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Tucson Sport brought back to life

29 July 2019

Hyundai South Africa recently introduced the new Tucson Sport locally.

Truth be told, we didn’t really understand the previous model, but in a world currently obsessed with performance SUVs, it does make more sense. And since the previous edition of this particular model sold more than 500 units, Hyundai was definitely on to something.

It’s not the most blistering SUV we’ve ever encountered, but it is a more entertaining proposition than the standard car. In fact, it might even be the most usable “performance” SUV out there as one can exploit its potential more than in a car with 400kW plus.

In other word, one can push the Sport to eight tenths regularly without proceeding straight to jail. A quick jaunt at Gerotek’s dynamic handling track was enough to convince us that the Tucson Sport doesn’t bite when you push it too far, even though it’s available exclusively in front-wheel drive. It’s not the most dynamic of machines, but a grand total of zero owners will ever drive it the way we drove it around those tricky collection of twisties.

Then again, it’s not about that, really. It’s about the feel-good factor, which the Hyundai has in spades.

Most of what makes a performance car so special is present and accounted for in the Sport – aggressive styling, a few special interior touches, a turbocharged engine and a louder exhaust note. All of these things should come together to offer a driving experience that might persuade its driver to take the long way home every single day.

This time around, Hyundai is making the idea of owning a Sport even more attractive by offering a diesel derivative. It’s not as entertaining or aggressive as the turbocharged petrol, but its healthy increase in torque over the petrol may just be enough to convince the average customer to rather go that way. Having nearly 460Nm on tap certainly helps when you want to overtake a truck, which is a scenario the average driver is more likely to encounter than a series of sweeping corners.

The petrol is a sweet engine – 1600cc, turbocharged and chipped to produce 150kW and 300Nm of torque. It’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 2.0-litre diesel matches the petrol’ 150kW and adds an additional 160Nm to the package. Oddly, this unit uses the newer eight-speed automatic transmission.

The rest of the package is still standard Tucson, in Elite specification. This means you get everything as standard, with no boxes left to check on the options list. The quality is superb and the cabin is well insulated from exterior noises. Having said that, the exhaust upgrade had led to a constant droning at highway speeds. We don’t mind it as much, as it’s easily drowned out by some light music.

Hyundai has also increased the warranty on its vehicles to seven years/200 000km. Considering that the average customer tends to hang on to his vehicle for longer, this is a big selling point. A five-year/90 000km service plan is also included as standard.

The only real controversy here is the asking price. At R654 900 for the petrol and R664 900 for the diesel, the pricing seems a tad steep.

A quick glance at our Buyers Guide provides some context. There’s a serious lack of performance SUVs in this price bracket, with the only real contenders being the Ford Kuga ST-Line, which offers 177kW, 340Nm of torque and all-wheel drive for a R100 000 less. A Volkswagen Tiguan with a Golf GTI engine and all-wheel drive retails for around R70 000 less…

Hyundai keeps on churning out great cars and the Tucson Sport is another fine example. It rightfully deserves to charge a premium for its products, because they are exactly that – premium.

It must just take care not to price its products right out of reach of the market, especially with such strong rivals.