- Very refined, with a sweet turbo engine
- Best ride quality in its class
- Great looks with the right proportions
- Base 2.0L engines a bit breathless
- No CarPlay on the top models
- Turbo's pricey six month servicing
Tuned extensively here in Australia, the Hyundai Tucson is the Korean brand’s best-ever car.
Hyundai’s significant investment in engineering – poaching talent from well-regarded brands, and generously funding research and development – is paying dividends.
The Tucson name has returned and this new model slots into the chaotic medium SUV field, taking the place of its predecessor – the ix35.
The new model looks good, drives well and is still decent value to buy – three factors which have already put it in third place among this field of 14 competitors.
Only the sportier Mazda CX-5 and stalwart Toyota RAV4 stand in the Tucson’s way – and the Hyundai is, in every way, a better buy than the Toyota.
The question is really ‘should I buy a Hyundai Tucson or a Mazda CX-5?’ Well, depending on how much you’ve got to spend, the answer may well be in the Hyundai’s favour.
While it’s not a particularly sharp handler, the Hyundai has the upper hand under the bonnet. With a superb turbocharged petrol and a refined diesel available, the Tucson drives like an expensive European.
It also looks right. The Tucson is a handsome and well-proportioned little truck, particularly in the trademark blue metallic or in the deep brown option. It isn’t fussy or overdone. It feels up-to-date against the Mazda, whose design is starting to age.
Pair these virtues to a solid, comfortable interior and the Tucson starts to look like a pretty smart option for smaller families.
Four engines are offered on the Tucson but the standouts are the two flagship motors – a 130kW turbo petrol and a 136kW turbo diesel.
A pair of naturally aspirated two-litre petrols are the standard engines in the cheaper Active and ActiveX models. They get the job done in town, but they are torque-poor, and show a tendency to fuss through the gears when driving uphill.
It is smart money to upgrade to the Elite or Highlander grades, bringing more equipment and a choice of the upgraded turbo engines.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol is a sweetheart, producing 130kW of power. The 265Nm of torque is delivered from 1,500rpm through to 4,500rpm – making the Tucson feel really muscly on the highway, and nippy in town.
With a fluent seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox – more than reminiscent of a Volkswagen setup – the engine remains quiet and smooth, intelligently moving through the gears to keep the Tucson in its healthy torque band.
Where Hyundai have Volkswagen bested is in the behaviour of the double-clutch auto: the Tucson rarely slurred or rolled around town, unlike older VW DSG transmissions.
The turbo petrol is pretty economical, too, claiming 7.7L/100km and returning just under 9L/100km. However, the most frugal is the two-litre diesel, promising under 7L/100km.
Plenty of top-spec Highlander models are being fitted with the diesel, and with a hearty 400Nm of torque, it’s not hard to understand why.
Unlike the base petrols, the turbo motors are fitted with all-wheel-drive. The Tucson won’t get you far off-road but the occasional trail or light snow will be dispatched easily.
But the real story here is the Tucson’s Australian handling and suspension tuning. The local Hyundai division won freedom from Seoul to tune the range for our unique conditions some years ago, and the results are quite spectacular.
The Tucson has the best ride quality in its class, soaking up poor roads, speed bumps, potholes and corrugations with the fluency of a car twice its price.
The cabin is a little noisier than we’d like, but it is a dull wind noise rather than a loud tyre roar that is allowed in.
Buyers looking for a sporty SUV won’t go past the CX-5 – Mazda still have the upper hand when it comes to steering feel – but the Tucson isn’t embarrassed by a spirited drive on a twisty road.
There’s some body roll, for sure, and the seats could use stronger side bolstering to counter the effect of that – but the Tucson never feels ponderous, communicating what’s going on at the front wheels to the driver.
Older Hyundai interiors were fussy, but the current crop of cabins show that the designers knew when to put their pens down.
The Tucson has a simple and classy interior that emphasises a high driving position and a clean, touchscreen-based dashboard.
Elite and Highlander models receive a big, crisp eight-inch touchscreen that runs Hyundai’s in-house navigation system. The base Active models have a seven-inch version that uses Apple CarPlay for GPS, but you’ll need an iPhone.
CarPlay is brilliant and it’s confusing that more expensive Tucson models currently don’t have it, but we think it’s likely this disparity will be rectified by a later software update.
Even if it’s not, Hyundai’s navigation and audio software is among the easiest to use. But the standard stereo – a premium one isn’t available at all – is average at best, making our music sound a bit dull.
Most materials in the cabin are soft and yielding to the touch, including the small steering wheel, dash top and doors. However, Volkswagen continue to win on getting all the little details right, like lining the door bins in soft material to stop clutter rattling around.
Taller members of the Chasing Cars team were comfortable straight away in the Elite model’s cloth driver’s seat. However, shorter drivers struggled to find a perfect driving position immediately – but after a period of adjustment, that problem faded away.
The cloth seats on the Elite feel great but both the lower ActiveX grade, and higher Highlander get leather.
Back seat passengers will be comfortable, with a generous bench. For a six-foot passenger, there is good headroom and adequate legroom. However, these are not large SUVs, so three people will be a squeeze, not a breeze.
Hyundai makes the larger Santa Fe if a third row is needed, but it’s worth noting that two competitors in the Tucson’s class – the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail – offer a (quite tiny) third row.
Open the Tucson’s light tailgate – it’s electric on Elite and Highlander – and you’ll find the boot is middle-of-the-pack of space.
