We’re at a point in the world where SUVs rule the roost and particularly in the mid-size segment where the Hyundai Tucson competes, the competition is fierce. There are varying strategies that Hyundai could have used to break through the clutter but in this case, they’ve shouldered right through with spectacular design…as a start. Say whatever you want, the new Tucson is bold and brave and won’t suffer the chagrin of going unnoticed. ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ is what Hyundai calls it, an attempt to reinvent what the family car represents. The thing is, it’s not far off the marketing garb.
It's unashamedly larger than before. From every angle you’ll see a strong sense of shape and triangular motifs. From the rear light cluster design to the C-pillar finish and of course, the Paremetric Jewel Hidden Light design in the front. It’s bold and empowered and quite honestly, it may not be for everybody. It’s a strong identity that will at the very least, cause you to take notice. Remember how the iX35 design landed after the previous generation Tucson? This is similar, except it’s now within a far larger competitive landscape.
And that really is the Tucson’s first big win. It is a proper execution of a mid-size family car. Hop on board and you witness very generous helping of features and tech from Hyundai’s parts bin. This Elite is specified to the hilt with Hyundai’s 10.25” digital driver’s display; an 8” infotainment display replete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; ventilated seats; and a wireless phone charging cradle. Faux leather seats abound with electric adjustment up front. It’s a genuinely impressive cabin but I do wonder why we don’t get the more sophisticated infotainment and push-button shift-by-wire setup from other markets.
Moving on from the front of the cabin, it’s rear that impressed me most. It’s genuinely spacious in here with impressive head, shoulder and knee room. This is a genuine win in comparison with so many C-SUV options where design and packaging compromises rear seat space. Cargo space is quote at 536-litres, not as winning as some but still good in the segment and with 40/20/40 folding seats, practicality has been highly considered.
The Tucson 2.0 Diesel Elite is the performance flagship and also the only diesel variant in the range. As certain manufacturers shy away from diesel, the Tucson’s powerful 2.0 turbodiesel feels happily resolved in this application. It’s not lacking in power at all with that 416Nm of torque washing in from 2,000 rpm making overtaking or gap-taking quite easy. It does tend to torque steer from time to time depending on steering angle and surface, such is the power delivery. But despite its unreserved power, the engine exhibits exceptional frugality too. After 710km of driving, mostly within the urban environment, our fuel consumption was exactly smack bang on the quoted fuel figures from Hyundai of 7,4l/100km – and this is no small car.
Dynamically, the Hyundai Tucson is as sedate and unfussed as any front-wheel driven SUV of this size should be. Its comfortable even on those fancy 19” wheels and it rides with a compliant balance made more exciting by that power on tap. Where it struggles against its competitors is in some of dynamic and handling prowess. Where some C-SUVs come with all-wheel drive as optional variants, the Tucson remains a FWD and that has its limitations. Its 8-speed transmission too, suffers from being too slow at times, not as smooth and refined as it could be. It's a marked improvement from previous Tucson’s of course, but no matter what driving mode you choose, the transmission makes itself noticed every so often in traffic especially.
Some are surprised at the price of this Elite. R700k for a Tucson could sound like a lot but within its segment and for the amount of kit, novelty and technology, it’s right within the ballpark. A VW Tiguan is more expensive. Toyota's RAV4 in equivalent spec is also more so pricing has been well considered.
That said, the Hyundai also comes with a good warranty package and sufficient differentiation to make it a worthwhile consideration all round. There are also cheaper Tucson’s from which to choose, with less power and less features.
The new Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Diesel Elite is an impressionable product for many reasons. You can’t fault its packaging or its bold design nor can you fault its pricing and warranty within the segment.
This is a powerful, comfortable, practical SUV with all the appointments expected at this level and more. You may find its design to be too much for you…but that’s more about you than the car itself. Within its segment and considering the stock shortages faced by many German automakers, the Hyundai could really carve out some market share in the space.