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A mis­sive to Hyundai on how to make a fine SUV bril­liant

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ASH WESTER­MAN

EAVES­DROP on a typ­i­cal pub con­ver­sa­tion, es­pe­cially around elec­tion time, and it’s clear just how easy it must be to do some­one else’s job. Run­ning the coun­try? Pah, nothin’ to it; just ask any schooner-swill­ing scholar of the West­min­ster sys­tem.

I fig­ured the same may be true for au­to­mo­tive prod­uct plan­ning and model de­vel­op­ment. I have zero ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for a car com­pany so I’ve no idea of the con­straints that these peo­ple must work within. There­fore, of course, I could do their job. I’m prob­a­bly overqual­i­fied.

So as the Tuc­son leaves the Wheels garage, and I re­flect on the largely pos­i­tive own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence over the last six months, I thought I’d of­fer some friendly pro­duct­plan­ning ad­vice to Hyundai re­gard­ing what could be im­proved with the facelift.

My first mis­sive would be to tell the styling depart­ment to put down the crayons and step away from the clay model. The ex­te­rior de­sign is ex­cel­lent and there’s no rea­son to waste money mess­ing with it. Okay, con­sider up­grad­ing the rear lights to LEDS, and maybe a dis­creet Se­ries II badge, but that’s it. I’d say buck con­ven­tional wis­dom; bin the plans for new bumpers and wheel de­signs, and spend the money on things cus­tomers are ac­tu­ally go­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate, like an in­te­rior up­grade and plump­ing up the stan­dard equip­ment.

Let’s start with trim. The hard dash plas­tics and bud­get-look­ing door-trims need to go. Let’s have some more pre­mium ma­te­ri­als, ex­tra pad­ding, nice de­tail stitch­ing and some flashes of alu­minium in­stead. Line the doorbins to stop stuff rat­tling (hell, VW man­age it in a base-model Golf). And add a proper pair of match­ing LED lights for the cargo com­part­ment, not the ex­ist­ing dim lit­tle bulb that’s less bright than Bob Kat­ter af­ter a B&S ball.

While we’re back there in the cargo com­part­ment, can I sug­gest ad­ding re­mote re­leases for the rear seats? That’s the log­i­cal place for them, not on ei­ther side of the seats them­selves, which make you move from one side of the car to the other just to pre­pare for a load.

Now, let’s sort the in­fo­tain­ment. Get some­one to spend time in a top-spec Subaru Forester XT Pre­mium and lis­ten to its Har­man Kar­don sound sys­tem; that’s the bench­mark for this class. High­lander needs a de­cent cen­tre chan­nel, a sub­woofer and a se­ri­ous am­pli­fi­ca­tion up­grade. And bet­ter speak­ers all round, es­pe­cially in the back, where they sound like they were pulled out of a Tai­wanese tele­phone. A DAB ra­dio tuner is also surely manda­tory for High­lander spec. And how about lob­bing in a head-up dis­play? The cheap­est car in Oz with this fea­ture is the Mazda 2 Genki, so cost ex­cuses are run­ning thin.

Keep the steer­ing wheel; it’s sized right and the au­dio and cruise con­trols fall per­fectly to each thumb, but could it be trimmed in some­thing a lit­tle more tac­tile, please, rather than vinyl?

Now let’s whip up a job sheet for the en­gi­neer­ing team. Top of the list: more NVH sup­pres­sion for the diesel. I know it’s not bad, but it’s still way louder and more vibey than the Tuc­son turbo-petrol, and com­peti­tors like the CX-5 have closed this gap by a much greater mar­gin. So con­sider ad­dress­ing clat­ter, im­prov­ing the en­gine mounts, and ad­ding more fire­wall and un­der-bon­net sound­dead­en­ing.

Fi­nally, the steer­ing; a clear case of ‘rea­son­able, but could do bet­ter’. For my taste it’s a bit springy ei­ther side of cen­tre, and at 2.7 turns it could be a lit­tle quicker. It would be ideal if it was bench­marked against the Ford Kuga and de­liv­ered that lovely, slick, well-damped yet re­spon­sive feel.

Okay, I sus­pect that some of these sug­ges­tions may be a case of eas­ier said than done (hey, I’m an im­poster, not a re­al­ist), but even if only some made it to the up­dated model, Tuc­son would make the step from ex­cel­lent to out­stand­ing.

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