WORDS AND PHOTOS via PracticalMotoring.com.au
The new Hyundai Tucson range has been simplified for 2021, with three equipment levels available and a choice of three powertrains.
Due to sourcing delays, Tucson is getting a staged roll out here in Australia. On sale now and tested here is the front-wheel drive SmartStream 2.0-litre petrol engine option.
Two all-wheel drive variants arrive soon. A 1-6-litre turbocharged petrol engine goes on sale next month, although it was not available for test at launch, and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel powertrain will be available in the third quarter of this year.
Three models are available now, the Hyundai Tucson, the Tucson Elite and the range-topping Tucson Highlander. The Tucson entry model is priced at $34,500 plus on-road costs, the Elite $39,000 and the Highlander $46,000.
Also available later in the year is an N-Line styling and tech pack which can be added to every Hyundai Tucson model. Depending on the standard equipment level on the donor car, the pack adds $3500, $2000 and $1000 respectively (all plus applicable on-roads).
Premium paint costs $595 while a grey or brown interior option in the Highlander costs an additional $295.
What Does It Cost To Own?
Hyundai offers capped price servicing on the 2021 Hyundai Tucson 2.0-litre petrol range at 15,000kms service intervals. If you choose to service at a franchised dealer expect to pay $319 for the first 5 services.
The 1.6-litre powertrain keeps the same servicing costs but Hyundai wants to see you every 10,000kms while the 2.0-litre diesel should be serviced every 15,000kms at a cost of $375 per service.
Each 2021 Hyundai Tucson model comes with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and roadside assist which is extended to 10 years if you continue to service at a Hyundai dealer.
What’s the Exterior Like?
With more crisp lines than a crumpled sheet of A4, the 2021 Hyundai Tucson exterior bodywork is sharp and edgy. It bears no resemblance to the roly-poly early years Tucson and looks every bit the modern driving machine.
The parametric grille and embedded LED signature daytime running lamps on higher end models deliver a remarkable on-road presence which ensures the Tucson stands out in traffic.
Depending on model chosen, the Hyundai Tucson is available in a choice of eight colours, mainly muted tones with the exception of red which is only available with the N-Line option.
17-inch alloy wheels are standard on the entry model, 18-inch on the Elite while 19-inch wheels are available on the Highlander, and all vehicles equipped with the N-Line pack.
What’s the Interior Like?
Whether you choose the entry Tucson, the Elite or the Highlander variants, the interior of the new Tucson is smart and well-finished. Regardless of model specification, the overall impression of the Tucson is a comfortable, well thought out layout with few budget touches and plenty to interest driver and passengers.
The dash layout is straightforward and easy to use, with a colour touchscreen sitting lower in the centre dash replacing the high mounted floating screens of the previous generation.
Upholstery ranges from a quality cloth interior in the Tucson to leather appointed seats in the Elite and a choice of either brown or grey leather in the Highlander. Choose the N-Line pack and you’ll add leather and suede upholstery with coloured stitching.
Elite adds front heated seats while the Highlander adds front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and cooled front seats.
The Hyundai cabin is spacious and offers a good level of rear seat accommodation with plenty of leg room. The new Tucson is based on a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model giving it an overall length increased by 150mm. Rear legroom is 80mm longer and rear headroom is 7mm higher resulting in a welcoming environment for adult passengers.
How safe is the Hyundai Tucson?
Every Hyundai Tucson model is equipped with a standard safety suite, and depending on variant, there are some segment leading ‘firsts’ added.
Standard safety equipment across the range includes blind-spot collision assist, lane keeping assist, forward collision avoidance assist with junction turning function, speed limit assist, rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist, rear occupant alert and rear view monitor. All vehicles are now equipped with seven airbags with a new front centre side airbag added.
Added to the Elite are front parking sensors and an advanced rear occupant alert while the Highlander variant also includes parking collision avoidance assist, 360-degree surround view monitor and blind spot view monitor. Tucson 2.0-litre diesel variants also feature remote smart parking assist which allows the car to park itself while the driver is outside of the vehicle using the remote key.
On the road, the safety suite provides all round confidence – the blind-spot monitor view which is also available in the larger Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is particularly clever.
Wing mirror mounted cameras show a view of the blind spot on the driver information display when the left or right indicator is pressed. It’s a great feature while driving as you don’t need to turn your head to check the blind spot when in use.
What’s the Infotainment Like?
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models in the Hyundai Tucson range. The entry model Tucson is fitted with an eight-inch colour touchscreen while the Elite and Highlander variants have a 10.25-inch screen standard. Even entry model buyers can get the upgraded screen by opting for the N-Line pack.
