Hyundai are aiming high with this improved version of their stylish Tucson, a sharp-suited family mid-sized SUV aimed at the Qashqai-class. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
With this Tucson model, Hyundai has got serious about the growing Qashqai-class family Crossover segment, delivering pretty much everything buyers are looking for in this kind of car in one smartly-styled reasonably spacious package that now offers mild hybrid tech to diesel buyers. We're told that this Tucson can 'change the way you drive': it's certainly changed this brand's fortunes in this sector, now being the Korean maker's best selling car.
The Tucson is a huge car for Hyundai, with more than 600,000 units sold to date before the arrival of this facelifted version. This MK2 model replaced the old ix35 crossover in the Korean company's range back in 2015 and has sold much more strongly, thanks to higher quality, extra technology, greater standards of safety, more space and sharper driving dynamics. It was facelifted in late 2018 and 48-volt mild hybrid tech added in the top 2.0-litre CRDi diesel variant. This electrified technology was further added to the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel units in early 2020. Today, this car has been priced to reflect that level of prowess: Hyundai has long abandoned its bargain basement beginnings. Can what's on offer in this improved model - strong standards of safety and media connectivity, plus the option of mild hybrid diesel technology - really justify that? And offer a genuine alternative to established players from Nissan, Skoda and Peugeot in this sector? Time to find out.
People have come to expect a lot when it comes to driving mid-sized SUVs. Although they want a lofty perch, they also want to feel like they could be driving a hatchback. The Tucson delivers exactly this blend of virtues, hence its very road-biased suspension setup - and the overwhelming emphasis on two wheel drive models across the range - though a 4WD set-up is available too. That 4WD system is fine for slippery surfaces but don't expect a great deal of mud plugging ability. And engines? Well the petrol range is exclusively front-driven and made up of a normally aspirated 1.6-litre GDI 132PS unit and a much pokier T-GDI turbo 177PS powerplant. Go for the T-GDI variant and you get the option of the brand's seven-speed 7DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Most Tucson buyers though, want a diesel and both the available engines now feature the brand's 48-volt mild hybrid tech. For buyers wanting to fuel from the black pump, the range starts with a 115PS 1.6-litre CRDi variant, but Hyundai expects more Tucson customers to want this 1.6-litre unit in uprated 136PS form. In both cases, you have to have front wheel drive and manual transmission. If you want AWD and an auto in your Tucson diesel, you'll need to stretch to the 2.0-litre CRDi mild hybrid unit, which puts out 185PS. Both diesel powerplants are based around an electrified system that supplements acceleration with power from a compact 0.44 kWh 48-volt lithium-ion battery, and extends engine 'off time' with a new Mild-Hybrid Starter-Generator (MHSG) unit. The MHSG is connected by belt to the engine's crankshaft, and switches seamlessly between 'motor' and 'generator' modes. In 'motor' mode the battery is discharged under acceleration, providing power assistance to the engine, to reduce engine load and emissions. Under deceleration - when braking, or coasting towards a junction or downhill - the MHSG switches to 'generator' mode, recuperating energy from the crankshaft to recharge the battery on-the-go.
There are no further visual changes to this updated Tucson: there didn't need to be as the range was aesthetically updated as recently as Autumn 2018. The front features the brand's signature 'Cascading Grille'. All variants feature front fog lights and most also get a lower skid plate, which is supposed to enhance this model's crossover credentials and give it a wider and more dynamic stance. In profile, this Hyundai remains very much a product of Crossover consumerism, looking gym-toned and Qashqai-like. Customers choose from a range of wheels varying in size between 16 and 19-inches. The roof falls away towards the rear and combines with a rising window line and prominent side creases to create an athletic feel. The wheel arches are emphasised in the way you'd expect them to be on this class of car, while the 'Z'-style character lines below the C-pillar create quite a powerful stance. Inside, most models get an 8-inch central touchscreen display audio system, with a DAB tuner, plus 'Apple Car Play' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring now standard across the range. There's reasonable space for a couple of adults in the rear and though the bench doesn't slide, it does recline. In the petrol models, there's 513-litres of seats-up boot space available (or 484-litres if you go for a 1.6 diesel), so in this regard, the Tucson continues to comfortably beat Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar direct rivals. Fold the seats down and this capacity increases to 1503-litres (or 1,474-litres in the 1.6 diesel). Rear seat space is good, although the rear doors are a little on the small side.
There are five trim levels: base 'S Connect', then 'SE Nav', 'N Line', 'Premium' and 'Premium SE'. The range may start at around £23,000 but it's very easy to spend an awful lot more. That price gets you entry level 'S Connect' trim with the non-turbo 1.6 petrol engine. The top petrol unit, the 177PS 1.6 T-Gdi turbo unit, prices from just over £25,500. The diesels cost quite a lot more, the 1.6 CRDi mild hybrid unit priced from around £27,000 in 115PS form - or from around £29,000 in 136PS guise. The 2.0 CRDi mild hybrid diesel (which includes auto transmission and AWD) prices from around £34,000. Across the range, this improved Tucson gets a strong portfolio of safety features, with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Lane Keep Assist standardised across all trim levels, as well as Driver Attention Alert. As for the general kit tally, well even the base 'S Connect' variants get quite a lot. Expect a DAB tuner along with 'Apple Car Play' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. Plus a rear view camera, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel controls and a leather steering wheel and gear knob. Exterior enhancements include alloy wheels of at least 16-inches in size, plus front fog lamps and automatic headlights.
The Tucson can't quite match some of its rivals when it comes to running costs but it gets close. The RDE2-compliant engine line-up of course conforms to Euro 6d TEMP emissions standard and the Gamma direct injection 1.6-litre petrol engine (offered in normally aspirated or turbo forms) has an updated particulate filter. Let's get to the WLTP readings. In 1.6 GDi form, that base petrol unit's figures are unremarkable - up to 35.8mpg on the combined cycle and 180g/km of CO2. In manual form, the T-GDi turbo petrol model manages 35.8mpg and 179g/km - or 173g/km and 37.2mpg as an auto. The big news with this facelifted Tucson though, is the introduction of an electrified 'mild hybrid' powertrain for the diesel units. Here, the engines are assisted by a compact starter-generator unit belt-connected to the crankshaft. Power for the 48V system comes from a small lithium ion battery mounted beneath the boot floor. When you lift off the throttle to coast, or use the brakes, the starter becomes a generator, recharging the battery with energy that you'd otherwise lose in the form of heat. Hyundai claims that this technology improves efficiency by up to 4%. On to the figures: the 1.6 CRDi unit manages 54.3mpg and 135g/km of CO2 in 115PS form, or 52.3mpg and 141g/km in 136PS guise. For the 2.0 CRDi diesel 185PS unit, the figures are 42.8mpg and 172g/km. All Tucson models, like all Hyundais, get the brand's impressive 5-year unlimited mileage warranty.
So, what do we have? The tough looks of an SUV, the sensible practicality of a 5-seater mini-MPV and the affordability of a family hatchback. These are the facts behind an improved Tucson model good enough to attract fresh buyers to the Hyundai brand. It's nicely built, efficient to run thanks to the mild hybrid tech and quite capable in 4WD form of getting everywhere any ordinary family driver might want to go. No, it's not perfect - a class-leading family hatch might offer slightly sharper handling and better all-round visibility - but these aren't deal-breaking issues. More important will be this model's competitive pricing and lengthy warranty. It's a Hyundai of the modern era. And that makes it a very impressive car indeed.
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