Medium well done

Hyundai moves up to the mid-SUV class with its longer, wider and sportier ix35 re­place­ment

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Bush & Beach - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER [email protected]­

WE’RE ex­pect­ing a lot when the Hyundai Tuc­son ar­rives.

It looks like the best thing yet from the South Korean maker and per­haps it’s the mid-sized SUV that can fi­nally top­ple the Mazda CX-5 as best in class.

The price is pleas­ing, from $27,990, and the qual­ity and cabin space is a cut above the ix35 that it’s re­plac­ing. It also drives bet­ter than any pre­vi­ous SUV from Hyundai, in­clud­ing the latest seven-seater Santa Fe.

The Tuc­son ar­rives with a new name and badge on in­struc­tions from Korea, which wants global names for all its mod­els, and with a fresh ap­proach to the SUV chal­lenge.

For a start it’s longer and wider, which means more cabin space that’s recog­nised in a move up to the of­fi­cial “medium” SUV class in Aus­tralia. It’s also more sporty in the de­sign, although not a lot, as Hyundai hopes to win younger buy­ers to the brand.

But there are a cou­ple of things — you could call them cars — go­ing against the Tuc­son dur­ing its Tick time.

Ob­vi­ously, it must be mea­sured against the CX-5, but it also ar­rives just af­ter the Kia Sorento. And it’s the Sorento that now sets the Tick stan­dard for Korean ve­hi­cles, thanks to truly im­pres­sive de­sign and cabin fin­ish­ing, as well as a chas­sis that drives as well as any­thing in the class (and a lot of ve­hi­cles a cou­ple of classes higher).

So we’re look­ing at the ri­vals as much as the Tuc­son it­self, which means some hard plas­tics in the cabin and poor fit for the seat cov­er­ings stand out. It also misses some of the quiet­ness and gen­eral re­fine­ment of the Mazda.

The line-up starts with the front-drive 2.0-litre petrol Ac­tive model at $27,990. The Tick team is also spoiled by time with the top-spec High­lander, with all the fruit up to leather trim, al­loy wheels, sun­roof, power tailgate and auto emer­gency brak­ing.

The price is $43,490, in­clud­ing all-wheel drive, which is still good value in the class. But that’s also the price you have to pay for the top-line safety equip­ment, in­clud­ing AEB, rear cross-traf­fic alert and lane-keep as­sis­tance, which is not good.

It’s a fact peo­ple will not pay ex­tra for safety, which is why ev­ery com­pany should put as much safety gear as pos­si­ble into the base car. Still, the Tuc­son has very im­pres­sive sus­pen­sion and is a nice cruis­ing car. It easily takes the Tick ju­nior’s bikes and other toys over the week­end with­out too much cram­ming and is great for five on a fam­ily run.

It also stops well, there is a full-size al­loy spare, it’s quiet — and I even bet­ter the claimed econ­omy of 7.7L/100km with some coun­try run­ning. But why is the ser­vic­ing on the T-GDi petrol en­gine, even with tech­nol­ogy in­clud­ing di­rect fuel in­jec­tion, at an un­ac­cept­ably short six months/7500km?

But, and here Mrs Tick is talk­ing loud­est, there are ma­jor short­com­ings in the top-end petrol en­gine. Its out­puts are good — 130kW/265Nm — but there are no pad­dle-shifters to get the most out of the seven­speed DSG auto and she is an­noyed by the lack of lowspeed en­gine re­sponse, par­tic­u­larly on hills near home.

For me, the car of­ten gets caught in the wrong gear and it some­times takes a hefty prod on the throt­tle to get a re­sponse.

But I like the seats, the sun­roof and the safety kit. I can see a lot of peo­ple will be happy in a Tuc­son.

If the re­sponse to the Santa Fe is any guide, with about 60 per cent of buy­ers go­ing for the top-end model, the High­lander is also go­ing to be a fam­i­lies favourite and a money-maker.

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