Two decades ago, it was almost unimaginable to consider a Korean car as a serious contender in the world market. Today it's safe to say that they have ruffled a few feathers in their respective segments.
Park the all-new Hyundai Tucson beside the first generation model and it's clear that the crossover has grown up in more ways than anyone would have anticipated. The question now is this: will the third generation Hyundai Tucson carry on the torch handed to it by the previous generation? It's a question we hope to answer after few days driving Hyundai's popular crossover.
The previous generation Tucson looked rather egg-like in my eyes with its round appearance from grill to its tail. This latest generation looks handsome with its well defined lines, chiseled edges and bold character lines. It is as if the Tucson got rid of all its baby fat from the previous model as it moved up as a mature, more grown-up package. Finished in this rather striking shade of Ara Blue, its design features pop out and reveal a good looking car.
The cabin layout is straightforward with its buttons and control stalks exactly where you expect them. It has a dash that is oriented towards the driver and is generous with its cubby spaces. While interior volume is impressive and provides ample knee, leg and hip room for everyone, the exterior's sleek (for a crossover) design, the upward sloping beltline makes the rear windows smaller. Its door sills are rather high and gives the impression that you're hunkered down low — great for a car-like experience but unusual in a crossover, especially for the rear passengers. Another thing I noticed in the Tucson was the abundance of rather hard plastic which was a bit of a downer considering how well assembled the rest of the cabin felt. Still, the Tucson is a comfortable place to sit in. It's worth noting that the Tucson comes with a driver's side power seat which, oddly enough, is trimmed in fabric and not leather.
Unusual in this segment is the lack of a touchscreen. Still, the integrated stereo is decent and has auxiliary and Bluetooth capability. Cramming all these functions into a 2-DIN setup is rather difficult but Hyundai managed it, if barely. After about 30 minutes of fiddling around, I eventually got used to it and the system is courteous enough to give step-by-step instructions as you use it.
Under the hood of this particular Tucson is a 2.0-liter CRDI four cylinder engine. Ever since Hyundai established itself in the mid-2000's, the brand has been pushing diesel tech in its lineup and this is no exception. This mill puts out 185 PS and 402 Nm of torque which is then fed to a six speed automatic that drives the front wheels.
Good marks for its exterior and engine so far, although a few more options would help the Tucson stand out more. If there are two things truly noteworthy about the Tucson, it has to be its ride and refinement.
Start up the Tucson and yes, there's a hint of diesel clatter but once on the move, it only lets out a muffled hum. Outside noises are well suppressed too and it gives you the impression that you are indeed driving, or riding, something more expensive. Tire noise is present and perhaps the only noticeable sound when on the move. Otherwise, it is impressive how the Tucson felt so refined during its stay with me.
After weeks of having rather firm riding cars, the Tucson was a refreshing experience. It wasn't a pillow-soft ride in a wallowy sense as it was still pliant and well damped. Simply put, the suspension doesn't give you a harsh jolt when you run over a pothole or a series of rough patches on the road. Couple that with its good NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) isolation and you could say that Hyundai pulled out all the stops to make the Tucson a car worthy of the buying public's attention. Needless to say, it is a comfortable city runabout, a great highway cruiser and it's easy on fuel too. In heavy traffic, I had managed 8.8 kilometers per liter in the city with an average speed of just 14 kilometers per hour. Out on the highway, it consumed as little as 16.1 kilometers per liter.
I drove the Tucson during what could possibly called the week with no sun. It proved capable in the heavy downpour with various safety systems keeping me in check, but the stability or traction control didn't need to kick in. Despite just being two wheel drive, it provided enough confidence to keep me going even as everyone around me started (wrongly) turning on their hazard lights while driving. I also noticed that at speeds as little as 60 kilometers per hour, the water droplets begin to "slide" off the car. Hyundai was boasting about this car's low wind resistance and it looks like they did their homework.
Of course the Tucson isn't perfect. As I mentioned earlier, the small windows make for a cramped feeling inside despite the room. The small windows also result in a rather large blind spot when backing up into parking spaces. As for its driving experience, it is perhaps average at best. Then again, people don't really buy crossovers for canyon carving anyway.
One thing that is difficult to judge about the Tucson is its value proposition. At Php 1,558,000, the price of admission for the 2.0 GLS CRDI is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand, it is the most affordable diesel compact crossover in the market today and boasts of ride and refinement one would expect from cars nearing two million pesos. On the other hand, it does lack some equipment that would attract the average customer to the showroom. The Tucson 2.0 GLS CRDI does not have HID headlights, a touchscreen nor a reverse camera, though it does have sensors.
For me, choosing the Tucson would boil down to two things; Do you prefer a lot features in your compact crossover or the feel of it? Personally, I'd go for the latter.