Impressive improvements for updated Hyundai Tucson
CAR companies don't always hit the mark when they launch a new model. The better buy is often the midlife update that addresses earlier foibles - and that's the case with the revised Hyundai Tucson, the fourth-biggest seller in the medium SUV class.
At first glance it looks the same as the one that went on sale three years ago. However the updated model gets a new nose and tail plus a redesigned dashboard.
The original interior was dominated by hard plastics but the new model has better quality soft-touch materials above the cabin's waistline and adopts Hyundai's tablet-style touchscreen that pokes out of the dash (in two sizes, depending on the model).
Under the skin, Hyundai has fettled steering and suspension, making it a better drive.
The range includes a front-wheel drive model with a 2.0-litre engine and six-speed auto, 1.6-litre turbo AWD with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel AWD with eight-speed auto.
The four grades start with the Go from $29,990 drive-away with auto, then the Active X from $32,990 drive-away with auto.
The top two, not covered by the launch deal, jump to $42,000 drive-away for the Elite and $51,000 drive-away for the flagship Highlander.
Diesel power adds $2300 to the top pair and $5300 to the Go and Active X, which also gain all-wheel drive with this engine option.
The Elite and Highlander come with Hyundai's advanced safety package that includes city and highway-speed autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control with traffic jam stop-start, rear cross-traffic alert, blind zone warning and lane-keeping.
The above safety pack is a $2200 option on the two cheapest models.
This puts Tucson pricing in line with older rivals that lack AEB but a touch over the odds when AEB is added.
However, there are two types of AEB in the industry - city-speed AEB is less expensive but the Tucson's more advanced versions can stop a crash at low speeds as well as mitigate crashes at high speeds. Rivals have a mix of both, so it's worth asking the question.
The Tucson retains its five-star safety rating from late 2015 but, if rated against today's tougher criteria, the versions lacking AEB would slip to four stars.
Standard fare includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a rear-view camera with guiding lines that turn with the steering. Helpfully, the sun visors have extenders to block side glare.
The base model lacks rear parking sensors; only the flagship gets front and rear beepers. A 360-degree camera is not available.
The Highlander gains heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, LED headlights and tail-lights and panorama sunroof, among other extras. Premium Infinity audio is on all grades except the base model.
A hidden plus across the range: a full-size spare under the boot floor.
There's still a decent amount of boot space: 488L versus 442L for the Mazda CX-5, 577L for the Toyota RAV4 and 615L for the VW Tiguan.
ON THE ROAD
On the narrow winding roads of the Yarra Valley we sampled the base model Go petrol, an Active X diesel and the flagship Highlander with turbo petrol power.
Changes to the suspension have created a more supple and quieter ride. The steering is said to be sharper but to me it feels more fluid than before.
The Go and Active - both on 17-inch wheels and tyres - cushion bumps and lumps on country back roads with impressive ease.
The Highlander on 19-inch alloys with low-profile tyres is a bit noisier and the steering feels heavier, whether on the move or in tight turns. On these tyres the suspension is less forgiving.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol has plenty of oomph and the seven-speed twin-clutch auto has been further refined.
There is still a slight delay when moving from rest or performing a three-point turn but the transmission doesn't jolt as some other twin-clutch autos do. The turbo diesel, now paired with an eight-speed conventional auto, is the perkiest of the three engine options.
3.5 stars out of 5
The 2.0-litre petrol with six-speed auto and front-drive - available on three of the four grades - is the pick. It has enough power for most needs and is the cheapest of the engine options.
PRICE The price has risen over the run-out model and the sharp-ish deals are only on the base Go and Active X. The Elite and Highlander are at full retail so be sure to haggle.
TECH The flagship is loaded, including LED low and high-beams, heated and cooled front seats, panorama sunroof and wireless phone charging.
PERFORMANCE The base 2.0 has had a minor tweak but the 1.6 turbo and 2.0 turbo diesels are unchanged. A new eight-speed auto on the diesel improves performance and economy.
DRIVING Suspension has been retuned to reduce sharpness over bumps, although the cheapest two are better to drive than the flagship Highlander, due in large part to the more cushioned tyres.
DESIGN The styling changes are subtle but the grille and headlights have sharper angles and the bumpers, tailgate and rear lights are new. The big improvement: the new dash brings the Tucson up to speed with rivals.
HYUNDAI TUCSON AT A GLANCE
PRICE $27,990-$53,300 drive-away (good value)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 5-year warranty, $825-$1155 for 3 years (good)
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 122kW/205Nm, 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 130kW/265Nm, 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 136kW/400Nm (good)
SAFETY 6 airbags, 5 stars, rear camera are standard. AEB, lane keeping, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise standard on top grades or $2200 option on base two grades. (not ideal).
THIRST 6.4L-7.9L/100km (good)
SPARE Full-size (excellent)
BOOT 488L (good)