• Hyundai Tucson: First Drive Review

Hyundai’s latest flagship, the all-new Tucson is here!

India is turning into an SUV country and it only makes sense considering the sheer presence and ground clearance that these vehicles offer. While we are a rapidly developing country, the roads in urban India aren’t car friendly making it all the more challenging to commute on sedans and other passenger cars. Today every mass car maker features multiple SUVs in their portfolio and one of the most prominent of the lot has to be Hyundai. The second largest carmaker has always catered to the segments in demand and offers SUVs in various price brackets. While the sub 4m and mid-size SUVs are the high-selling models, the upper end of the spectrum has never really taken off for them. The Tucson and the Santa Fe were offered in various generations over the years but it was at a time when the country wasn’t ready for premium SUVs from Hyundai. This is all set to change with the launch of the all-new Tucson. The demand for the premium segment SUV is on the rise and with the arrival of the fourth-generation Tucson, the timing seems right for Hyundai to march back into the segment.

The Tucson is Hyundai’s global bestseller and tops the segment in Europe. India too, is an important market, the first and third-generation models made it here and both were well-designed SUVs for their time. The latest generation though takes styling to an entirely new dimension. The futuristic design approach by the Hyundai designers has ensured that the talking point of this SUV is the modern and attractive exterior. The new generation model has a larger footprint when compared to its predecessor and is only slightly shorter. The face is dominated by a front grille that also neatly masks the DRLs when switched off by using the same parametric jewel design and dark chrome coating. It’s a clever design and doesn’t compromise the brightness of the LEDs. The headlamps are housed in the bumper and are also LED units.

Move to the side and you’ll notice a silhouette that is very SUV but clever additions like the satin chrome accent line extending from mirrors all the way to the back, giving it a more swoopy rear look post the C-Pillar. India gets the LWB model but the increase in length doesn’t affect the overall proportion of the SUV. The highlights however are the character lines that run downwards on the doors and a prominent shoulder line that flows from the front door handle to the taillamps. These highlights and the front fender design add to the SUV’s muscularity, especially when viewed from the front three-quarter view. This edgy design highlight gives it a unique identity. The wheel arches are more square shaped and the cladding around also gets design highlights adding to the modern styling. While the international models get large and sporty 19-inch wheels, the India spec receives 18-inch diamond-cut wheels that are designed to go well with the overall character but are not as sport-focused.  The rear-end is interesting too, the taillamps feature a sleek vertical slat design while the LED parking and brake lights run across the entire width of the SUV. The rear wiper is neatly hidden and tucked under the spoiler and makes way for a 3D Hyundai logo. 

While the exterior is all edgy and sharp, the interior is all about offering a clutter-free and clean approach. The dual-tone black and light grey add to the appeal and airiness. Attention to detail and the fit and finish are impressive and probably the best we’ve seen in a Hyundai so far. The entire upper section of the dash gets a soft touch material while the section under this area gets fabric outer that extends to the door panels. The air-con vents are neatly integrated in between and the inserts get tiny holes that also diffuse air(multi-air mode), inspired by aircraft cabins. The centre console incorporates a 10.25-inch infotainment screen and touch panel for audio and climate control. The four-spoke steering is sized perfectly and offers various controls, including ADAS functions (which we will talk about later). The fully digital instrument cluster is also a 10.25-inch screen with various colour styles and themes based on the drive mode and sits low giving the driver a clear view of the road ahead.

The front seats offer cooling and heating while offering good lumbar and under-thigh support making them ideal for long drives. The powered driver seat gets 10-way adjustability with memory function while the co-driver seat gets 8-way control and can also be adjusted to slide and recline from the rear seats. The longer wheelbase adds additional knee room for the rear occupants and is ideal for those looking at rear seat comfort. Boot space is impressive too at 540 litres and can be further increased by tumbling down the rear seats by simply pulling a lever. 

In terms of engine options, the Tucson is available in both petrol and diesel variants. The 2.0-litre petrol motor puts out 156PS at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4500rpm. This is the same naturally-aspirated Nu engine that does duty in the Alcazar and is coupled to a 6-speed torque converter automatic. It’s not a very torquey unit but puts out power higher up in the rev range. While it is a refined motor, it isn’t very engaging and lacks the surge that an SUV should boast of. The transmission lag doesn’t help either and the petrol is best suited when driving in town and cruising on the highway. Give it the gas and the motor will propel the Tucson to impressive speeds but takes a tad longer than one would expect. A turbo petrol unit and a quicker transmission would have been better suited in my opinion. There’s good news though and this is where the turbo-diesel steps in, it’s a whole new world behind the wheel on this one and after spending a day with the two Tucsons, the difference between them is very evident.

