Road Tests

Test Drive: New Hyundai Tucson (2018) seeks attention

Amid the rollercoaster of exchange rates, the Korean brand is hoping to get its refreshed 2018 Hyundai Tucson noticed by buyers who are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking out a mid-sized SUV which all claim to do the same multitasking things.

First there’s the cosmetic overhaul which to our eyes looks inspired by trends out West where chrome and gigantic grilles are prominent. Hyundai has been out on a design offensive of late, recruiting across the globe from some truly diverse CVs so this aggressive design language is really the beginning. See upcoming Santa Fe for further evidence.

Then there’s the reconciled model line-up which weeds out the non-sellers while maintaining enough variety for modest price gaps between models – each roughly R20 000 up on each predecessor of the Hyundai Tucson.

Styling generally elicits the right noises; part chunky, part urbane with some pseudo toughness thanks to skid plates, but also conscious of the fact that its front-wheel drive layout isn’t going to make too many outrageous gambles with loose terrain. That front-wheel drive layout, while popular, is an anomaly in a segment which between Nissan (X-Trail), KIA (Sportage), Toyota (RAV4) and Volkswagen (Tiguan) offer all-wheel drive equivalents at a price parity with the flagship Hyundai Tucson.

Once more the engine range is static. Turbochargers only for the diesel models while all petrol derivatives are 2.0-litre, 4-cylinders with lethargic overtaking power due to atmospheric-fed torque.  New additions to the range are trumpeted by the gearbox pairings, notably the six-speed auto with the 2.0-litre engine or the 8-speed with the 2.0 Executive diesel. There’s still the 7-speed DCT gearbox on Elite models – if you’re counting that’s three different automatic gearboxes out of five available derivatives! Hyundai’s product planning is anything but modular.

Far simpler on the inside of the Hyundai Tucson. Expect cruise control, Bluetooth, a good, bright touchscreen that still feels like it’s been adapted to, rather than built for Hyundai, and of course one of the best insulated cabins in the segment. But it still feels slightly conservative. Technology isn’t going to save you if you forget to look at the road for a few seconds and it’s not there to make driving easier.

Despite Hyundai’s emboldened design lowered on top of a rationalised range, the high pricing (admittedly there aren’t many options, unlike some German rivals) and lack of an all-wheel drive version leaves enough room for rivals to undercut it, often with better on-road performance, or over-spec it. ANDREW LEOPOLD

SPECIFICATION 1.6 TGDI

  • R559 900
  • 1591cc, 4cyl turbo diesel, FWD, 130kW, 265Nm
  • 8,5l/100km, 186g/km CO2
  • 0-100km/h in 8.9secs, 201km/h
  • 1605kg
  • Verdict: Missing excitement while ongoing price war may leave it defenceless to attack
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