As far as segments go, the crossover market is a rather competitive one.
To truly stand out in its class, the car must offer something new, unique, and, in some ways, surprise its customer. There's a whole sea of crossovers in the market today, and all of them want a piece of your checkbook.
This brings me neatly to the Hyundai Tucson. Back in 2016, we were impressed with its road manners, comfort, and that punchy turbodiesel engine. But the Tucson has a bit of an uphill battle ahead of it. Most of its competition are either all-new or have been refreshed. Hyundai's response is to give the Tucson a bit of a nip and tuck, but will it be enough for you, the customer, to walk into a Hyundai dealership to buy one?
Yes, they facelifted the Tucson but, to be honest, you'd barely notice the difference. So, what's changed?
Take a closer look at the front and you'll find a slimmer-looking, Y-shaped grill. It also has a new grill pattern which draws inspiration from its larger sibling, the Santa Fe. Bumper corners are also new with its reshaped foglight housings, and the hood appears a bit different by the edges. It's not a dramatic facelift at all, but then again, the Tucson is one of the more handsome looking offerings in its class. Clean, defined, uncluttered, yet somehow attractive.
But from the side and rear, you wouldn't be able to tell if the Tucson you're seeing is a 2016 or a 2019 model, save for a few minor detail. The wheel design is different, employing a multi-spoke design, which bodes rather well with the battleship-like gray color of this particular test unit. Tail lights also get a bit of a retouch with new clusters too. These minor exterior changes don't really bring the Tucson to a whole new era of design, but I still like it and it looks as fresh as it did when it was first launched all those years ago. However, I do wish they included HID headlights as part of the 2019 facelift.
But if you want dramatic changes, you'll have to step inside the Tucson to find it. For starters, the dash is completely different from last year's model. The corner air-con vents stick out like pods and the fascia of the dash itself looks more fluid. Even the instrument cluster looks better, employing better graphics in its multi-information screen. Also, somebody over at Hyundai finally decided to put in a touchscreen infotainment system instead of the rather clunky 2-DIN head unit. That touchscreen brings the Tucson to the modern age and it packs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard too.
Despite the swooping style (for a crossover), there's a lot of space in the Tucson. Head, knee, and legroom are good. The back seats also recline for you to stretch out a little bit more and the rear air-con vents are great for a hot day. Its cargo area, while not class leading in terms of space, offers a flat, wide loading area to make cargo hauling easier.
Curiously however, the seats are still trimmed in cloth but the driver's seat is electronically adjustable. Then again, leather seats become extra hot when you're parked under the sun. While we're at it, I wasn't a fan of the faux carbon fiber trim on the dash. Piano black or matte silver trim would lessen the sea of gray in the cabin. Still, the changes to the interior are welcome nonetheless, and that touchscreen does a huge favor to the drab feel of the old one.
As for the engine, that's been carried over but it's still quite the powerhouse. It's the same 2.0-liter turbodiesel as the 2016 Tucson but the power figures still impress. It packs 185 PS and 402 Nm of torque, putting it at the top of the turbodiesel crossover power stakes. Only the Mazda CX-5 beats it in terms of torque. It shifts via a eight-speed automatic transmission and it sends power to the front wheels.
The Tucson still isn't the most generously equipped crossover out there; it doesn't even come with cruise control. But it more than makes up for it when you drive it. On the road with the Tucson, it feels like hanging out with an old friend you haven't seen in years. Ride is still excellent, soaking up bumps and road imperfections with ease. All you'll hear is a quiet thump to let you know you're on a bumpy road. That makes the Tucson an excellent cruiser out on the highway.
But I reckon what you really pay for in the Tucson is the engine. With its impressive figures, passing is as easy as twitching your toe. It doesn't matter if it's in normal mode or Eco, the Tucson will deliver its punch in one big wallop. Steep inclines are dealt without breaking a sweat, and 80 to 100 km/h passes are effortless. I did, however, feel the steering wheel tugging under hard acceleration, but the traction control reels it all back in.
Not only does it deliver performance, it's backed up by great fuel economy too. Thanks to its new 8-speed automatic, it's more efficient than the pre-facelift model. Averaging 15 km/h in the city, the trip meter read 9.8 kilometers per liter while a highway stint showed 18.9 kilometers per liter. In Eco mode, that figure bumps up to 20.2 kilometers per liter at an average of 97 km/h. If there's one compelling reason to buy a Tucson, it's the blend of power and efficiency.
Handling on the other hand isn't the top reason why you'd consider a Tucson. I'm not saying it's wayward and sketchy; it's quite the opposite actually. But the Tucson will bring you from one corner to another with no flair nor excitement. But perhaps that fine for the majority of people who are looking into getting a crossover. It's safe, secure, and planted, just what a family car needs. Just don't expect any thrills from it, aside from the engine.
So did addressing the weak points and enhancing the strong traits help the Tucson stand out from the crowded crossover arena? The answer is more of a 'perhaps'. See, the Tucson is the kind of car you should test drive first before buying it. Yes, the styling is alluring (for a crossover) but the features list is still somewhat lacking. And at Php 1,835,000, it's a lot of money for a five-seat crossover with no cruise control, no HID headlights, cloth seats, and all-wheel drive.
But on the flipside, you get a strong and efficient engine, an eight-speed automatic, a comfortable ride, a subtly stylish exterior, a suite of safety equipment, and a long warranty. So while it won't grab your attention in the showroom, it will impress you in other ways. Yes, it's expensive, but perhaps its the price you pay for that well-balanced engine and pliant chassis, and I say it's a rather likeable car. So while the changes aren't dramatic, it's still a worthwhile option if you value economy and comfort above everything else, regardless of price.