THE Hyundai Tucson has made its Australian return, on this occasion as the replacement for the popular ix35.
It is longer and wider moving this offering into the medium SUV class, and is better equipped, sleeker and more refined than the outgoing ix35. And with front-wheel and all-wheel drive models, four engines, three transmissions and four comfort grades, buyers are certainly spoilt for choice.
We spent a week in the Active X which sits between the entry-model Active and mid-range Elite. It is the variant Hyundai is expecting to gain most traction with a nice combination of technological smarts and on road comforts.
Hyundai has gone for function and practicality instead of pronounced luxury here and while dials and buttons are easy to read and reach there is little attempt at fun and funky.
There is a plug for durability though with well fitted plastics looking fairly hard and resilient. The seats are comfortable and support without embracing, and space for head and legroom is clearly evident.
There are two back of the seat pockets for rear seat occupants and a centre belt that offers the option of a third passenger, although two is best especially if there are child seats involved.
A 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing ix35 translates into more cargo space. The new Tucson offers 488 litres (the ix35 had 465 litres) in the boot, growing to 1478 litres with the second row folded.
On the road
Our test car - the ActiveX - is powered by a 2.0-litre direct injection petrol paired with a six-speed auto (turbo petrol and diesel engines can be had in other variants). Ride comfort and refinement is excellent, the Tucson obviously benefiting from a local suspension tune.
It is poised and confident on a mix of surfaces delivering a smooth, firm drive. The steering is direct and offers reasonable feedback but is sometimes over-eager to get back to centre.
Perhaps the Tucson could save some of that eagerness when pushing off the line and up steeper inclines where the engine can often feel a bit lacklustre.
This model misses out on the on-demand all-wheel drive system available to the Elite and Highlander so keep that in mind if that is a feature you prefer.
What do you get?
Standard fare includes a seven-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, bluetooth, auto headlights, LED daytime running lights, 18-inch alloys, cruise control, leather seats and rear view camera with rear parking sensors. The Tucson has also just had its ANCAP rating improved from four to five stars after design changes.
We hovered around the 8.2l/100km mark during our week-long test which is close enough to the official 7.8l/100km for me. Of course the Korean manufacturer offers a great five year/unlimited kilometre warranty with servicing costs at just over $800 for the first three years.
There is no shortage of competition in this segment but the main charge will come from the Mazda CX-5 ($27,190), Honda CR-V ($27,490), Toyota RAV4 ($27,490), Subaru Forester ($29,990), Kia Sportage ($25,490) and Nissan X-Trail ($27,990).
From this month all new Tucsons are available with Apple CarPlay, with existing owners able to access a free software update at their dealer. This is a big advantage for those drivers who always have to be technologically connected, although Android phone users will have to wait a few months more. Apple CarPlay also means Active and Active X owners can access sat-nav, but be mindful you'll be using your phone data in doing so.
The Tucson's bold proportions, flowing surfaces and athletic stance certainly get it noticed. We like the modern styling with a strong grille and streamlined appearance.
There is much to like about the Tucson, a spacious interior and ride quality among its biggest drawcards. True the interior could be a bit trendier, the engine more willing when pushed and the bluetooth connection improved, but all in all it is a commendable package.
There is every chance the Tucson will build on the successes of the ix35 and Hyundai will deserve the plaudits for offering a value-for-money proposition in a very competitive segment.
Model: Hyundai Tucson Active X.
Details: Five-door two-wheel drive medium SUV.
Engine: 2.0-litre GDi direct-injection four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 121kW @ 6200rpm and peak torque of 203Nm @ 4700rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed auto (as tested) or six-speed manual.
Consumption: 7.9 litres/100km (combined).
Bottom line plus on roads: From $32,990 (manual $30,490).
What matters most
What we liked: Ride quality, spacious interior, good-looking exterior.
What we'd like to see: Better bluetooth connectivity, more power up hills, sat-nav as standard.
Warranty and servicing: 5 year/unlimited kilometre warranty and fixed-price servicing.
Driving experience 16/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 16/20