Not long ago it would have
been laughable to think Hyundai Australia would offer a line-up of three SUVs. Well, the recent
introduction of the V6 Tucson not only adds strength to the Hyundai line-up, it’s
also a damn good vehicle.
If there was ever a machine
that proves Hyundai’s maturity as a car manufacturer, this is it.
In the basic functions of a
vehicle – its accommodation, ease of use, comfort and on-road feel – the Tucson
is extremely impressive. You could almost slap another brand name on it and
charge 10 grand more – almost...
During our week behind the
wheel, we were always impressed by the refinement and effortless grunt of
Hyundai’s DOHC, 24 valve, 2.7 litre V6 (which is shared with the heavier Sante
Fe). At light-to-moderate throttle applications, the Tucson whisks you ahead of
traffic with a pleasant hum from under the bonnet. And this is how we’ll
remember the Tucson – for 90 percent of driving, it’s effortless and
But what about the other 10
percent, you ask?
Well, when you want the Tucson to really get up and go, it fails to deliver the goods you expect given its part-throttle grunt. The problem is weight - at 1627kg, the Tucson Elite is almost 200kg heavier than the comparable Nissan X-Trail. With 129kW at 6000 rpm and 241Nm at 4000 rpm, the Tusie struggles to accelerate to 100 km/h in the low 12s. Hyundai claims 10.5 seconds 0 - 100. Note that the engine's refinement also deteriorates when you're pushing it - it becomes quite loud at high revs.
Interestingly, the Tucson’s
2.7 litre V6 comes tied to only a 4 speed auto transmission – there’s no manual
cog box available. On the upside, the trans features an easy to use sequential
shifter which lets you use the engine’s torque and compression-braking as
required. When left in Drive mode, the trans is generally well calibrated but
we’d like it to kick-down more readily.
With an engine compression
ratio of 10.0:1, the Tucson is happy to drink normal unleaded fuel without signs
of detonation. Hyundai claims 11.0 litres per 100km consumption as the average
for ADR 81/01, but we achieved around 13 litres per 100 over a mix of driving
conditions – including a bit of dirty stuff. It’s not wonderfully economical, but
that’s no surprise given its weight.
The Tucson’s AWD system is
an electronically-controlled job similar to the Nissan X-Trail’s.
In normal driving, up to
100 percent of torque is apportioned to the front wheels. However, as road
conditions or torque demand changes, the system sends up to 50 percent of torque
to the Torsen-coupled rear wheels. The system incorporates an electro-mechanical
multi-clutch and monitors throttle position, front wheel angle and slippage.
The Tucson also has an
on-demand centre diff lock, which locks the driveline split at 50:50
front-to-rear. This is ideal for boggy mud and snow. The 50:50 lock then
progressively reverts to active AWD as ground speed increases. The Tucson’s
traction control button can also be used to deactivate the system in conditions
where it’s beneficial to have some wheelspin.
But don’t for a minute
think that the Tucson will follow in the tracks of a LandCruiser or Patrol. It
has no under-body protection, its Bridgestone Turanza tyres aren’t suited to
sand or mud and there’s no low-range gearing. The Tucson is designed as a
soft-roader for occasional ventures off the bitumen – and in that role we found
it very accomplished.
On the bitumen the Tucson
bounds along without tyre rumble or vibration and without the awkward ride
characteristics associated with a vehicle having heavy axles, suspension, wheels
and tyres. MacPherson struts are used at the front and a multi-link rear is
employed – note that Australian-delivered Tucsons are equipped with a sporty
suspension setting developed for European markets. The damping is noticeably
firm in urban conditions but the springing is soft enough to prove adequate
In normal driving the
Tucson behaves well. Push it fast through a corner with some dirt spread over
the apex and the electronic AWD system quickly sends torque to the rear wheels
as you apply throttle: this helps maintain stability and traction. However,
enter a tight corner with too much speed and the AWD system won’t save you – the
Turanzas wail and there’s considerable understeer. It might not be ‘sporty’
handling but it is safe and predictable.
