The rise of Hyundai as a global automotive superpower has been picking up pace of late, with especially the Getz compact hatchback proving extremely popular in South Africa and elsewhere.
With its latest arrival, the Tucson compact SUV, this Korean brand may just have hit the jackpot once again. It is predicted that the market for compact, predominately on-road SUVs will grow considerably in the next few years, and Hyundai is one of the first to capitalise on this trend, as the Tucson packs a lot of style, spec and space into its very attractive price tag. But is it any good?
Classy looksMuch of this segment’s popularity is based on the fact that customers want the macho SUV look. In that regard the Hyundai Tucson 2.7 V6 does not disappoint. It features crisp, clean-cut styling with just a hint of masculinity, as well as all the expected SUV design traits, such as good ground clearance (195 mm), black lower body cladding, flared wheelarches, fog lamps and roof rails. It’s a handsome vehicle, and unlikely to date fast.
Its compact dimensions, however, is quite a surprise. At 4 325 mm in length it is a fair bit smaller than a vehicle such as the Mitsubishi Outlander or Subaru Forester. But the Tucson does have a reasonably long wheelbase. Consequently, Hyundai has managed to pack quite a lot of space between the two axles, and passenger space is impressive, front and rear.
The only place where the smaller body really has a negative impact, is in boot space, which is significantly less than some rivals. Should you need more packing space, the good news is that the rear seats fold completely flat, as does the front passenger seat. Telling you all you need to know about the Tucson’s off-road intentions is the fact that it only has a space-saver spare wheel.
Lots of kitAs has come to be expected of Hyundai, the Tucson offers a lot of features as standard, some of which are unheard of at this price level. Save for the expected electric windows/mirrors and so forth, this Hyundai also boasts an electric sunroof, climate control, leather upholstery and cruise control! Even the safety package is pretty decent, with dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and traction control all included in the price.
So, what’s the catch? It has to be said that the Hyundai Tucson 2.7 V6 can’t quite match the perceived interior quality of, for example, a Forester. The plastics are mostly grey, and mostly of the hard and shiny variety. Also, there isn’t a great deal of adjustment on offer from the steering wheel and driver’s seat, so a comfortable driving position may not be easily attainable for all.
Unimpressive drivetrainOn paper, the Tucson 2.7 V6 sounds like a steal at the price, at least partly because it boasts a large-capacity V6 combined with all-wheel drive. The claimed figures look healthy, too, with 129 kW being available at 6 000 rpm and 241 Nm of torque on tap from 4 000 rpm. Unfortunately, the Tucson V6 never feels as lively as these figures would suggest it should be. There are three reasons for this.
Firstly, the Tucson, compact dimensions notwithstanding, is quite heavy at around 1.7 tonnes. Secondly, the engine is mated to a rather lethargic four-speed automatic. And lastly, there’s also an active – but power-sapping – all-wheel drive system to contend with…
As a result of all of the above, the Tucson is not particularly impressive against the stopwatch, even though the initial throttle response when pulling away suggests otherwise. The transmission is rather witless, shifting up and down at inopportune times in a seemingly never-ending hunt for power.
There is a manual-shift function, of course, but that rather defeats the point of having an automatic in the first place… The transmission undoubtedly also contributes to the high fuel consumption – 12.3 litres/100 km is a realistic figure
Surprisingly, given current trends, the Tucson 2.7 V6 features an active all-wheel drive system. Market analysis shows that all-wheel drive is hardly a priority in this segment, so Hyundai’s decision to include it on a vehicle that is clearly mostly aimed at urban use is rather baffling.
The system generally runs in nearly 100 % front-wheel drive mode, but will shift up to 50 % of the power to the rear if necessary. You can also manually select four-wheel drive, but as soon as the speed rises over 40 km/h it switches back to automatic all-wheel drive. So, clearly, the Tucson is a serious off-roader, and the all-wheel drive traction is really just there for slippery surfaces.
On the road, the Tucson is largely impressive, even though the ride is surprisingly firm and seemingly very sensitive to tyre pressures. The firmness does result in reasonable body control in the corners, however, and the overall stability is good. The steering is very light, and almost completely devoid of feel. On gravel roads the Tucson is not quite as impressive, and can feel quite skittish.
VerdictFor the money, the Hyundai Tucson 2.7 V6 really offers a lot, including a maintenance plan. It’s a vehicle that should do well in South Africa, where crossovers of similar type offered at the same price generally can’t match the Tucson’s specification and design appeal. But the Tucson is not without its flaws – the engine is powerful but thirsty, and the transmission comes close to spoiling an otherwise fine package. A diesel engine coupled with an automatic transmission would really suit this vehicle.
Value for money
Decent on-road dynamics
We don’t like:
Hunting four-speed auto
Engine: 2.7-litre, V6, petrol
Power: 129 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 241 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
Transmission: four-speed automatic
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Top speed: 197 km/h
0-100 km/h: 13.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 12.3 litres/100 km
Essentially the same car under the skin, but looks significantly different inside and out. The Sportage is slightly cheaper and also offers a longer maintenance plan.
Not nearly as stylish and therefore lacks yuppie appeal, but it’s a very solid car and extremely comfortable. Ride comfort is simply superb and it beats the others in terms of performance.
Certainly no longer a new kid on the block, but the CR-V continues to impress as a reliable, capable and superbly comfortable all-rounder. Could be the best of all for long-term ownership.