The return of the Tuscon is a bit of a mixed bag. Whether it manages to outdo its rivals will be a matter of personal preference…
Words: Stephen Smith
Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied
In 2004 Hyundai first launched the Tucson in South Africa, a mid-sized SUV. It was a good seller, but in 2009 Hyundai nevertheless replaced it with the ix35. It too did very well, thanks to a competitive price tag and rugged good looks. And now, seven years later, the ix35 has been replaced – with another Tucson. There’s no official word on why the ix35 name has been dropped, and considering the vehicle’s success (it sold about 32 000 in SA over the years), it’s a bit perplexing. But as Bill Shakespeare said, a rose is a rose no matter what you call it.
Heading up into the Midlands in the middle of a cold snap, it was the engine of the Tucson that initially caught my attention. A little 1.6-litre petrol unit with a turbocharger, it produces 130kW and 265Nm. That’s not the interesting bit – the interesting bit is how very quiet and refined it is, which is one of the benefits of these modern, small, turbo engines. And when that turbo is spinning, the performance is great, with lots of torque available on demand.
But as with all these little turbocharged engines, it is when the turbo isn’t spinning that frustration enters the arena. This is only really noticeable when you’re pulling off, and when I had loaded the car I found I had to be careful with the clutch until inertia had been dismissed. The manual version, which I was driving, has a really nice, engaging six-speed gearbox, while the dual-clutch automatic has seven gears. There is also a 2-litre engine option, which produces less power (115kW and 196Nm), uses a bit more fuel, and is cheaper.
Hyundai has put a lot of work into the styling of the Tucson, both inside and out, with very positive results. The exterior is a far cry from the functional but bland Tucson 1.0. Today the car is built around a bold, oversized grille (that could be said to be quite Audi-esque) for a successful take on the modern SUV look. It’s very hard to fault in this respect.
And where the outside is almost flawless, the interior is a mix of highs and lows. While the highs (great seats, brilliant ride quality, low noise levels, good leg and head room, and good spec levels) far outweigh the lows, one weakness is very obvious. In an age where we all spend most of our lives engaged with high-resolution, full-colour screens, the Tucson’s small, monochromatic infotainment system is a let down. You have to opt for one of the Elite models for a touch screen.
Other than that, the interior materials may be of very high quality, but they are as monochromatic as the screen – every day’s a grey day inside a Tucson… I was also a little surprised that there is no automatic Stop/Start function on the Tucson. It’s not a necessity by any means, but it does help to cut fuel consumption and emissions and has become so common that I assumed the Tucson would have it.
One of the reasons why SUVs are popular is for the extra space that they theoretically afford. So how’s the Tucson in this regard? Not bad, but not quite as good as the Toyota Rav4, for example.
As the ix35 was a huge leap forward from the original Tucson, the new Tucson has repeated this upward trend, producing a leading contender in the mid-sized SUV segment. Whether it manages to outdo the likes of the Toyota Rav4, Ford Kuga, Nissan X-Trail and the like will be a matter of personal preference.
The Hyundai Tucson 2.0 NU is priced from R369 900 to R454 900, while the 1.6 TGDI is priced from R439 900 to R519 900. Prices include a 5-year/90 000km service plan and a 5-year/150 000km warranty and an additional 2-year/50 000km manufacturer’s powertrain warranty.
- Name: Hyundai Tucson
- Body type: Mid-size SUV
- Engine capacity: 1.6-litre turbo
- Power output: 130kW
- Torque: 265Nm
- Ground clearance: 200mm
- Price: R359 900-R499 900