What's the space like inside?
There’s no question that the Tucson is very spacious and comfortable. This particularly manifests in the rear seating. There's ample legroom for tall adults in all seating positions, even adjusted for a larger six foot three driver. Headroom is also ample, even with a full sunroof fitted. Getting in and out is a breeze with well-designed doors. You can imagine the Tucson becoming a favourite of ride-share operators for these reasons.
The Highlander we tested is well-styled (not sure we’d choose a pale interior), although some materials feel a little second rate, and the tinny sound of the door closing feels a little cheap. Generally, though, there is nothing to question in terms of build quality.
Interior storage is good – there’s enough space for drinks, and the door pockets have plenty of room, but the centre console could make better use of real estate.
We would love to see the vertical phone holder from the Santa Fe find its way into the Tucson, but instead, there is a well-designed, large space for device charging.
One frustrating feature that did make its way into the Tucson is the writing on the switchgear. White letters on grey plastic can be very challenging to read.
The touch-sensitive controls in the Tucson’s centre console are modern, but physical dials and switches can be a more user-friendly way to enter your desired setting.
The base Tucson comes with an 8.0-inch central multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Climb up to the Elite, and you’ll get a 10.25-inch display unit featuring navigation, also found in the Highlander. You also get a Bose sound system, heated exterior mirrors, heated (and ventilated) front seats, heated outboard second-row seats and a heated steering wheel.
Matching the 10.25-inch dimensions of the central screen, the LCD digital instrument cluster looks good but lacks the functionality of similar systems from other brands, notably Volkswagen, which uses the space on the screen more effectively by displaying the navigation map.
While the digital cluster is clear in all conditions, the lack of a cowl surrounding the instrument cluster produces a very distracting reflection in the side window when driving at night. Also, the very bottom of the display showing fuel economy is almost completely obscured by the steering wheel in my seating position.
In terms of boot space, it can swallow 539 litres with all seats in place (increasing to 1860L with the second row folded). This is less than the Toyota RAV4 (580L) but more than the Mazda CX-5 (422L) and Honda CR-V (522L).
How does it drive?
This Tucson Highlander uses a 115kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine, driving the front wheels only via a six-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain is pretty sluggish, and the six-speed auto often feels like it's shifting too soon or too late.
The good news is Hyundai is also offering a 132kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto for a $4000 premium over the base engine, or a 137kW/416Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with an eight-speed auto for a $6000 premium. Both come with all-wheel drive as standard and bode much better for the overall driving experiences.
We finished our week with a fuel economy rating of 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres, which is up on the official claim of 8.1L/100km.
The safety equipment gets a big thumbs up, but some features are intrusive in operation. The lane keep assist system issues unnecessary alerts and, at times, interventions. Other random warning chimes are difficult to attribute any cause to. Many of these can be switched off or dialled down, but that’s not always easy.
One last bugbear is with the auto-hold function, which applies the parking brake at the lights and in traffic. It defaults to off every time you turn off the car. Auto Hold is a great feature and should be on all the time.