Hyundai Tuc­son Ex­ec­u­tive Sport

With its lat­est Sport ver­sion, Hyundai has upped the ‘cool fac­tor’ of its Tuc­son SUV. It’s quicker, sounds row­dier and looks meaner, but is it still the solid all­round SUV it used to be, or has Hyundai over­reached?

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

The Tuc­son gets sporty

The de­sign and pro­duc­tion of a new ve­hi­cle is tricky. It’s all about find­ing a bal­ance be­tween com­fort, per­for­mance, re­li­a­bil­ity, econ­omy and prac­ti­cal­ity. And of course, this well-bal­anced ve­hi­cle also needs to be built in a way that is fi­nan­cially vi­able on a large scale. To ac­com­plish this, man­u­fac­tur­ers spend years (and a for­tune) fine-tun­ing a new ve­hi­cle, bal­anc­ing the scales to cre­ate a prod­uct that makes sense both on the road and the bal­ance sheet.

Be­cause of this, af­ter­mar­ket mod­i­fi­ca­tions to pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cles al­most al­ways de­mand com­pro­mise. They can im­prove the per­for­mance of a ve­hi­cle in a spe­cific arena, but the del­i­cate bal­ance is in­evitably dis­rupted. Care only about speed? A su­per­charger will make your ve­hi­cle go faster, but chances are the brakes, tyres, chas­sis and sus­pen­sion won’t be able to keep up. The same is true of 4×4 mod­i­fi­ca­tions. A lift kit, off-road sus­pen­sion and mudter­rain tyres will make your 4×4 bet­ter on a tough trail, but its day-to-day per­for­mance will suf­fer. That bal­ance so care­fully cre­ated by OEM en­gi­neers will be gone, and sadly, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to un­ring that bell. You have only three op­tions: ac­cept the com­pro­mise, re­store the ve­hi­cle to stan­dard, or delve ever deeper into an ‘im­prove­ment’ process that will cost you an arm and a leg and de­liver di­min­ish­ing re­turns.

How is the above dis­cus­sion rel­e­vant to the Hyundai Tuc­son 1.6 TGDI Ex­ec­u­tive Sport, you ask? Well, as you’ve un­doubt­edly gleaned from those four ex­haust pipes and body kit, this isn’t ex­actly a fac­tory-spec SUV. The Tuc­son Sport is es­sen­tially an af­ter­mar­ket cre­ation, but one de­vel­oped by Hyundai South Africa it­self.

Man­u­fac­turer don’t of­ten med­dle with their own ve­hi­cles in this way, but that’s ex­actly what Hyundai SA has done.

“It was not re­ally mar­ket re­search, but more of a gut feel­ing that comes from many years in the au­to­mo­tive busi­ness,” says Stan­ley An­der­son, sales and op­er­a­tions director of Hyundai Au­to­mo­tive SA, when asked why the de­ci­sion was taken to dress up the Tuc­son.

“We knew we al­ready had a most at­trac­tive SUV – the sales fig­ures prove that – and we were able to cre­ate a Tuc­son Sport that is bold in a classy way, with­out be­ing overly ar­ro­gant, but cer­tainly with the looks that draw a lot of at­ten­tion. The 1.6 tur­bocharged en­gine also de­liv­ers more than enough power to suit the sporty looks.”

But what about that bal­ance? The stan­dard Tuc­son 1.6 TGDI Ex­ec­u­tive model is a prac­ti­cal and well-rounded ve­hi­cle that is both fun to drive and easy to live with. Is the mod­i­fied Sport still as good, or does it feel over­cooked?

HOW DOES IT PER­FORM?

The 1.6-litre turbo en­gine driv­ing the stan­dard Ex­ec­u­tive de­liv­ers 130kW of power and 265Nm of torque. With the Sport, how­ever, Hyundai South Africa has man­aged to squeeze 20kW and 30Nm more, mean­ing that the ve­hi­cle of­fers 150kW and 295Nm. That’s enough to make the Tuc­son feel truly sporty and ag­gres­sive. Mated to a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion, and with very lit­tle lag to speak of, the Tuc­son Sport has the per­for­mance needed to back up its ag­gres­sive looks. It’s def­i­nitely not a case of ‘all show and no go’. The grunt of the Sport is sure to sur­prise you the first time you take it for a spin. More­over, the pres­ence of a man­ual shifter ups

the fun fac­tor and makes it even more in­volv­ing to drive.

