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Long term update: Hyundai Tucson

22 August 2016

Tucson’s triumphant return

A new Hyundai Tucson joins our fleet this month. It’s the range-topping 1.6 Turbo Elite AWD Auto model – and so far it’s ticking a lot of “right” boxes.

The first Hyundai Tucson was a game changer for Hyundai in South Africa. Up until its launch more than a decade ago, people bought Hyundais because they were cheap. Then the Tucson was launched and it, too, was cheap, but it also happened to be rather good at being a mid-size SUV. As a result, Hyundai found favour with the locals and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now there’s a new Tucson, which follows in the footsteps of the ix35, which replaced the initial Tucson. We don’t know the reason behind the odd name change in the middle, but hey, name changing seems to be all the rage these days. For reference, look no further than Mercedes’ model line-up. What we’re more interested in is the price, because it’s no longer cheap. We looked at early issues of the magazine and back in 2007 a top-of-the-line 2.7-litre V6 petrol all-wheel-drive Tucson cost  R265 000. The all-new top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive Tucson, fitted with a 1.6-litre engine, costs R500 000. That’s almost double what it was 10 years ago and this little factoid raised quite a few eyebrows in the office. What happened to that cheap thing Hyundai had going on for so many years? Sure, it moved more upmarket since the dreadful Atos, but keen pricing had always been synonymous with South Korean cars.

It gets even worse when you start comparing its price against similar models from other manufacturers. The Ford Kuga is more expensive, as is the Volkswagen Tiguan, but the rest are all cheaper – Rav4, Suzuki Vitara, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai. And that’s only about half the list of similarly sized petrol competitors… It seems the tough economic climate has hit Hyundai rather hard, but, oddly, this hasn’t resulted in poor sales figures. Hyundai doesn’t post its sales figures, but we happen to know that the new Tucson is selling exceptionally well. As in a Toyota-and-Ford-should-be-worried kind of way and after a month behind the wheel of the latest long-termer to grace our garage, we know exactly why.

We agree that the price presents a small perception problem, but only to those who haven’t bothered getting behind the wheel of the new Tucson. You need only one kilometre to understand why it costs R500k. There isn’t another SUV in its class that does premium quite as well as the new Tucson. In terms of looks, we reckon Hyundai hit the nail on the head. The whole office is unanimous in its verdict that the Tucson looks spectacular, which means we’re moving right along to the stuff that really matters. That 1.6-litre mentioned previously is actually more powerful than the first-generation V6 petrol engine. This four-cylinder mule is turbocharged and delivers 130kW and 265Nm of torque. The top-spec all-wheel drive is available only with Hyundai’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

With regard to the power-train, there are only two glitches. The engine has a thirst equivalent to that of a first-year university student, but Hyundai warned us that it would be a little thirsty at first. At the time of going to print, fuel consumption figures were already dropping below 10, which we’ll deem acceptable. The second problem is gearbox related. It shifts from first into second, just as the turbo starts girding its loins. This leads to a rather pap second gear, but you can get around this problem by pressing the Sport mode button, which will hold onto any given gear ratio for as long as possible. In all honesty, it’s annoying at first, but you soon grow accustomed to the sloppy shift from first to second. The rest of the way through the dual-clutch transmission is as fast and smooth as VW’s famous DSG ‘box.

We’ve been taking it easy during the initial running-in phase, but we can report that the Tucson feels planted both on- and off-road. Our usual commute includes a bit of gravel and the car handled it with ease. The manually selectable ‘Lock Mode’, which splits the torque evenly between the front and rear axles at speeds below 40km/h, remains untouched. We will be exploring the Hyundai’s off-road ability more extensively in the future. At this point in time, we’re more qualified to comment on how it copes with mundane daily driving activities and within this context, its price starts to make a lot more sense.

On a daily basis, few things are more important than comfort, refinement and luxury and the Tucson delivers all of those things in massive lumps. To give you some idea of how refined it is, we happened to have a BMW X1 on test just as the Tucson arrived and guess which one delivered a more relaxing driving experience. We’d even go as far as stating that the Tucson can go head-to-head with German machines twice its price in terms of NVH levels. It’s so quiet that it’s impossible to tell whether it’s switched on or off when stationary. The only indication is the rev needle.

This makes it a lovely thing to live with. It comforts and cossets you after a long day and it stands in the driveway looking elegant and desirable afterwards. It’s one of those cars that reminds you that your life didn’t turn out so bad after all. Well, much better than the guy next to you driving home in a rental spec Datsun.The price may seem steep, but the new Tucson sells itself from behind the wheel and not from its specification sheet. To drive it is to understand why it retails for half a mill.

Distance received/now 13km/1 360km
Distance completed 1 347km
Average fuel consumption 9.3l/100km
Selling price now R499 900
Hire purchase per month R10 535
Service plan Five-year/90 000km
Why we have it To see if it’s worthy of that price tag
Driven by Jannie Herbst

> Powerful turbo engine
> Interior refinement is superb
>Loads of standard features
> It looks stunning
Not so lekker
> Fuel consumption is on the high side
> Gearbox struggles in certain situations