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