Hyundai were well ahead of the curve before I think even they knew it. Before the world got obsessed with crossovers and micro-SUVs, Hyundai released the Hyundai Tucson. There have been 3 generations since that first model in 2005, with a brief flirting alphanumeric name change to the IX35 in the middle – but the latest Hyundai Tucson returns to its roots and takes up the oft mispronounced nameplate once more. It’s pronounced ‘too-son’ by the way, not ‘tuck-son’.
Engine and Drivetrain:
This is the first generation of Hyundai Tucson to get a turbo-petrol boost under the bonnet. Sure, the entry level models are naturally aspirated units, but this 1.6 T GDI Executive model gets a detuned version of the same engine you’d find in the Veloster Turbo.
The key figures you need to know about the Hyundai Tucson 1.6T are that it outputs 130kW @ 5500 rpm and boasts torque figures of 265Nm @ 4500 rpm, whilst consuming a claimed 8.3l/100km in this manual guise. In the real world, it actually managed to achieve 7.8l/100km – impressively beating claims, but only due to Hyundai South Africa quoting a different figure to the rest of the world (7.7l/100km is the global claimed figure). Impressive nonetheless.
The well-known 1.7- and 2.0-litre diesel units will arrive eventually; and they may be the better options; but until such time as they do, this petrol mill is more than ample. There’s good midrange punch and keenness towards redline; this offset by the minimal power below the boost threshold. Get the turbo spinning though, and there’s torque aplenty to get all 1613kg of Hyundai Tucson moving along rather briskly.
With medium length throws, and scant weight to them, shifts via the 6-speed manual transmission are quick and unimposing – but their accuracy and ease is delightful. The gearing makes the most of the boost on offer, and with the right shifts the Hyundai Tucson will even manage a sub-10 second 0-100km/h time.
Suspension, Handling, and Ride Comfort:
With Hyundai poaching a range of engineers from premium German brands, it should come as no surprise that the handling and comfort levels of the Hyundai Tucson have taken a massive leap forward.
With only 172mm ground clearance the Hyundai Tucson is still bested by some competitors – but it readily handles dirt tracks and deteriorating tar surfaces. The relative lack of ground clearance gives it one major benefit though – handling that is almost hatch-like in behaviour.
Body roll is present, but hardly pronounced, and cornering sees very little of the weight shifting uneasily from one side to the other. The weight feels balanced, the centre of gravity low, and the Hyundai Tucson planted as a result. Despite the sense of it being rooted to the road, the Tucson has aloofness to its handling that makes it feel far lither than one expects. With it being light on its feet and nimble, it shrinks around you as you drive it – direct steering of ample weight and quick responses greatly aiding this.
Riding on 17-inch alloys the ride quality is massively impressive, with almost all bumps being absorbed effortlessly by the suspension and 225/60 profile tyres. Very little manages to break the veneer of calm exuded by the Hyundai Tucson, and through a week of testing there wasn’t a road surface in sight that unsettled its resolve. Even when used as a tracking vehicle for shots of the Jaguar XE (Look our for our XE review next week), our staff photographers hanging out the back of its tailgate had nothing but praise for the Tucson’s ability to soak up the bumps.
Interior and Features:
Despite retaining a relatively compact footprint, the overall style and feel of the Hyundai Tucson feels much bigger, more like the Santa Fe in size than the IX35 of old. Inside, this feeling is mirrored with masses of space to be found for all occupants. Copious amounts of head, shoulder, and legroom are found in both front and rear of the cabin, and the voluminous boot offers a rather impressive 488-1478 litre capacity, with a flat load sill and wide loading aperture.
Comfort all round is of a premium level, with particular mention needed for the incredibly low levels of NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) within the cabin. Insulation is of such a high level that little to no road noise permeates the cabin – giving the eerie feeling of being in a pressurised chamber. This is no surprise, with Albert Biermann being in charge of NVH refinement after his departure from BMW’s M Division. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and in this case the Hyundai Tucson is a smooth, fluffy chocolate mousse.
But all the refinement in the world matters little if a vehicle isn’t well appointed. The Hyundai Tucson thankfully has a decent amount of kit crammed into the R419 900 asking price for this 1.6T Executive Manual. A full suite of safety features includes 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP and a 5-star Euro NCAP rating.
In the way of comfort features, driver and front passenger electric seats are standard (leather upholstery all round), as are dual-zone climate control, cruise control, automatic headlights, and a standard Bluetooth equipped audio system. The latter is a touch temperamental though, sometimes disconnecting with Bluetooth devices. The display is also quite dated, and could do with an upgrade to a decent touch screen – which would also double up as the display for the reverse camera, which currently displays (rather awkwardly) in the rear view mirror.
Also temperamental is the auto-dimming rear view mirror, which has trouble discerning high-beams from regular low beam headlights. The Hyundai Tucson’s headlights too – halogen projector headlamps – failed to illuminate great distances in low beam mode, leaving a distinct horizontal cut-off just shy of where the road needed illumination. Night-time driving as a result became a bit tiresome on poorly lit roads.
Interior materials are for the most part soft and cushy – with all major touch points getting soft touch foam or padded leather. It’s strange then, that the main cowl over the instrument cluster and radio is still hard, scratchy plastic that would seem at home in the original Hyundai Tucson of 2005.
The Hyundai Tucson is now better than it’s ever been. The shift to turbo-petrol technology has propelled the drivetrain dynamics into the modern era, whilst the suspension tuning and elements of refinement are truly impressive – not just for a Hyundai, but for any vehicle in this segment. Its aloof nature and compact hatch-like agility are further proof of the strides Hyundai has taken with this model, with the only real issues being minor ones in the infotainment system and some trim materials.
AWD is an option on the pricier 1.6T DCT Elite model, but I don’t think the Hyundai Tucson requires it – the FWD is more than ample and a Tucson will seldom see off-road excursions in any case. Some competitors offer AWD as standard, and others may offer more ground clearance and greater capability on tougher terrain, but for the urban road-user, the Hyundai Tucson manages to answer almost all the questions you could ask of it.
Words: Roger Biermann
Images: Roarke Bouffe and Vaughn Humphrey