Is this edgy new Hyundai really a BMW or and Audi rival?

And now for something completely different. Take a close look at this all-new Hyundai Tucson. Some of us think it’s among the sexiest SUVs out there. But then the Tucson has always been a looker. Even if this one takes the brand face to heady new levels.

Its best-selling SUV at 7 million global sales, the Tucson is also one of the cars that Hyundai says put the brand squarely on the map in South Africa. The previous car unsurprisingly sold well over 15,000 units in the local market.

Hyundai calls its Sensuous Sporty styling language a revolution. Larger, more spacious, and plusher than ever, our crimson Tucson blends sharp angles and dynamic proportions to strike a muscular stance. Hyundai says it’s a clear statement of its forward momentum.


Tucson lights lurk between grille elements

So-called parametric jewels abound. Hidden lights lurk between the grille elements and come alive in a distinctive Daytime Running Light LED pattern. Their half-mirror lighting tech transforms into treasure chest shapes.

A pronounced bonnet and flat roofline sitting on a long wheelbase with short overhangs add to an aggressively character. Tucson‘s angular skin contrasts with its sleek cab-forward stance, with more of the splendidly disruptive same at the rear

For the record, Tucson is now 150 mm longer, 15 mm wider, and rides on an 85 mm longer wheelbase. There’s far more rear passenger legroom. Boot capacity is also up to 539 litres, and 1,860 litres with both 60:40 split rear seats folded flat.


A stylish if cluttered high tech cabin

Its standard contemporary Hyundai SUV fare inside under the panoramic glass sunroof. Which means it’s all pretty stylish if a bit cluttered and plastic rich in places. That’s offset by more than enough premium soft-touch materials and neutral tones.

Packed with high tech, the wireless CarPlay and Auto 8-inch Display Audio has a charging pad up front. Add front and rear USB ports and premium sound. 10.25-inch digital gauges mimic their mechanical ancestors’ look behind a capable multifunction steering wheel

Tucson’s Audiovisual Navigation touchscreen does away with physical knobs and buttons. Oh dear. Hopefully Hyundai will also soon follow Volkswagen back to common sense. Knobs and buttons are essential in cars. Even if you can also adjust all that by touchscreen too.


Tucson’s trick new climate control

Hidden Multi-Air three-zone climate control addresses the cabin’s overall volume of moving air to cater for all aboard. Indirect air vents flow to the centre console. Those up front are even spoiled by ventilated and heated power Faux leather clad chairs.

Safety includes six front, side, and curtain airbags and ISOFIX child protection points. Add full Hyundai SmartSense with Blind-spot and Forward Collision, Rear Cross-traffic and Collision, Lane Keeping and Follow, Smart Cruise, Driver Fatigue and High Beam Assistants.

Finger the Start button and our top end Tucson 2.0D Elite comes to life with a distant diesel rattle. The new 137 kW and healthy 416 Nm 2-litre turbodiesel is 7 kW and 16 Nm up. It turns the front wheels via an efficient quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.


Tucson Performs far better than expected

New tech damper MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension with 19-inch alloy wheels and a stiffer shell bring newfound agility and surefootedness. Choose from four Eco, Smart, Normal and Sport modes, or let Smart figure your driving style and do it all for you.

Tucson performs impressively. It’s not only far better than Hyundai’s own claims, but also as quick as a similarly packed X1 or Q3. Tucson 2.0D is also frugal and clean burning enough at 7.9 litres per 100 km. And dare we say, better looking than either of those two!

We mention the smaller Audi and BMW because Hyundai has priced this larger flagship model bang in the middle of X1 and Q3 territory. And about three hundred grand shy of its like-sized if AWD X3 and A5 rivals.


Does this Hyundai rival Bavaria’s best?

So, is this Korean really a worthy X1 or A3 rival? Well fifteen-thousand South African Tucson buyers can’t be wrong. Indeed, there are areas where those cars are better. But not many. And then the Tucson is better elsewhere, so it ends up a pretty close call.

Hyundai has also come a long way as an automaker in a relatively short time. This car is worlds apart of those early bargain-basement offerings. It certainly warrants its price so close Bavaria’s best.

So even if the Hyundai Tucson 2.0D Elite has slipped beyond that R700K mark, we think it’s worth the money. Especially to those among those who think its German rivals may carry a bit of a stigma. – Michele Lupini

Images & Testing: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Hyundai Tucson 2.0D Elite
Engine:137 kW 416 Nm 2-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 8-speed automatic FWD
0-60km/h:         3.74 sec
0-100km/h:        7.98 sec
0-160km/h:        19.29 sec
400m:             15.3 sec @ 145 km/h
80-120km/h:       5.73 sec
120-160km/h:      9.66 sec
VMax:             201 km/h
Fuel:             7.4 l/100km
CO2:              169 g/km
Warranty/Service: 7y 200K/6y 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R719K
RATED:            9
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