The Elite and Highlander include satellite navigation and a BOSE stereo is fitted to the Highlander variants for improved Audio.
Two Bluetooth connections enable switching between devices, and a variety of charging ports including a wireless charging pad, ensure everyone in the family can stay connected.
What is the Storage Like?
Thanks to the increase in size, the luggage capacity of the 2021 Hyundai Tucson is significantly increased too. Boot space behind the second row has expanded from 488mm to 539mm (VDA), but it is the increase in room in the second row which equates to even larger space – volume is increased by over 20 per cent compared to the TL Tucson.
Tucson Highlander features a smart power tailgate for easy access. There’s no need to waggle your foot under the bumper, as long as the key is in your possession, simply approach the car from the rear and remain in its detection zone for three seconds and the tailgate will open by itself (or just use the button on the key)
Clever storage spots are available throughout the cabin with plenty of room to stow everyday bits and pieces.
What engines are available?
Three powertrain options are available but we were only able to sample the 115kW 2.0-litre petrol engine with six-speed automatic transmission at launch.
A 132kW 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission will be next to arrive by June while the 137kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with eight-speed automatic transmission will arrive in the third quarter.
The turbo we couldnt sample, yet.
In the USA, the Tucson arrives with a higher output 2.5-litre petrol engine as its entry powertrain but it is not on offer in Australia.
Hybrid options are also available in the Hyundai portfolio but the Australian arm has not yet made a business case for bringing in hybrids as they are only available from the more expensive Czech Republic factory.
How about the fuel economy?
According to ADR standards, fuel economy from the 2.0-litre petrol engine is 8.1L/100km on the combined cycle.
In real world driving the result is a mixed bag depending on terrain. For the launch Hyundai chose to showcase the new Tucson on a 500km drive from its HQ in Sydney, through the Blue Mountains to Bathurst and onwards to Orange.
The outward journey took in a variety of road conditions including long uphill sections, tight and twisty legs as well as a lengthy gravel stretch. The last 180km leg which encompassed all of the above drive conditions saw the Tucson Highlander sit on 9.2L/100km.
Much better fuel economy was achieved on the 250km highway run from Orange to Sydney. The Tucson achieved 6.8L/100km on that much more forgiving drive stint.
What’s it like to drive?
The 2021 Hyundai Tucson holds strong promise with its future facing looks and high levels of technology but its weak spot is definitely its old school powertrain.
The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine lacks power and mid-range torque and as a result it has no sense of urgency. The six-speed automatic transmission does little to assist. It is slow to address throttle input, flares on gear change, and on hard acceleration uphill it holds onto gears for an extended period, begging for driver intervention to upshift. It is a definite Achilles’ heel for a vehicle that should hold its own in this competitive segment.
Moderate acceleration will result in a quieter, more refined driving experience but some drivers will find the lack of ‘go’ frustrating.
The 1.6L turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission, and the reduced weight 2.0-litre turbodiesel offers more opportunity in terms of more enlivened performance, but we haven’t yet been able to form an opinion on either of these options. Let’s hope they bring much needed punch to the Tucson and let’s hope they come quickly.
In terms of ride and handling, the Hyundai Tucson acquits itself well. Unlike most new Hyundais arriving in Australia, the Tucson hasn’t had a specific local suspension tune, but the factory set-up rides our roads well.
Whether on 17-inch or 19-inch wheels, the Nexen tyres offer decent grip and the front-drive Tucson fares well in rain and on gravel, of which we experienced plenty during our drive. There’s good feedback through the steering wheel and its balanced weight ensures it is neither too light in tight turns, or too heavy when parking.
What are the alternatives?
The most obvious choice for medium SUV buyers is the Toyota RAV4. Representing 30 per cent of all medium SUV sales, it is unassailable in the showroom. Its available hybrid powertrain, reliability and functionality have made it a powerhouse of modern SUVs.
Anyone considering a medium SUV would do well to consider the Mazda CX-5. It doesn’t offer the same level of safety technology as the new Hyundai Tucson but it is another car that represents reliable motoring in a stylish package.
Rounding out a trio of Japanese favourites is the Honda CR-V. It’s midway through its current lifecycle so in need of some tech and safety updates but it’s a comfortable car, and also available in a seven-seat configuration, adding extra flexibility for family buyers.
The Bottom Line
The 2021 Hyundai Tucson needs to stand out in a very competitive segment, and this fourth generation goes a long way to achieve that. It has stylish looks, a great cabin with lots of room to move and a raft of safety technology that sees it leading the pack, but the launch powertrain is underwhelming, and leaves us wondering what it could have been.