A Wheel Thing is lucky to be part of a team that Hyundai Australia contracts to deliver a dealership model launch experience. Earlier in 2015, it was the new Tucson, a reinvigoration of the ix35, itself once called Tucson. There’s a four model range, a mix of engines and gearboxes and slightly different headlights for the top two, the Elite and Highlander. Originally booked for the top of the range Highlander, a bingle saw that car taken out for a repair break and the Elite subsequently handed over.
A new buyer has a choice of Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander, with a combination of 2.0L petrol with either multi-point or direct injection, a 1.6L petrol turbo and a brawny 400 Nm 2.0L diesel; the Elite came with the diesel. Choosing the diesel gives you all wheel drive as well, along with a sole gearbox option, a six speed auto (the others have either a six speed manual or 7 speed dual clutch auto for the turbo petrol). The donk is a typical, low revving, load lugger, with that 400 Nm on tap from 1750 to 2750 revs.
The second or so that it takes to fire up the engine once the starter is pressed is disconcerting, and unusual in today’s crop of diesel engined cars, which are alive in a blink after twirling the key or hitting a stop start button. Another question mark is the lack of brake bite when the pedal is pushed. There’s no real sense of grab and it really does need a firm shove down to feel any retardation. Given there’s no less than 1622 kilograms to haul down, using 305 x 25 mm vented front discs and 302 x 10 mm solid rears, it wasn’t confidence inspiring.
Of real note with the Tucson, is the overhaul of the exterior compared to the ix35. It’s physically a bigger car yet still compact at 4475 mm x 1850 mm x 1660 mm (with roof rails,) compared to 4410 x 1820 x 1690 mm for the ix35 and rolled on 17 inch diameter wheels, with 225/60 rubber. There’s some carry over in the look, with the rear window line not dissimilar to the outgoing ix35 but there’s a dramatic difference at the front.
Gone is the laid back headlight cluster and solid horizontal bar in the grille, replaced by Hyundai’s new corporate look and a slimmer, dual headlight (for Elite and Highlander) cluster with LED technology, bending and self levelling tech as well.
It’s a full five seater inside, with plenty of leg room for the driver and passenger thanks to a 2670 mm wheelbase, at 1053 to 1129 mm, whilst passengers on the rear pews get a more than decent 970 mm, sitting ahead of a 488L (1478L, seats down) cargo space. There’s LED lighting, curtain airbags, pretensioning seatbelts, ten position electric driver’s seat, dual zone aircon, satnav, Hill Start Assist but only the Highlander gets the higher safety package systems such as Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, four sensor Front Park Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Cross Traffic Warning.
All Tucsons also miss out on an important feature; a dash and console that’s visually appealing. It’s not unattractive but there’s a distinct lack of cachet, bling, “look at moi, look at moi”. Yes, it’s clean to look at, ergonomically laid out but seriously lacking in eyeball pulling power. Having said that, there’s two 12V sockets, power tailgate, puddle lamps in the wing mirrors and door handle lights, comfortable cloth trimmed seats,an eight inch touchscreen, rain sensing wipers, steering wheelmounted audio and phone controls and the Tucson comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and 10 years’ roadside assistance to sweeten the deal even further.
On road manners are impeccable; the Australian engineering team worked hard and hand in hand with their Korean counterparts and have endowed the Elite with some of the best handling characteristics you’ll find in a mind size SUV. On a flat road, with the expected little bumps, dips and undulations, there’s nothing that appears to faze the Elite Tucson. It’s firm yet with just enough give to not rattle teeth, settles nicely from quick moves and shopping centre bumps. The steering is well weighted enough in Normal mode, as Hyundai persists in its three mode steering assault, and is best left in that mode as anything else simply enhances the feeling of unnatural feedback and response.
Engine response is as expected; off boost there’s hesitation; under way there’s that mountain of troque to keep the Elite bubbling along and makes overtaking a doddle. It’s reasonably quiet, with plenty of insulation keeping the noise at bay and economical enough. Hyundai quotes around 6.5L per 100 kilometres for the combined cycle but, as its natural home will be suburbia, the 8.2 to 8.9 (depending on wheel size) seems more realistic.
Lack of dashboard pull aside, the Tucson Elite ticks a lot of boxes. Missing out on some of the safety features the Highlander has is neither here nor there, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion. The range covers all the bases and with the size increase moves up to compete with Mazda’s CX-3 AND 5. Toyota has just released a facelifted RAV4 and, of course, there’s the Tucson’s sister vehicle to consider as a competitor, the Sportage.
It’s a handsome looking beast, well and truly at home on tarmac, is HIGHLY unlikely to see any off road action (even with 18 cm of ground clearance), has some of the best ride and handling characteristics you’ll find in its class. The range kicks off at $27990 plus ORC’s, with the Elite well priced at $35240 to $40240 plus costs. Click here for detailed information: Hyundai Tucson range brochure