Diesel Tuc­son holds its head up high among ri­vals

Hyundai’s ix35 re­place­ment pulls off the pre­mium soft­roader thing well

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - JA­SON WOOSEY

IT’S LIKE a comfy pair of slip­pers” we con­cluded af­ter spend­ing some time with the Hyundai ix35 1.7 CRDi two years back.

With that kind of her­itage, its Tuc­son suc­ces­sor would be just per­fect for the an­nual mad rush to the coast, I sur­mised as one mag­i­cally ap­peared in our base­ment at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber for an ex­tended hol­i­day-pe­riod test. Ok it didn’t mag­i­cally ap­pear, rather some Hyundai staff mem­bers dropped it off in the hope that we wouldn’t bother them for more test cars while they were sip­ping cock­tails on the beach, as we all should be at that time of the year.

As for the comfy slip­pers thing, I’m pleased to re­port that the new Tuc­son is all that and more. Let’s just say that they’ve added some ex­tra pad­ding and hired a trendy Euro­pean stylist (you might have heard of Peter Schreyer by now) to make it look so good that you’ll hap­pily go out in these slip­pers too.

Our sub­ject here is the new 1.7 CRDi de­riv­a­tive that was an­nounced late last year. An older ver­sion of this tur­bod­iesel was of­fered in the ix35, but the diesels did a brief dis­ap­pear­ing act when the Tuc­son range was launched ear­lier in 2016. This lat­est 1.7-litre oil burner boasts a lighter cylin­der block and im­proved 2000-bar high-pres­sure in­jec­tion sys­tem. Max­i­mum power re­mains the same at 85kW but there is 20Nm more twist­ing force, with 280Nm avail­able from as low down as 1250rpm.

Power goes to the front wheels via a very slick-shift­ing six-speed man­ual gear­box and the en­gine is at the so­phis­ti­cated end of the diesel spec­trum. It gets off the mark with no dis­cernible lag and puts its power down smoothly right through the rev range.

Per­for­mance is sprightly in town and the en­gine ticks over very qui­etly and unas­sum­ingly at cruis­ing speeds, but it does feel a lit­tle short of breath when faced with steeper hills, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a down­change or two. But it is at least im­pres­sively eco­nom­i­cal for a ve­hi­cle of its size and weight, sip­ping 5.8 litres per 100km on the 600km trip down to Dur­ban and then later re­turn­ing 7.5 l/100km around Joburg, in a mix­ture of ur­ban and free­way driv­ing.

But here’s the rub. The Tuc­son 1.7 CRDi Ex­ec­u­tive costs R439 900 and for the ex­act same price you could have the 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre tur­bopetrol ver­sion, which of­fers to­tally ef­fort­less per­for­mance but with an ob­vi­ous thirst penalty. Speed or econ­omy, then? It’ll prob­a­bly come down to how much petrol money you can put aside in your monthly bud­get, but if you opt for the diesel you can rest as­sured that it’s still a very sat­is­fy­ing all-rounder. Let’s not for­get that Hyundai also of­fers a 2-litre diesel, with 131kW and 400Nm and some ex­tra in­te­rior kit, but hav­ing the best of both worlds will mean stretch­ing your bud­get to R519 900.

As you can see, the Tuc­son is no longer from the bar­gain bin, but the SUV has come ex­tremely far from an en­gi­neer­ing per­spec­tive and can hold its head up high among any of its ri­vals. In fact, the Tuc­son is so su­perbly in­su­lated and rigidly en­gi­neered that you’ll feel like you’re be­hind the wheel of a truly pre­mium prod­uct. Its quiet­ness and rock-solid feel re­ally stood out for me.

This SUV rolls on an all-new, and rather top-notch chas­sis fea­tur­ing fully in­de­pen­dent multi-link rear sus­pen­sion and as a re­sult it rides very com­fort­ably and feels sure­footed around cor­ners, more so than you’d ex­pect from a high-rid­ing soft­roader like this.

Yet can it pull off the pre­mium in­te­rior act? One thing’s for sure, it is very solidly built and you’ll never ac­cuse it of look­ing cheap or nasty. They’ve even bathed big chunks of the dash­board in soft­touch slush-moulded plas­tic. It all looks rather smart and busi­nesslike, but ul­ti­mately lack­ing in charisma. The over­all at­mos­phere is just a litte grey and som­bre.

That said, the op­tional (as in R15 000 ex­tra) 20cm touch-screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with 3D nav­i­ga­tion and Mir­ror Link smart-phone in­te­gra­tion, did bring some high-tech am­bi­ence, and ex­tra func­tion­al­ity, to the cabin. Yet while the con­ven­tional Blue­tooth phone-pair­ing sys­tem worked rather pain­lessly, all of us had is­sues get­ting the ca­ble­based Mir­ror Link sys­tem to work ef­fec­tively.

The 1.7 TDCi is only of­fered with the mid-range Ex­ec­u­tive grade, but it is well ap­pointed, with stan­dard leather seats, dual zone cli­mate con­trol (in­clud­ing rear-seat ven­ti­la­tion) and cruise con­trol fit­ted as stan­dard, while those not opt­ing for the touch­screen still get a de­cent six-speaker sound sys­tem and Blue­tooth.

The Tuc­son is also com­fort­ably sized for fam­i­lies, with acres of rear legroom, re­clin­ing rear seats, am­ple head space and a 513-litre boot. VER­DICT Good look­ing and su­perbly en­gi­neered, the lat­est Tuc­son can count it­self among the very best in its class, and the new 1.7-litre diesel ver­sion is eco­nom­i­cal, re­fined and ad­e­quately-pow­ered for most sit­u­a­tions. It is pricier than some ri­vals though, al­beit still un­der­cut­ting the lat­est Tiguan by a de­cent mar­gin. TUC­SON VER­SUS ITS RI­VALS Hyundai Tuc­son 1.7 CRDi Exec 85kW/280Nm - R439 900 Nis­san X-Trail 1.6 dCi XE 96kW/320Nm - R408 900 Re­nault Kad­jar 1.5 Dy­namique 81kW/260Nm - R394 900 VW Tiguan 2.0 TDi Com­fort­line 81kW/250Nm - R469 500

Trendy Euro­pean styling works well in the seg­ment.

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