Let’s do some word association. When you see or hear “Hyundai”, does your brain automatically think of the (let’s be diplomatic) underwhelming Excel? Look, mine does too, and it’s incredibly unfair. But since the end of the Excel in 2000, this incredible Korean manufacturer has come a long way in both quality and reputation.
Over the past 16 years, Hyundai is now the fourth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world behind GM, Toyota and Volkswagen. The company has hired some of the automotive world's brightest technology and design minds - including the designer behind the BMW 3 and 6 series - and the perception of the Hyundai brand has been transformed.
Hyundai has created a gem of a mid-sized SUV with the new Tucson. I’m going to spoil the ending of this article here and let you know that the Tucson (pronounced too-son) is an absolute stand out in not only its class, but in general.
The Tucson range comes in six delicious flavours ranging from the 2.0-Lt Active throughout to the incredibly impressive 2.0Lt Highlander. Both the entry-level Active and top shelf Highlander come with a 2.0Lt engine, but these two 2-litre engines are far from the same.
In fact, the Tucson range features four different engine and drivetrain options. The 114kW/192Nm 2.0Lt MPi petrol engine in the Active also powers the 6-speed auto Elite while the Active is available in both 6-speed manual and 6-speed auto.
A 121kW/203Nm 2.0Lt GDi petrol engine, again available with both 6-speed auto and manual, looks after the Active X editions. The same 130kW/265Nm 1.6Lt T-GDi from the Veloster SR Turbo, this time mated to a slightly more sensible 7-speed DCT auto, has the hauling duties for the Elite AWD and Highlander AWD and if you’d prefer to go diesel, a 136kW/400Nm 2.0Lt CRDi unit will power the Elite and Highlander through a 6-speed auto again through all four wheels.
If you’re looking at the massively competitive mid-sized SUV market, the Tucson should be very high on your list.
Our test car was the flagship 2.0 CRDi Highlander with its very impressive 400Nm of torque, but while the engine was excellent it wasn’t the Tucson’s party piece. This accolade goes to the way it drives, and it’s incredible ride quality.
Hyundai has tuned the suspension for Australian conditions and what a job they've done. The Tucson is genuinely one of the best riding cars I’ve had the privilege of driving, at any price point. Controlled and confident yet smooth and comfortable enough to lull the kids to sleep.
The features list is extensive, especially on the Highlander. Outside, its already good looks are complemented by stylish 19” alloys, colour coded everything, chrome highlights and enough LED lights to make even the most elaborate Christmas tree jealous.
Inside the Tucson is a very nice place to be. The styling is almost European and the seating position and comfort, both for the front and back, is excellent. The front seats are both heated and air conditioned while all five seats are leather.
An 8” touchscreen infotainment system featuring satellite navigation, reversing camera, audio preferences and all the extras you’d expect is standard in the Highlander, while the Active and Active X get a 7” screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Storage, like the rest of the interior, is excellent with loads of hidey-holes and a 488-litre boot.
If you’re looking at the massively competitive mid-sized SUV market, the Tucson should be very high on your list. How a car company can go from making the Excel to the Tucson shows just how far Hyundai has come. It's an incredible success story.
For more information, visit Kloster Hyundai in Tudor Street, Hamilton.
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