March 2021 Update: Read the Australian 2021 Hyundai Tucson Review
But rather than play it safe for the third iteration of the nameplate, Hyundai has revealed a new Tucson that is suddenly the most attention-grabbing model in the sector.
That’s not all it has going for it, either, as it’s considerably bigger than before and crammed with active safety and other technology.
Finally, it looks like Australia will get at least one of the new hybrid models. Here we test the European model in regular (i.e. not plug-in) Hybrid variant.
Despite the likely enhanced specification, more space, more safety equipment and perceived step up in quality, we don’t see Hyundai Australia daring to up the price of the Tucson significantly. The sector is just too competitive.
The outgoing Tucson costs from about $31,000 before on-road costs, rising to well over $50,000 at the top of the range.
It looks like the existing engines will be carried over for the core range, some with front-wheel drive only and some with an option to upgrade to all-wheel drive.
The entry-level powertrain will be likely the existing naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, while a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel have also been locked in for Australia, as far as we know.
No word yet on the 48V mild-hybrid versions of that 1.6-litre turbo petrol or the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel already offered in Europe – though Hyundai Australia has previously ruled them out for the outgoing model.
We are hopeful that the powertrain in the Tucson Hybrid tested here will become available this year in Australia, while the sportier looking N Line version should lob with turbo petrol power during the second quarter.
Again, confirmed details are scarce as Hyundai Australia holds it cards close to its chest ahead of the new Tucson’s launch.
Elsewhere in the world, the new Tucson is generously equipped, with digital instruments, a large touchscreen, climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity all likely to be standard, along with a notable uplift in the amount of active safety fitted.
More on that below.
Though we don’t know for certain what Hyundai Australia will include in the new Tucson, we do expect most versions to come with most of the new active safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, high-beam assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
Things like adaptive cruise control, lane-follow assist and ‘safe exit warning’ have also been mentioned by Hyundai.
Expect a 360-degree camera system to be available on higher grades, as well as an automated parking assistant with remote key fob functionality.
The new Tucson has yet to be crash-tested by ANCAP or its European equivalent, though we expect it to score highly.
The new Tucson’s cabin makes the old one look horribly dated. Even before we get to the screens and controls, check out the wonderful wraparound design that links a detail on the door cards with the upper level of the dashboard and its integrated air vents.
The centre stack neatly feeds into this, topped by a 10.25-inch touchscreen (a smaller display is found on lesser versions) that’s sensibly laid out, as is Hyundai’s way. There are shortcuts to its main menus below the display itself, too.
Under that are touch-sensitive controls for the air conditioning system. Some people would prefer physical buttons and dials for this, but at least it is always accessible and not part of the main touchscreen menu system, so it’s quick and easy to operate.
The digital instruments do without any binnacle to shield them from reflections, which adds to the simplicity and harmony of the design. They’re easy to read on the move, despite the lack of shielding from the sun.
The display’s content and colour theme change depending on the driving mode selected, too. The steering wheel itself looks odd from a distance, with its horizontal four-spoke design, but it feels good in the hands and has plenty of useful switchgear.
Between the front seats in the Tucson Hybrid are push buttons to operate the transmission, a large wireless charging pad area, two big cupholders and a big, covered bin under the central armrest.
Just as important as the design is the fact this all feels very well made, perceptibly more premium than before.
Passengers in the back of the European Tucson fare worse that their Australian counterparts, as the Euro Tucson has a shorter wheelbase.
In saying that, even that variant is larger than it was before, and we found it to be impressively spacious in the back seats with a significantly enlarged boot.
The seat backs split and fold down and, depending on where the movable boot floor is set to, a flat load area is created.
This car accommodates a useful 616 litres with all seats in use, rising to 1795 litres with the back chairs tumbled forward.
We don’t have the figures for the longer Australian model yet, but ‘more than adequate’ should cover it.
Meanwhile, the rear seat base is wide. It might not easily accommodate three baby seats, but three teens should fit in without complaint.
In this hybrid model, Hyundai mixes its turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 44.2kW electric motor. The battery powering this is only a 1.49kWh item, so this Tucson doesn’t go far on electric power alone.
Nonetheless, it enhances its overall efficiency and that motor adds considerably to the performance side of things, giving this model 169kW of power.
And it does feel as fast as that suggests if you use all the revs. However, that output is produced at a heady 5500rpm, which is where the engine sounds and feels coarse. We can’t imagine many buyers extending it that far often.
Driven more sensibly, the powertrain is smooth and quiet. Unlike Toyota’s much-maligned CVT automatic, Hyundai uses a more conventional automatic transmission, giving the Tucson a more direct connection between your right foot, the rate of acceleration, and the noise coming from under the bonnet.
There are paddles behind the wheel to operate it, but we never felt the need to override the default calibration – which is a good sign.
In some markets the hybrid powertrain can be paired with all-paw traction, though our test car was front drive only.
It’s not difficult to overwhelm the grip of the front tyres in slippery conditions, but of course the traction and stability control systems quickly kick in.
Complementing the powertrain’s sensible-speed refinement is excellent wind roar suppression and a lack of intrusive road noise.
This car is notably more civilised than the one it replaces, giving it the feel of a car in the class above.
Though the Tucson is clearly set up to be an SUV for comfortable long-distance drives (and we realise that the chassis tune is likely to be tweaked for the Australian market).
It is noticeably more accomplished and interesting in the corners than its predecessor, with accurate steering and great body control. Just watch out for the ride comfort on larger alloys.
The driving modes to choose from are Eco, Normal and Sport and there’s not a massive difference between them, as the transmission, throttle response and steering are subtly altered.
We found little reason to use anything other than the default setting once we had tried them all.
In terms of fuel economy, this one is tricky to answer, as the longer body of the Australian Tucson is likely to add weight and hence the need for fuel.
For the record, against an official consumption value of 5.7L/100km, we saw an average of 8.0L/100km, but we didn’t get to do a long relaxed motorway cruise, so it’s hardly a conclusive figure. The diesel version is expected to remain the long-distance economy champion of the line-up.
The Tucson will of course get Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Buyers can then opt for the Lifetime Service Plan or the Pre-Paid Servicing Plan to manage costs.
First impressions suggest that the new Hyundai Tucson is a significantly more desirable car than its worthy-but-forgettable predecessor.
It gets concept car style on the outside, a much larger cabin that looks and feels great, a comprehensively upgraded suite of safety and connectivity technology and, hopefully for Australia, hybrid options to consider.
The Toyota RAV4 needs to watch its back.
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