The R 2.0-litre turbo-diesel puts out 186PS of max power at 4000rpm and a massive 416Nm of peak torque at just 2000rpm. It’s a true powerhouse and easily one of the best in the segment. There is oodles of power always waiting to be unleashed in this motor. This Tucson only wanted to leap ahead and I couldn’t help but step on the throttle every time (evil grin) and feel very mighty. This engine even gets a quicker 8-speed torque converter and upshifts exactly when you expect it to, making it a very comfortable and enjoyable experience. Hyundai expects 70 per cent of buyers to opt for the diesel variant and we agree too, in fact, I expect an even higher figure of diesel Tucson buyers. Hyundai diesel engines are known for their refinement and this motor is no exception. It can sound clattery from the outside, but inside the cabin, all of the diesel noise is masked well. While both the petrol and diesel models get driving modes - Eco, Normal and Sport, the diesel also gets a Smart mode, which as the name suggests, chooses the right mode based on driving style. Both the AT units offer a manual mode but sadly miss out on paddle-shifters.

As mentioned earlier, the Tucson for India is the LWB model. While we haven't driven the shorter wheelbase version, the extra length seems to not affect the proportions of the SUV and at the same time ensures that the SUV is dynamically strong and stays well planted at higher speeds. The McPherson front and Multi-link rear suspension are equipped with gas shocks and they do a good job of soaking up potholes and broken surfaces. The Tucson doesn’t sit very high and the ground clearance of 181mm is a middle ground figure when compared to rivals.  Body roll is well controlled too but is best to have the drive mode set to Normal or Sport as more weight is added to the steering and makes a difference. The lightness however is ideal for an urban setting and is a boon to park as well. Sport mode makes the steering feel heavier than needed at times and takes some time to get used to. The diesel Tucson even gets optional AWD with various terrain modes - Snow, Mud and Sand and can be selected by toggling the same drive mode switch. The HTRAC system is claimed to continuously monitor speed and terrain and accordingly optimise power delivery to the wheels and if needed apply brakes as well. We couldn’t put this feature to full use on our drive through some twisting bends and straight line highways. We did, however, drive the Tucson through some broken patches and loose gravel with ease. The AWD system is an important feature to have if one drives through slippery or challenging terrain.

The Tucson is feature loaded and available in 2 trim levels, Platinum and Signature. The former gets standard 64-colour ambient lighting, leather treatment on the steering, gear lever and door pads, a Panoramic sunroof, 10-way adjustable driver seat with lumbar support, 10.25-inch infotainment screen, surround view monitor, 6 airbags, blind spot view monitor to name a few. The Signature trim adds a driver seat adjust with memory and 8-way co-driver seat adjust, ventilated and heated front seats and level 2 ADAS making it the first Hyundai in India to do so. Hyundai claims that the ADAS safety net has been configured to Indian driving conditions and includes - Forward collision warning and assist and an ability to detect cars, pedestrians and cycles too. The system also includes - Blind-spot warning and assistance, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, safe exit warning, smart cruise control (a feature that allows one to follow a car ahead and maintain a consistent gap, we used quite a bit and liked on the highway), lane follow assist, high beam assist, leading vehicle departure alert, rear cross-traffic collision warning and assist (handy while reversing out of a parking lane). 

The Tucson combines the best of all worlds - be it design, diesel performance, practicality, safety and tech into one great overall package that starts at an attractive ex-showroom price of 27.69 lakh. This nicely slots the SUV into a competitive price range. The diesel variant starts at Rs 30.20 lakh while the top-end AWD variant is priced at Rs 34.39 lakh. The AWD Tucson only available in diesel is priced slightly above its nearest competition though. Hyundai claims that 3500 bookings were placed even before the price was announced and this figure is only going to rise. With 5000 units being planned for the year, the waiting period currently stands at 8 to 10 months. The Tucson aims to be the bestseller in India too and the Hyundai does have what it takes to claim the crown.

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