In a way we’re seeing cars go through a full circle. Once they were upright and square, then they got lower and sleeker but bigger. With the move to four-wheel drive off-road type vehicles, they got big and (again) square; now with cars like the Tucson City they’re back to being smaller and square – and without the four wheel drive.
All very confusing.
But what isn’t confusing is the fact that in the Hyundai Tucson City these market forces have resulted in a car with few trade-offs. It’s not big, heavy and thirsty; it doesn’t drive all four wheels in what is (largely) an unnecessary complexity in this segment; and it’s not expensive.
In fact, we were honestly hard pushed to find anything much wrong with the Tucson City. When we last tested it (see Hyundai Tucson City) it was equipped with an automatic gearbox that caused some problems, but in as-tested manual 5-speed form, the deficiencies of the auto car are largely addressed.
So enough of the prelude: what is a Tucson City? It’s front-drive version of the previously four-wheel drive Tucson – so explaining the ‘City’ tag – that uses a 2-litre, 104kW engine. The engine’s a willing design, smooth and relatively torquey. It works well with the manual 5-speed transmission, giving the 1536kg car decent response without ever being a powerhouse. Don’t expect to load the car to the max and then sprint up hills.....
The engine runs on base octane unleaded – and it doesn’t use much of it at all, with an official fuel consumption figure of just 8 litres/100km. Fuel consumption is one of the main advantages of picking the manual over the auto – the auto’s consumption figure is 15 per cent worse at 9.2 litres/100km. Tank size is 58 litres.
The ride quality of the front-wheel drive benefits from the reduced unsprung weight intrinsic in the lack of a rear wheel driveline – unlike most vehicles of this configuration, the ride is good. Suspension front and rear is by independent McPherson struts. The Kumho 215/65 tyres wrapped around 16 inch alloys provide adequate grip and the handling is competent without ever being inspiring. Understeer is dominant trait but the good throttle control that’s available allows the driver to dial-up the desired cornering attitude. A sharp throttle lift can also bring the tail out a little. However, when driven hard, some steering kickback can be felt.
Neither traction control nor stability control are fitted and airbags are limited to just a front pair.
Inside the cabin, the space is practical and well appointed. The rear load area is accessed by the lift-up rear window or by opening the full tail-gate, the latter rising to a good height. Inside you’ll find a retractable cargo blind, 12V power outlet and tie-down facilities. A full-size spare tyre on an alloy wheel is provided - something of a rarity these days. The 60/40 split backrest folds forward – an action which automatically lowers the bottom cushion to achieve a near-perfectly flat expanded load area. This is one vehicle of this body shape that actually does have good usable rear space. The rear seats’ recline angle can also be adjusted in five steps.
Access to the cabin is through wide-opening doors and once inside, the door pockets front and rear are large and usefully shaped.
The build quality of the test car looked excellent, with parallel and tight panel gaps and lustrous paint. The controls are simple to use, well labelled and have a quality feel. Typical of the well thought-through interior are sun visors with pull-out extensions, a drop-down sunglasses holder, height-adjustable centre console and driver’s seat with front/back height adjustment and variable lumbar support. However, the steering wheel uses leather with a slippery feel.
The manual transmission is light and user-friendly but the plastic panel above the pedals is a little too low and so drivers with big feet will tend to catch their toes on the plastic when changing gear.
We think the Hyundai City an effective, ‘honest’ car – what you see in the showroom is very much what you get on the road. Over the week we had the car it settled more and more firmly into a family favourite – there were no traits that became increasingly irritating and very few situations where it was found wanting.
For $24,990 with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, we think it’s a bargain.