With 488 litres back there, the Tucson falls right between the Mazda’s smaller 403 litres and the Toyota’s class-leading 577 litres.
Despite having an all-wheel-drive system, the Hyundai’s boot floor is low, making loading heavy objects easy, but the rear wheels intrude slightly into the lateral space.
The Tucson’s back seats fold completely flat, which is a boon for buyers that need to load longer objects easily. Once the second row is down, 1,478 litres are available.
In the cabin, it’s a roomy experience for four though five is a possibility.
Up front, there is adequate room for storing everyday clutter, with a central storage bin, two cupholders, medium-sized door bins and a couple of trays around the gear shifter.
If you buy the Elite or Highlander, your back passengers benefit from air conditioning vents – Active and ActiveX models lack this convenient feature.
Both turbo models offer 1,600kg of braked towing capacity, and 750kg of unbraked capacity.
All Tucson models have a standard reversing camera, making for safer backing up.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Increasing quality has gone hand-in-hand with Hyundai’s investment in new car development.
The company is one of the few that has achieved a brand-wide JD Power ‘among the best’ rating.
On an individual level, the new-shape Tucson has been awarded a top reliability rating by JD Power, though the model is really too new for any conclusive judgments. But this all bodes well for low ownership costs.
The upper-level Tucson trims are built by Hyundai’s European operation in the Czech Republic, with cheaper specifications coming down the production line in South Korea.
There’s negligible difference in quality between them, with Hyundai running a tight ship on quality globally. Cars from both lines feel solidly finished and well-built.
Hyundai offers capped price servicing for the lifetime of the car. The actual cost of servicing depends on the engine, and ranges from very affordable to relatively expensive.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the more complex and superior turbocharged engines that are the pricier to maintain – in particular, our favourite – the petrol. That requires servicing every six months, which is too frequent, at a cost of $1,434 over three years.
The other engines only need annual servicing and are considerably cheaper to maintain: the diesel costs $1,137 over three years, and 2.0L petrol just $807.
It’s the turbo petrol that is the outlier, with Mazda service pricing otherwise lining up for their CX-5 base petrol and turbo diesel engines.
More regular running costs at the bowser are more consistent, with all Tucson engines slotting in between $1,250 and $1,500 in annual refuelling costs on average.
Hyundai has a strong warranty programme with the 5 year, unlimited kilometre coverage longer than all competitors but sister brand Kia’s seven years.
Predicted Tucson depreciation is average for the class. After three years and 42,000km—the average—Glass’s Guide indicates that the Tucson Elite will retain about 56% of its value. That’s notably worse than the Mazda CX-5’s outstanding 62%. The Toyota RAV4 keeps 58% of its value in that time.
VALUE FOR MONEY
There are four models in the Tucson range and each represents good value in the medium SUV segment.
The Active base model ($27,990) is a real price leader with manual cars driving out of the showroom for under $30,000 on road.
However, it’s worth spending more on the next model up, the ActiveX ($30,490), which adds durable leather trim, electric folding mirrors, a leather steering wheel and shifter, and a smarter design outside with larger wheels and fog lamps.
The Active range relies on an iPhone to have navigation, though, and many buyers are opting for the particularly good value at the upper end of the Tucson range.
The Elite model ($35,990) comes standard with the two-litre petrol but it is worthwhile to switch into the turbo engine ($39,750). Otherwise, the Elite adds a larger screen with navigation – but it loses CarPlay and leather, substituting blue-flecked cloth. It adds LED headlamps, an electric driver’s seat, powered tailgate and dual-zone climate control.
But the Elite is a bit of an odd model to buy given its cloth interior and smaller, more pedestrian wheels. That’s why our recommendation is the Highlander model, which can be had with the turbo petrol ($44,490) or the turbo diesel ($46,490).
The Highlander looks great, with LED taillamps and large 19-inch wheels. It also exclusively adds advanced safety technology – which should be optional on the other grades – plus heated and ventilated front seats, and a sunroof.
The sole option is metallic paint ($595), which you’ll want in order to get one of the best colours, like our car’s Ara Blue or the handsome Arabica Brown.
The medium family SUV market is chaotic, with most mainstream manufacturers offering a model. Overall, there are 14 competitors and a few smaller models that are also quite comparable.
We have listed ten below that are worthy of consideration alongside the Tucson – but most will cross-shop this car with the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, and the Toyota RAV4.
Volkswagen will be launching their new Tiguan in September, which will be worth waiting on if you are looking to spend upwards of $40,000.
We have matched competitors on price, which means some include a turbo engine and all-wheel-drive, and some miss out.
- Ford Kuga Trend 2.0T AWD ($36,890)
- Honda CR-V VTi-S 2.4L 4WD ($35,290)
- Jeep Cherokee Longitude ($42,000)
- Kia Sportage SLi Diesel AWD ($38,990)
- Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport Diesel AWD ($38,990)
- Mitsubishi ASX 2.2T Diesel AWD ($36,490)
- Nissan Qashqai Ti Diesel ($39,990)
- Subaru Forester 2.5i-S 4WD ($39,490)
- Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.5L AWD ($36,990)
- Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI 4MOTION ($36,990)
|Power||130kW at 5,500rpm|
|Torque||265Nm between 1,500-4,500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||79kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||7.7L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||62 litres|
|Average range||805 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||All wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1651 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||488 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||1478 litres|