Having made huge sales and brand equity gains following the 2008 financial crisis as other automotive brands suffered, Hyundai are now at the crux of another transformative phase. With enhanced emphasis on product refinement, and a sharper maturing design direction, Hyundai also recently and finally confirmed plans for two more prestigious sub-brands.
With luxury cars to be re-purposed for the Genesis brand and an N performance wing announced — with products in the offing — Hyundai is pursuing more profitable segments to offset the export implications of a stronger Korean won and weakened euro and Japanese yen. But while these gestate, mainstream models like the new Tucson compact crossover remain Hyundai’s bread and butter.
Complex yet fluent
The Korean brand’s third best-selling model and the most popular crossover SUV in the region, with 60,000 units sold in 2014, the outgoing Tucson leaves big shoes to fill. But benefiting from Hyundai’s increased design, refinement and technology emphasis, the new Tucson is a thoroughly improved product expected to build on its predecessor’s success.
Characterized by sculpted surfaces, defined ridges and dynamic posture, the new Tucson’s interpretation of Hyundai’s evolving Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design direction is a more complex yet fluent and more cohesive aesthetic. Dominated by a bold and broad three-slat hexagonal grille, flanked by squinting inward-tilted headlights, the new Tucson also features hexagonal lower intakes and fog light housings.
With concave and convex surfacing, bulging and scalloped bonnet, carved sills and character lines, the new Tucson has greater presence. And with sharply descending roofline and longer and wider dimensions, it takes a more urgent stance, especially with optional 245/45R19 footwear filling its wheel arches, as tested during the recent global launch in the Canary Islands.
Flexible and frugal
Driven in range-topping Tucson 1.6 T-GDI guise with four-wheel drive and 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, Hyundai’s compact crossover’s turbocharged direct injection engine develops 183BHP at 5500rpm and 195lb/ft at 1500-4500. Responsively versatile throughout a broad mid-range, the Tuscon T-GDI is more muscular than the naturally-aspirated 2.0 MPI version, and is confident and flexibly exploitable on inclines and when overtaking.
Driving its front wheels under normal circumstances and able to divert power rearwards when necessary for additional traction, the Tucson T-GDI is confident off-the-line. Covering the 0-100km/h dash in a brisk 9.1 seconds and capable of 201km/h, the 1695kg Tucson 1.6 T-GDI also returns frugal 7.5l/100km combined cycle fuel efficiency rating.
Slick, swift and seamlessly smooth shifting the 1.6 T-GDI’s 7-speed dual-clutch is more rewarding and efficient than traditional six-speed automatic gearbox versions. More responsively concise in “sport” mode, the Tucson’s dual-clutch gearbox could benefit from slightly snappier shifts and the ability to hold gears at its rev limiter in manual paddle-shift mode for a discernibly sportier “sport” mode.
Agile and eager
Agile and eager through winding hilly and country routes during test drive, the new Tucson’s compact size and larger footprint lend it a nippy maneuverability and confident road-holding. Benefiting from more linear torque delivery and precise on-center responsiveness, the new Tucson’s steering delivers better feel and feedback, while new rebound spring makes it more settled on sudden crests and dips
Tidily tucking into corners and diverting power to rear wheel through tight twists, the Tucson pulls out assertively. However at certain angles and inclines, one felt that closer second and third ratios or a slight power rise to existing 183BHP or 201BHP iterations of the same engine would lend it a sportier and urgent charisma.
One hopes that the newly formed N division might be looking into such possibilities, even if at the expense of efficiency for a hotter Tucson iteration. Nevertheless, the new Tucson 1.6 T-GDI is an accomplished and rewarding compact crossover, and benefits from improved front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension design fir discernibly improved agility, body control and grip.
Refined and roomy
Stiffer and better insulated and quieter, the new Tucson is built using 51 per cent high strength steel content and benefits from 48 per cent enhanced torsional rigidity for better ride, handling and collision safety. Smooth, fluent, stable and refined riding on highway, B-roads and gravel and dirt roads, the Tucson also gets revised bushes for improved noise, vibration and harshness refinement.
Horizontal and symmetrical in design inside, the new Tucson cabin is noticeably improved in aesthetics, textures and ergonomics, and features an airy and up-market feel. Longer, wider and slightly lower, the new Tucson offers better cabin and 10 per cent improved cargo space including unexpectedly accommodating rear seats. Driving position is supportive, comfortable and alert, with ventilated 10-way adjustable driver’s seat.
Well-equipped, the new Tucson features an 8-inch non-reflective infotainment display with faster navigation system and key-detecting automatically opening powered tailgate among other features. In terms of safety, Hyundai expect to receive the maximum rating for 25 per cent front overlap crash safety. Technology features include automatic cruise control, Blind Spot Detection and front and rear parking assistance, and other systems.
Engine: 1.6-litre, transverse, turbocharged 4 cylinders
Bore x stroke: 77 x 85.44mm
Compression ratio: 10:1
Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, variable valve timing, direct injection
Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch automated, four-wheel drive
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 175 (177)  @5500rpm
Specific power: 110BHP/litre
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 195 (265) @1500-4500rpm
Specific torque: 166.5Nm/litre
0-100km/h: 9.1 seconds
Top speed: 201km/h
Fuel economy, urban / extra-urban / combined: 9.2- / 6.5- / 7.5 litres/100km
CO2 emissions, combined: 175g/km
Fuel capacity: 62 litres