Hyundai’s small/medium SUV has not only been updated but also renamed with a blast from the past. Just when the ix35 name seemed to have been established and sales blossomed, Hyundai has resurrected the Tucson badge.
While this may seem a backward step, the vehicle has moved significantly forward. It has grown in size, fresh styling provides an attractive, athletic look and there is a significant improvement in on-road ability. And it is quieter in the cabin when cruising along.
Equipment levels are something of a mixed bag, with some desirable features on lower-spec models not available as you move up the line. At the time of testing, Apple CarPlay was only available on the lower-spec models (Android Auto support is due early 2016) but neither is on the higher grades with standard sat-nav. The leather option on the Active X models is not available on the higher Elite.
Five-star ANCAP rating
After a few issues with the early models in crash testing, Hyundai has made some changes and the Tucson has achieved a five star ANCAP safety rating.
Overall Tucson offers plenty of choice. Within the four-tier line-up – Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander – there are models with 2WD or on-demand 4WD drivelines, three petrol engines and a diesel version, and three transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
We tested the top-of-the-range diesel, a 2.0L turbo-diesel Highlander with the six-speed automatic. Diesel is the most potent engine, putting out 136kW and a strong 400Nm from 1750 to 2750rpm.
Selectable drive modes
In Elite and Highlander grades, Tucson has three selectable drive modes, which adjust transmission programming, throttle mapping and steering effort. Normal is the default mode. In Eco, throttle effort is increased and the transmission shifts up earlier, to conserve fuel. Sport adjusts power steering weight and throttle sensitivity, and the transmission holds lower gears for longer.
Tucson is 65mm longer than ix35, has a 30mm longer wheelbase and the track is wider front and rear. This makes the cabin roomier, and handling and ride benefit from the bigger footprint.
The extra size also means Tucson is now in the medium SUV segment, where Hyundai is targeting high-quality models such as Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester. With a premium approach, pricing has increased slightly but remains competitive and provides value.
Equipment levels across the range are relatively good but you have to buy the top-spec Highlander (which we tested) to get desirable safety features such as three-mode autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist/lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and tyre pressure monitoring. It is a shame these are not offered as options on other versions.
Space and accommodation-wise, Tucson is not class leading but sits comfortably in its segment. Despite the Highlander’s leather-appointed trim, interior presentation is a touch conservative. The layout is neat, functional and easy to use, thanks to well-placed switches, clear instrumentation and a large touch-screen for audio, sat-nav etc.
Attention to detail
Supportive, well-shaped seats provide long-term comfort, while good leg room and multi-adjustable reclining backrests add to the comfort for rear passengers. Thick pillars and a rising waistline create several blind spots in rearward vision. The reversing camera and parking sensors – standard across the range – help mitigate these issues. The attention to detail in the fit and finish is indicative of Tucson’s move up-market.
The 2.0L turbo-diesel is a strong performer in conditions that a vehicle of this type is likely to encounter. Initial acceleration and transmission response are not as quick as the 1.6L turbo-petrol model, but with plenty of mid-range torque it pulls very well and cruises superbly on a long country drive.
Official fuel consumption for the diesel is 6.4L/100km, but on the model with the 19-inch wheel package it climbs to 6.8. Our test returned 7.6, with a highway average of 7.0. Around town it was 7.9.
Suits Australian roads
An important area where Hyundai has made great improvements is tuning the steering and suspension to suit Australian roads. It is a major improvement over ix35, and the balance between handling and ride puts it up with the best in class.
The compliant ride is well controlled and soaks up most bumps. Relatively direct steering and a 10.6m turning circle give it a nimble feel around town. There is body roll when cornering a bit harder, as you would expect, but the grip and positive steering makes it user-friendly.
Hyundai’s on-demand AWD system with front and rear lock modes works well on gravel or slippery roads and it will be handy for those heading to the snow, but Tucson is still only a soft-roader. The limiting factors in rough terrain are ground clearance and tyre grip. Tucson carries a full-size spare wheel.
The five-year/unlimited-km warranty is longer than most in the class, and Australia’s Best Cars research shows it is also competitive on servicing and repair costs.
Hyundai Tuscon Highlander 2.0 CRDi
Price: $45,490 + $3979 (est.) on-road costs. Metallic paint $520.
Model range $27,990-$45,490.
Autonomous emergency braking. ESC. ABS. 6 airbags. Reversing camera. Front/rear park sensors. LED headlights/daytime running lights. Front fog lamps. Blind spot assistance. Lane-keeping/changing/departure systems. Rear cross traffic alert. Tyre pressure monitor. ISOFIX fittings. Auto lights/wipers. Five-star ANCAP rating.
Sat-nav. 8” touch-screen. Full connectivity. Dual-zone climate-control. Leather-appointed/powered/heated front seats. Panoramic sunroof. Fully-adjustable steering. Smart tailgate. Roof rails.
Drivetrain: 1995cc 4cyl turbo-diesel engine. 6spd auto. AWD. 136kW@4000rpm, 400Nm@1750-2750rpm.
Fuel: diesel. 62L tank. 7.6L/100km (RACV test figure); 6.8L/100km (govt figure).
Wheels: 19” alloy, 245/45 R19 tyres. Full-size alloy spare.
Towing: 1600kg braked trailer capacity, 140kg towball load.
Environment: 178g/km CO2.
12 months/15,000km services.
5-year/unlimited km warranty.