Roomier SUV Option in Hyundai Tucson

By Lee Pang Seng

THE growing range of SUVs (sport utility vehicles) in the market gives the prospective buyer plenty to choose from. Brand loyalty plays a big role here although the younger customer is more inclined to vehicle looks and equipment that might befit his or her lifestyle. This is where the latest Hyundai Tucson is likely to score in the Malaysian market.

The new Tucson, however, has grown and that might change buyer demographics a little. Compared to the previous model that had a more compact and rounder profile, the current model is bigger and that means a roomier interior, which should curry greater favour with the family types who would value the additional space.
Its reach among Malaysian passenger vehicle buyers is quite good. As it were, more than 400 Tucsons had been sold for the first half of this year and with the festive discount of RM3000 in June, that number looks likely to grow further. In the US, the Tucson is hailed as the only small SUV (size is relative in this respect) to receive good ratings for driver and passenger protection in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Dimensionally, the new Tucson runs on a longer wheelbase of 2670mm (30mm longer) compared to the previous model. This has led to body that is longer at 4475mm (+76mm) and wider by 28mm at 1850mm, including door mirrors (1608mm, excluding). To complement the roomier passenger space is the luggage area that offers 20 per cent more room than the previous model. And the 60:40 folding rear seatrests would expand space a lot more for bigger items.

That adds up well for an average family with its five-seater interior. The Tucson we had a weekend with was the feature-laden Executive model that came with optional extras to bolster its appeal further. This is in the white nappa leather (RM1988) that gives the interior a pristine look but which would require higher maintenance to sustain the ambience. One could opt for the red leather option (RM1288) for a dashing and bolder aura.

The Tucson body also came with additional cladding at the lower body edges to add a beefier impression and this is available at an extra RM2000. Other than these two optional items, the Tucson was pretty much good to go in gaining appeal in its standard form. Hyundai designers might have gone for a more conventional body outline but the design elements continue to portray a young and lively feel that should gel with many, even the family types.

It’s the face that always captures attention and this is where Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design theme is put to good use. The signature hexagonal front grille takes wings through the  slim projector halogen headlamps with LED (light emitting diode) light guide that is underlined by a sturdy lower apron with daytime running lights (these items are standard only to the Executive model).

At 1655mm, it’s not too tall for one to get into, even for the ladies, but tall enough to give a commanding view when among the general traffic on the road. It also holds its own in sleekness with sweeping A-pillars guiding air flow to the rear roof spoiler. In that respect, the body aerodynamics is improved to a dynamic co-efficient (Cd) of 0.33; the previous Tucson’s Cd was 0.35.

Living with the Tucson Executive is made convenient and likeable with the array of standard equipment that it is endowed with. The keyless engine start-stop system is one; with the key fob in our pocket, the system picked up the signal as we approached the vehicle and the door mirrors folded out. We would still need to press the button on the door to open it and get in.
And once the engine is started, the electronic brake system would deactivate from Park the moment we engage Reverse or Drive.

For reversing, the rearview camera is definitely useful for even tight spots. It has colour guides that are practical and easy to follow, failing which you could use the door mirrors. We were comfortable with both and needed minimal corrections to reverse park the Tucson, which is saying a lot about a fairly big vehicle. The car hifi system automatically lowers the volume when Reverse is engaged, probably to allow the driver to focus on reversing. We could do without that though.

We like the simplicity of the two-dial instrument panel (for road and engine speed) with a fair selection of information on the panel in between. There is also the 4.2-inch LCD touchscreen (with Audio Visual Navigation) on the centre dashboard for the radio and navigation system (the Tucson Elegance gets a 3.5-inch display).

The new Tucson scored reasonably well on the go too. For power, it features the Nu 2.0 MPI engine that was introduced in the facelift version of the previous Tucson. This is the same undersquare engine with 97mm stroke and 81mm bore to displace 1999cc. Outputs are consistent at 114kW (155PS) at 6200rpm and 192Nm at 4000rpm. Likewise, the transmission is similar in the six-speed Shiftronic automatic.

Hyundai says that with a kerb weight of 1435kg, the Tucson delivers the best power-to-weight ratio for its class. For the Malaysian market, the Tucson 2.0-litre models toe the same trend as the previous model, being two-wheel drive SUVs with the engine driving the front wheels. In addition, there is the drive option to choose normal, sports or Eco in the management of the gear selection.

We recalled the same driving impressions as the previous Tucson despite the current model being a heavier SUV. There wasn’t any need to work the engine hard to get going at good speeds on open roads and one could easily fall foul of the speeding laws if one wasn’t careful. On highways, it had the same easy pace at legal speeds, with the engine turning over easily between 2000 and 2500rpm. That should lead to good fuel mileage too.

It felt more planted and stable too. This takes into consideration that the new Tucson chassis is more rigid with the greater use of Advanced High Strength steel; 50 per cent against 18 per cent for the previous model. Hyundai says there is also strategic use of structural adhesives at high stress points and more extensive use of hot-stamping methods for greater rigidity. The structure is also said to use four-point bush mountings for improved comfort and reduced road noise. We enjoyed that in the quiet highway drives (save for the road noise generated by the tyres).

Complementing that development is the enhanced suspension. It might be the same system as the old with the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear but improvements had been made. The front has gas-filled shock absorbers and a 24.7mm stabiliser bar, while the rear now has dual lower arms for better ride comfort and body control. Overall, the entire suspension system set-up is said to be 20 per cent stiffer than the previous Tucson.

Other changes include the longer control arms for the rear suspension to minimise camber and toe changes through the suspension travel range, which is increased to better absorb larger impacts; the use of more sophisticated, hydraulic jounce bumpers for more refined responses over large road impacts and high dampening synthetic rubber bushes that are 30 per cent stiffer for a smoother ride compared to conventional rubber items.

We enjoyed the better ride comfort given the type of roads we had to cover daily as the suspension impressed with a supple absorption quality over road bumps and potholes. There was a noticeable firmness from the suspension on impacts but it was generally comfortable as the harshness was nicely dissipated.

The alloy wheel size is similar to that of the previous model being 17-inch units but the tyres shod on the new model are Continental ContiMax Contacts MCS of the same profile, 225/60 R17, as before. They appear to complement the suspension by rolling over road undulations without any jarring effects.

Dynamically, the new Tucson was also quite agile through winding roads with body roll reasonably well controlled when driven hard through the tight turns. We chose to push the gear lever to the manual mode and had four lower gears at our disposal; using third gear most of the time, the Tucson took us through our favourite winding stretches at a pretty quick canter and minimal tyre squeals, especially for a front-wheel drive SUV.

The electric motor driven steering wheel was also up to the mark with reasonably good road feedback for driving fast through corners. It is nicely weighted for driving in urban traffic while the feeling was about right on the highway. Hyundai has also made improvements to the steering wheel in feel and design for greater driving comfort.
The competition may be fierce in the SUV segment but the new Tucson has plenty to offer in holding its own against rivals. It comes competitively priced too at RM142,632.59 on the road without insurance for the Tucson Executive we tested (the price does not include the extras in the white nappa leather upholstery and body cladding). If you prefer a Tucson with fewer premium equipment, the Tucson Elegance should be appealing at RM129,990.87.

Photo Gallery