SUVs.
This is not an all-new Tucson, but a mid-series upgrade that builds on the solid foundation established by the outgoing version. It starts with a minor facelift. Cosmetic changes include a new grille, bumper and headlamps, different wheels and refreshed rear-end styling. This smartens the appearance, lending a more distinctive look that identifies it as a ‘new’ model.
The new range continues to offer plenty of choice in mechanical configuration and equipment levels. In a four-tier model line-up; the new entry-level Go model replaces the Active; but the Active X, Elite and Highlander badges are retained, with extra features added.
While the Go looks smart and is relatively well equipped for a base model, there are signs of cost savings.
Prices range from $28,150 plus on-road costs for the Go with a 2.0-litre GDi petrol engine, six-speed manual transmission and 2WD, through to the range-topping diesel Highlander at $48,800 plus ORC. The 2.0-litre diesel engine, which is available in all model grades, comes with AWD only and now drives via Hyundai’s excellent eight-speed auto.
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Across the range, the upgraded cabin featuring a redesigned upper dash is invitingly comfortable and has an open, user-friendly feel. While the Go looks smart and is relatively well equipped for a base model, there are signs of cost savings, such as steel wheels, a lower quality feel to the steering wheel than the leather-trimmed wheel in other variants and it only gets a seven-inch tablet-style multimedia screen, where other models get an eight-inch screen with built-in navigation.
It’s disappointing that Hyundai chose not to at least make autonomous emergency braking standard on all models.
Smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard across the range, so Go drivers can still access navigation via data from their phone. Hyundai Auto Link, which allows owners to receive and track vehicle information on their phone via Bluetooth, is standard across the range, while a Premium system on the Highlander model adds extra features.
By the time you step through the model range to the Highlander, the level of standard equipment is quite extensive. Its features include a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless (Qi) smartphone charging, LED headlights and smart powered tailgate.
As this is an upgrade rather than an all-new model, Tucson’s five-star ANCAP rating across the range carries over from the 2015 testing. An excellent suite of advanced safety features is standard on the Elite model and above, but it’s disappointing that Hyundai chose not to at least make autonomous emergency braking standard on all models, as other manufacturers are starting to do.
It is, however, available as part of the $2200 SmartSense option pack on the automatic Go and Active X models. This pack includes forward collision-avoidance assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic collision warning, lane-keep assist and driver-attention warning systems, along with a variety of comfort and convenience features including adaptive cruise control.
A high standard of attention to detail in the fit and finish continues Hyundai’s move up-market.
Space and accommodation-wise, the Tucson sits comfortably in the medium SUV segment. Supportive seats provide effective long-term comfort, while good legroom and multi-adjustable reclining backrests add to the comfort for rear-seat passengers. Our only criticism was that thick pillars and a rising waistline create several minor blind spots in the rearward vision.
The reversing camera and parking sensors, however, which are fitted across the Tucson range, provide some help in reducing the problem. The use of soft-touch trim materials and a high standard of attention to detail in the fit and finish continues Hyundai’s move up-market.
Depending on which model you pick, there are 2WD or on-demand 4WD models with three engine options (two petrol versions and a diesel), and now a choice of four transmissions – six-speed manual, a conventional six-speed automatic, a seven-speed speed dual-clutch automatic, and the new eight-speed automatic. The direct-injected petrol 2.0-litre GDi unit’s output has been increased fractionally – up 1kW and 2Nm – to 122kW and 205Nm. Available in front-wheel-drive models only, it can be found in the Go and Active X, coupled with a six-speed manual or conventional six-speed auto, as well as the Elite auto.
Boasting a little more power and torque than some of its entry-level competitors, the performance characteristics are well suited to smooth, easy-going everyday use. It will certainly meet the needs of the vast majority of buyers, but may not excite everyone. Reinforcing the urban focus, 70 per cent of Tucson sales are 2WD versions.
Moving into the AWD models, the petrol option is a more sophisticated turbocharged 1.6T GDi unit. Maximum power is a useful 130kW with peak torque of 265Nm developed from 1500 to 4500rpm. It is paired solely with Hyundai’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto. The combination delivers stronger performance and is a bit more fun to drive; however, don’t expect breathtaking, sports car-style acceleration. Hyundai’s 2.0 CRDi (Common Rail Direct Injection) turbo-diesel is the most potent of the range, putting out 136kW and a robust 400Nm from 1750 to 2750rpm.
The improved ride and handling package adds to the comfort and driving ease.
The new smooth-changing eight-speed auto makes effective use of the engine output to improve acceleration and driveability, while reducing fuel consumption and noise. Official ADR fuel consumption for the diesel is a pleasing 6.4L/100km, while the petrol models are between 7.7 and 7.9L/100km. Over a combination of city and highway use, average fuel consumption for the 2.0 GDi, front-wheel-drive Elite model we tested was a respectable 9.1L/100km.
Hyundai’s on-demand AWD system works well on gravel or slippery roads and will be handy for those heading to the snow fields, but it is still only a soft-roader. The limiting factors in rough terrain will be ground clearance and tyre grip. A big plus for both on- and off-road use is that the Tucson carries a full-size spare wheel.
The new Tucson’s upgraded suspension and steering was fine-tuned by Hyundai’s Australian engineering team to suit our local road conditions. The improved ride and handling package adds to the comfort and driving ease. Its compliant ride is well controlled and soaks up most bumps with consummate ease. Revised steering, with 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, sharpens up the response and gives it a nimble, easy-to-manoeuvre feel.
Rounding out the package, Tucson is covered by Hyundai’s five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty and a comprehensive customer support and service program.
Price as tested: $45,490 plus on-road costs
Price range: $28,150 to $48,800 plus on-road costs