On the down­side, though, the 2WD Sport some­times feels as if it’s un­able to put down the power and torque with ef­fi­ciency. Launch the ve­hi­cle off the line with de­ter­mi­na­tion, and the tyres will spin, even caus­ing the trac­tion con­trol to kick in. Some torque steer will also be present. But as you move up the gears, the Sport starts feel­ing much more com­fort­able, and at the top end there’s won­der­ful tractabil­ity, with the Sport cruis­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing ef­fort­lessly in its top gears. It’s not a pre­ci­sion driv­ing tool, but it isn’t sup­posed to be. It’s a nippy SUV that’s per­fectly docile when you drive it nor­mally, but will also al­low for a bit of hooli­gan­ism when you’re in the mood.

HOW’S THE RIDE?

The chas­sis and sus­pen­sion of the Sport is the same as that of the reg­u­lar model. How­ever, it does have large 19-inch rims with low-pro­file tyres that could po­ten­tially wreck the ride of the Tuc­son, but thank­fully this isn’t the case. The Sport has that same com­fort­able ride that the Tuc­son is known for. At the same time, the sus­pen­sion feels firm enough to deal with the sporty na­ture of the SUV. Chuck it into a cor­ner and it re­mains com­posed. The steer­ing can feel some­what vague in stan­dard mode, but switch to Sport and it’ll firm up. Once again, you’re not deal­ing with sports car pre­ci­sion, but it’s good enough to pro­vide a sporty feel.

WHAT’S THE CABIN LIKE?

While quite a bit has been done to the ex­te­rior of the ve­hi­cle to give the Tuc­son a sporty look, the cabin has been left un­touched. That’s dis­ap­point­ing, since the cabin of the Sport feels drab and aus­tere once you’ve set eyes on that ag­gres­sive body kit and quad ex­hausts. The cabin is com­fort­able and well equipped, but un­re­mark­able.

It of­fers just about ev­ery­thing you could ask for in terms of mod­ern con­ve­niences, but lacks a bit of piz­zazz, es­pe­cially for a sporty and ag­gres­sive ve­hi­cle. Another is­sue is the ex­haust drone that’s au­di­ble from in­side the cabin. Those four ex­hausts give the Tuc­son Sport a smile-in­duc­ing roar when you set off, but cruise for an ex­tended pe­riod at around 120km/h, and you’ll hear a drone that be­comes an­noy­ing.

But it’s not all bad news. As with the oth­ers ve­hi­cles in the Tuc­son range, the cabin of the Sport is spa­cious, prac­ti­cal and durable. Ig­nor­ing all those flashy bits on the out­side for a mo­ment, the Sport is a sen­si­ble choice for a fam­ily ve­hi­cle. Lug­gage space is re­spectable (488 litres–1 478 litres) and build qual­ity is good.

CON­CLU­SION

Stan­ley An­der­son’s hunch that there would be a mar­ket for a sporty Tuc­son has been proven cor­rect. Since go­ing on sale, the Tuc­son Sport has been sell­ing well. In fact, it’s done so well that Hyundai South Africa has re­leased a sim­i­lar ver­sion of the AWD Elite Tuc­son.

Is the Sport as well bal­anced as the stan­dard Ex­ec­u­tive? No, it’s not. How­ever, the Tuc­son Sport of­fers de­cent per­for­mance and great looks at a com­pet­i­tive price, and it does so with­out ru­in­ing a win­ning recipe com­pletely. At times, it feels as if the Sport is be­ing pushed slightly be­yond its lim­its, but never to the point where it feels an­noy­ing or frus­trat­ing. For those look­ing for a mid-level SUV that adds a good dol­lop of fun to a sen­si­ble pack­age, the Sport could be a tempt­ing propo­si­tion. Add a seven-year/200 000km war­ranty, road­side as­sis­tance for five years or 150 000km, and a five-year/90 000km ser­vice plan, and it starts look­ing like a re­ally good deal in­deed. .

HYUNDAI TUC­SON 1.6 TGDI EX­EC­U­TIVE SPORT En­gine: 1.6-litre tur­bocharged petrol Max­i­mum power: 150kW Max­i­mum torque: 295Nm Trans­mis­sion: Six-speed man­ual 4x4 sys­tem: None (2WD) Lug­gage space: 488–1 478 litres Price: R499 900 Ser­vice plan: Five-year/90 000km ser­vice plan War­ranty: Seven-year/200 000km

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