25 November 2016
Review: Hyundai Tucson
The current Tucson has been around for about a year now, and I had the chance recently to give it another run. An opportunity to see some of why it might be the success that it is.
You've got to hand it to the Korean carmakers. They've gone the extra yard and more to give themselves the edge, to reach the top echelons of the global car industry. They set a plan, and followed it diligently. And now they are where they are. Which as I write is in fifth place and fighting Nissan tooth and nail to take fourth from the Japanese maker.
How has Hyundai done this? Well, by using style, quality, and good engineering to shift from the budget car space to, arguably, beyond the median of mainstream. (And let’s not forget Kia while writing this — Hyundai’s companion brand using the same platforms and technologies in its own distinctive styles.)
Tucson is a good representation of this shift in its own right. Its first version in 2004 was an inoffensive-looking, even plain, compact SUV that had shortcomings in space and certainly didn’t stand out in the technology stakes. But it did the job it promised, which wasn’t onerous. Then came the second generation, which we knew as ix35 in Europe, a much more aggressive-looking and significantly more comfortable vehicle taking advantage of the growing shift from MPVs like Opel’s Zafira to crossover-SUVs. It also offered a much more European context to the SUV as something to style about.
The new generation launched here last autumn is where we’re at now. This is the heavily-sculpted flowing style which Hyundai carved out across its range and made all of its cars clearly definable (though in some of its recently renewed models, there’s yet another shift in progress, a more conservative look).
It looks bigger than it is, because of that large grille, first deployed on the larger Santa Fe. And for a time it took a second look to decide which of the two vehicles it was. From any angle it’s a smart looker, a car which most owners will be happy to wash in the driveways every week, to show it off at its best.
Inside, though, there’s plenty of passenger space and comfort, as well as a good capacity for cargo carrying. The finish is to the level we like in Europe, high quality plastics, clear instrumentation with details in Hyundai’s trade-mark blue tint. Still a happy reliance on switches and buttons rather than putting too much on the central screen.
There are a choice of engines, including a 1.6 petrol that’s state of the current art. The prime one, though, in Ireland is the 1.7 diesel, and there’s an option of a 2.0 diesel for the AWD versions, which also offer automatic transmissions. Three grades give a wide spread of specification, and of price.
The Tucson of today is a much more refined car than how the model started out, and as I said, that reflects the whole brand value too, as is evidenced by the level of advertising their pouring into it in Ireland on TV especially. So there’s nobody buying Tucsons to get a bargain car, but because somehow, they have made it an aspirational one. Is part of it because it looks big, I wonder, in an improving economy where people can do that stuff again?
My recent re-connection with the car reminded me of its new place in the automotive world in an Ireland growing again. A car from the original ‘tiger’ economy for the one that once had the same soubriquet in a Celtic perspective. Just let’s not lose the run of ourselves again.
From €26,245 … and if you don’t want to bother with my last piece of advice, you can buy all the way up to €42,995.