How many times have you seen it? Waxed
and detailed small/medium 4WDs jammed bumper-to-bumper in peak-hour traffic;
their off-road excursions limited to parking on the owner’s front lawn... It’s
easy to be sceptical about these ‘urban trucksters’ but the new Hyundai Tucson
City is here to apply some logic to this otherwise insane automotive trend.
The Tucson City is essentially the same as the
conventional Tucson AWD (see Hyundai Tucson Elite Test)
but there’s a major difference in the driveline, weight and price. The
appropriately named Tucson City is powered by a relatively small 2-litre
four-cylinder and channels drive to only the front wheels. This might seem like
a massive downgrade from the AWD V6 model but with reduced drivetrain losses and
a 158kg weight saving, it’s perfectly competent when operating in a city/urban
environment. Factor in a considerable AUD$4000 price advantage along with
reduced fuel consumption and buyers will really need to think whether
they need AWD for adventures or merely acceptance.
Hyundai raided its parts bin for the
Tucson City’s engine. The 2-litre four-cylinder (shared with the Elantra)
employs DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder breathing, variable inlet cam timing and a
10:1 compression ratio. Tuned to deliver 104kW at 6000 rpm and 184Nm at 4500 rpm
(using 91 RON unleaded), the 2-litre heart does an admirable job in the 1467kg
Tuscon City – it’s responsive, relatively torquey and is rarely left wheezing
behind at the traffic lights. But it’s obvious the engine is working pretty hard
- it’s nowhere as effortless as the V6 model and in-cabin noise is considerable.
The performance of the 2-litre engine
is harnessed by a standard four-speed auto transmission. The trans does a good
job adapting to your driving style and the sequential shift system works
seamlessly but, when left in Drive, it tends to shift into top gear
prematurely. This causes a drone inside the cabin and you need to force it to
kick down a gear to maintain speed up any incline. Note that our test vehicle
had only around 3000km on it, so the engine may become slightly gruntier over a
The Tucson City’s respectable urban performance is
confirmed by its better-than-expected 0 – 100 km/h time. With some stall applied
off the line, we recorded high 12 seconds for the sprint - less than a second
slower than we recorded in the beefy V6... Unfortunately, hilly terrain and heavy
loads cause some stress. In these conditions, the trans is busy hunting for
the most appropriate gear and, ultimately, there’s not enough power. If you
genuinely intend to load ‘er up and go places, the V6 model will do it better –
but that’s only if...
Of course, the big upshot of the City’s
reduced weight, smaller engine and simpler driveline is greater fuel efficiency.
We struggled to better 13 litres per 100km in the V6 AWD, but little brother has
no problem returning consumption around 11 litres per 100km. That’s an
improvement of around 15 – 20 percent. Not surprisingly, Hyundai gives the City
a smaller fuel tank compared to the V6 – 58-litres versus 65-litres.
The conventional Tucson largely manages
to avoid the awkward, juddering ride often associated with SUVs and, with the
absence of a rear drive system and a lighter rear sub-frame, the City version
rides even more like a sedan/wagon. It’s compliant and there’s plenty of travel
but there is more roll and pitch than a conventional vehicle. Inevitably, the
high centre of gravity and ‘all purpose’ 215/65 tyres mean the Tucson City
doesn’t have the dynamics of a normal car – something that’s important for
buyers to keep in mind. The power assisted rack and pinion steering is
responsive and well weighted but precision falls away when you start pushing the
limits. Understeer is the Tucson’s natural handling tendency and no amount of
mid-corner throttle lift will induce oversteer. Traction control comes standard
though it rarely intervenes on dry bitumen unless you provoke it. The City
employs smaller rear discs compared to the heavier AWD but braking performance
is up to standard. ABS and EBD are fitted.
Despite its cut-price appeal, the
Tucson City’s cabin is identical to the dearer V6 AWD model. Standard equipment
includes dual airbags, cruise control, a MP3/WMA compatible single CD/tuner head
unit, leather steering wheel (which feels pretty cheap), slide-out sun visor
extensions and easy to use rotary HVAC controls. Stepping in/out of the elevated
cabin is relatively easy although shorter people may notice the absence of
A-pillar grab handles.
Front and rear occupant space is generous although
the armrests in the doors limit rear width, effectively making the Tucson a four
seater rather than a five seater (as quoted). With the rear seats upright, the
cargo area is large enough to accommodate most Monday-to-Friday loads. The load
area can be accessed by the lift-up tailgate or the hinged rear window and
you’ll find a retractable cargo blind, 12V power outlet and tie-down facilities.
If more space is required, the 60/40 split backrest can be folded forward – an
action which automatically lowers the bottom cushion to achieve a near-perfectly
flat expanded load area.
Perhaps most importantly, the Tucson
City looks almost identical to its AWD stablemate and similar to other AWDs on
the market. You get the same elevated stance, 16 inch alloys, front and rear fog
lights, roof rails and ‘bee sting’ aerial. The only thing missing are the AWD
model’s lower body cladding, wheel arch mouldings and dual outlet exhaust.
At AUD$26,990, the Tucson City isn’t a
huge bargain (we’d like to see it under AUD$25,000) but it is more than ten
percent cheaper than the V6 AWD. You get the same social status (so long as you
don’t mention anything about the driveline!), commanding driving position and
generous interior space - but, in addition to up-front purchase saving, you
enjoy significantly better fuel consumption. Anyone wanting to enter the urban
AWD scene should really stop and think about this one.
The Tucson City was provided for this test by
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