When Hyundai launched the 1st generation Tucson in India in 2005, it got a luke warm response at best. Sales over the next few years stayed under 1,000 units before the company stopped selling the model in 2010. The company has now brought back the Tucson brand and has slotted the SUV in between the Creta and the Santa Fe. We drove the car recently around the beautiful city of Chandigarh to find out if the new Tucson has what it takes to get the sales rolling.
The new Tucson is based on Hyundai's familiar Fluidic Design 2.0 design language and hence features a busy design. There is a strong interplay of sharp creases on the vehicle, which gives the vehicle a futuristic and dynamic visual character. Overall, the design looks similar the larger Santa Fe but looks distinct enough to not be mistaken for a Santa Fe. The sleek swept-back headlamps flank a large chrome grille, giving the front an imposing stance. The headlamps consist of LED DRLs and projectors and below them in the bumper are the sleek fog lamps.
The side profile too is attractive and features a strong rising shoulder line and square-ish wheel arches. The showstopper at the side, however, are the 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, which are wrapped in 225-section tyres, thereby filling the wheel arch well. At the rear, the tail lamps resemble the Elite i20 but have a different cluster design. The prominent spoiler along with a protruding tail gate and twin-chrome exhaust tips give the Tucson a premium and attractive look. Overall, Hyundai designers have hardly put a foot wrong with the design of the Tucson and have delivered a striking and smart SUV.
Move into the cabin and the dual-tone interiors welcome the occupants in a warm manner. People familiar with the Creta will find similarities inside the cabin as the Tucson's interiors look like a more premium version of the Creta. There's an 8-inch colour touchscreen in the centre console and it offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for seamless connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle. The screen offers good clarity and visibility under direct sunlight too is decent. The unit is easy to control but the touch response time is a bit slow, which is the case with the new Elantra as well. A good thing about the navigation display is that closer to an oncoming turn, the screen displays a split-view, wherein the next planned change in direction is displayed prominently for the driver's convenience. Connectivity is impressive with the options list including Bluetooth, FM, Aux-in and USB. There are a couple of 12v sockets in the front and one in the boot compartment.
Below the touchscreen is the climate controls for the air-conditioner, which also comes with a cluster ioniser purifying system. This is a notable inclusion, given the alarming pollution levels in our metropolitan cities. The driver's seat can be adjusted electrically, while the co-passenger seat features manual adjustment. Storage space is well-designed and one can easily place 1 litre bottles in the door pockets. In addition, there is a generous amount of space under the armrest and the glovebox, which has a chiller function. The Tucson misses out on a sunroof and the impressive seat-cooling system seen on the new Elantra but these are not likely to be deal breakers for most buyers in the segment. The rear-view mirror features auto-dimming and a digital compass, of which the latter doesn't serve any specific purpose as the Tucson doesn't come with a four-wheel drive system for now.
In terms of space, the Tucson turned out to be impressive as the front seats are adequately sized and will keep even large occupants comfortable. Leg room and head room at the rear is good and although the roof has a sloping design, headroom isn't compromised considerably. Boot space is adequate for those weekend trips and the tail gate can be operated electrically. Interestingly, the tail gate will open automatically, when it sense the smart key in proximity for about three seconds. Thankfully, one doesn't need to wave their foot under the rear bumper, which in itself can be quite embarassing in public, especially when trying multiple times.
Overall material quality and fit and finish levels are impressive and there isn't any place, which reflects cost-cutting. This has been a strength of Hyundai in the recent years and with every new model, they seem to be getting better.
The Tuscson comes with two engine options, a 2.0-litre Nu petrol engine, which also powers the recently launched Elantra and an all-new 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engine. At the drive, however, we got our hands only on the diesel Tucson, which is expected to sell in larger numbers. The petrol engine generates 153 hp of power at 6,200 rpm and 192 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The new R e-VGT 2.0 CRDi engine produces a healthy 183 hp of power at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque between 1,750 rpm to 2,750 rpm. Both engines have the option of a 6-speed manual and an automatic transmission, which is a good thing since the customer has the complete freedom of choosing, irrespective of the fuel choice s/he makes
Off the line, the Tucson moves without any hesitation and offers good acceleration in the low and mid-range. Closer to the top end is where the engine doesn't feel too comfortable and under 4,000 rpm is where all the juice is. Our test car was equipped with a torque-convertor six-speed automatic transmission, which works well in urban conditions but is tuned towards fuel-efficiency. As a result, when one stomps on the accelerator or tries to accelerate from a constant speed, the transmission hesitates a bit to downshift. Engaging the Sports mode too doesn't help as the transmission is coded to always search for the highest possible gear.
The engine is a smooth unit and is complemented well by impressive NVH proofing, which filters out most of the external sounds, making the cabin a relatively silent place. While we weren't able to test the vehicle extensively, it returned about 17 km/l (system indicated) on the highway, which is a good figure, considering the generous amount of throttle being applied.
The Tucson offers a plush ride quality, which is the case with most new Hyundai vehicles lately. The suspension does a good job of soaking the bumps and the Tucson effortlessly glides over small bumps and cracks in the road. On the handling front too, the Tucson turned out to be impressive as its body-roll is in control mostly. Mechanical grip is plenty and the Tucson was comfortable carrying good speed through the winding roads to Kasauli but there can be some understeer when trying to go really quick. The steering is light in traffic and weighs up significantly with increase in speed. Feedback from the steering is average at best but the car does follow the direction well towards which the steering points.
The Tucson is presently being sold in India only in front-wheel drive version and the all-wheel drive (AWD) version is expected around April, 2017. As a result, the Tucson is not suited for off-road conditions but is good enough to tackle the bad roads we encounter across the country.
Hyundai has made great improvements in safety over the past few years and that approach hasn't changed for the Tucson. The SUV comes with six airbags, ABS with EBD, traction control, hill hold and hill descent control. The body structure too has been made with 51 % of ultra high strength steel, which not only improves crash worthiness but also offers improved resistance to rust and wear. As a result, the Tucson was awarded a five star rating from Euro NCAP in 2015 and has bee awarded highest safety ratings by some other agencies too. The car also comes with reverse parking sensors and camera, which sends the visual feed to the central screen. ORVMs feature a heating function, which ensures better visibility in winters and cold environments.
The Hyundai Tucson is a well-designed and well-engineered SUV, which has been launched to plug the gap between the Creta and the Santa Fe. It has a spacious cabin with loads of features and a powerful engine with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. In terms of safety too the Tucson is impressive and matches some of the more expensive European SUVs too. Does that mean the Tucson is a winner? The answer to that is largely yes, considering the Tucson has been launched between Rs 18.99 to 24.99 lakh. For the kit it offers, one cannot question the price-tag as it comfortably undercuts the Honda CR-V, the Tucson's only direct competitor. The larger Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner aren't close to the Tucson so the company's hopes of selling between 500 to 700 units a month should turn out to be fine. Another winner from Hyundai? Our answer is a resounding Yes!