Hyundai’s power assisted
steering offers good feel and response and is ideally suited for the
application. The relatively modest exterior dimensions also make the Tucson easy
Braking performance is
strong thanks to the four large diameter discs teamed with ABS and EBD. Note,
however, the pads don’t offer great bite when cold and there’s no brake assist.
The Tucson is a nicely
sized vehicle for anyone wanting enough carrying capacity for a weekend away
without the manoeuvrability hassles of a more serious machine. If you want
something bigger you can buy a Santa Fe or Terracan.
The cabin offers ample
space for front occupants and rear passengers get generous knee, foot and head
room. Rear elbow space is limited by the doors’ armrests and, as a result, the
Tucson is best suited as a 4 seater – it’s not a comfortable 5 seater. Entry and
exit is easy thanks to the ‘step in’ seat height and wide-opening doors.
The rear cargo area is
generous considering the Tucson’s relatively short body. There are absolutely no
problems fitting the family’s weekly shopping in the rear and, if you like, you
can utilise the flip-out shopping bag hooks (rated at 3.0kg each). An elastic
net, tie-down loops, 12V power outlet and a cargo cover can also be found in the
rear. A full-size alloy spare wheel is easily accessible beneath the cargo
floor. Another attractive feature is the hinged rear window that can be lifted
separately to the tailgate.
The Tucson’s 60/40 split
backrest can be tipped forward in a clever single action - the backrest folds
forward and the lower cushion lowers to provide a near-level continuation of the
cargo area floor. With the rear backrests folded forward, Hyundai claims there’s
enough space to throw in a 26 inch mountain bike. Note that the front passenger
seat’s backrest can also be tipped forward so it’s almost horizontal – this
increases the load length to a maximum of 2.7 metres (measured diagonally from
the right-side corner of the cargo area). Impressive stuff – great for carrying
a long surfboard or fishing rods.
In Elite-spec, the Tucson
offers a great standard features list. You get power windows, a MP3-compatible
sound system with front tweeters, cruise control, leather steering wheel and
gear knob, trip computer, map lights, automatic headlights, brushed-look
highlights and upmarket trim. An electric tilt/slide glass sunroof is also
standard on the Elite; this gives a very pleasant ambience, but aerodynamic
noise is noticeable when the roof is open. Some of this noise seems to come from
the chunky roof rails.
Note that the Tucson Elite
is also packed with a total of six airbags. All five seating positions also have
adjustable height head restraints and the centre rear retractable lap/sash belt hangs down
from the ceiling.
Soft-roaders are all about
creating an image and the Tucson Elite cuts a striking appearance. It’s a funky
looking vehicle with short overhangs and chunky proportions – it’s distinctive
without being ‘out there’. A mini aerial on the roof, dual chrome exhaust tips,
roof rails and side cladding comes standard on all Tucson models while the Elite
boasts fog lights and unique 16 inch alloy wheels. The AUD$710 dearer Tucson
Elite S comes with colour-coded bumpers and side cladding.
Paint and panel fitment is
to a high standard and there are only a couple of quality gripes – the interior
door grips are very plasticy, the dual-height console lid feels flimsy and there
are some small screws in the front door frames that are noticeable every time
you step in or out. But, overall, the Tucson is pretty bullet-proof so long as
you don’t take to too far off the bitumen – it’s backed by an excellent 5
One thing is 100 percent
certain - you can’t complain about anything considering the amount of vehicle
you get for the money.
And exactly how much money
are we talking? Well, with its standard V6, six airbags and comprehensive
features list the Tucson Elite enters the market at a very competitive
AUD$32,490. Its nearest competitor – the Nissan X-Trail Ti auto - checks in at
AUD$5500 dearer. The comparable Mitsubishi Outlander is around 4 – 5 grand
If value is your thing –
and you don’t necessarily want to make any trade-offs – the Tucson Elite is
Tucson Elite was provided for this test by Hyundai Australia. www.hyundai.com.au