In the ocean of SUVs, there seems to be a space left vacant. Hundai has moved its chessmen quickly to fill it up with a rather lovable SUV
If you have about $36,000 to spare on an SUV, you have a couple of choices: settle for something on the lines of the Hyundai Greta or the Renault Duster or find some more cash and stretch your budget by an other $7,400 and go in for the Ford Endeavour or the new Toyota Fortuner. Yeah,you may argue that you can get yourself the Honda CR-V or the Chevy Trailblazer, but you’d need another few $ to fuel the CR-V, because it’s powered only by a petrol engine. And theTrailblazer, if you ask us, is not very good to drive and has nothing exciting to offer buyers. That brings us to the latest offering by Hyundai and the solution to the problem for anyone who has $30,000-37,000 for an SUV. It’s called theTucson. It does ring a few bells in your head, doesn’t it? Yup, it isn’t the first time that Hyundai is bringing the Tucson to India. It did come here many years back, but somehow didn’t grab much attention.
The first thing you need to know about this new, exec SUV is the way the name’s pronounced. Unlike what the spelling reads, you pronounce it as: Tu-Saw in simple words. And the next thing that you need to know is that it’s the only SUV in India that has no direct rival. And the closest rival is powered only by a petrol engine and sells only in double-digit numbers every month.
Now, the Tucson isn’t a flawless product. It has some apparent flaws like the lack of an AWD system even as an option and the way it’s been specced in India. For starters, the cabin is almost as plush as a German SUV’s and it is clear that the Tucson is aiming for some SUVs a few notches up the hierarchy with thesort of fit-finish and feel itintends to offer. It’s been inspired by some German luxury carmakers in some ways.
The e-brake, for example, is something that you’d find in a premium SUV, or the Auto Hold feature that eliminates the need for you to keep the brake engaged while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Another button I was rather surprised to see in an SUV that has no intentions of going off-road is the hill descent control. And I say it has no intentions of going off-road because, first: it has no AWD system, second at 172mm, it has only as much space below its belly as a hatchback. Oh yeah, an other thing I found funny is that an SUV which has all the bells and whistles that you find in cars a couple of segments above it has paddle shifters and a sunroof missing from the features list. Rather strange, no?
But now that I’ve told you what the Tucson lacks, allow me to tell you where it shines as bright as a star. And the first thing that comes to mind is the way the cabin and the dashboard have been put together. The quality of materials is high grade and colour tones and the design of things will give you a premium SUV feel. The back seats are spacious, too, and come with their own AC vents.
The exterior styling has also been undertaken bearing in mind what the competition has been up to and the ever-increasing needs of the buyer. A huge pentagonal grille takes prime position on the face and the rest of the space is occupied by headlamps that are nicely crafted and huge, and a bumper that fits clean in the design. The side profile and the rear design, including that of the tail-lights is a typical Hyundai affair, and the designers call it the Fluidic 2.0 design language.
One thing that engineers from Korea have got just right is the Tucson’s ride quality. It’s sublime. It can soak up bumps with great ease and none of the road irregularities, including sharp potholes, will make their way to your back. Things like putting one wheel through a pothole at respectable speeds are done in complete silence and the pitch is controlled rather well. In terms of body roll, yes, it’s evident. But it’s not something that’ll bother you too much while going through a section of fast, sweeping bends.
What will, though, is the tendency of the Tucson to understeer. Such bulk and only front wheels driven makes the traction control work to the best of its capability and still, if you get into a corner even slightly lukewarm, you’d find it wafting away from the line you intended to take.
Push it slightly harder and you’d find it skipping off the line, sending a chill down your spine. And while all this is happening down on the road, your palms feel nothing through the steering wheel. There’s no connection or any sort of communication between the front wheels and the steering. To solve the problem, Hyundai has given a small button on the centre console that says ‘Drive Mode’. If you press it a couple of times, it sends the car into Sport mode that weighs up the steering considerably and alters the throttle response and mapping for the gearbox. But even with the instrument cluster flashing the Sport light, the steering feedback remains minimal.
With the Tucson, Hyundai has introduced a diesel engine that we hadn’t seen before. Hyundai likes to calls it an e-VGT 2.0 and it has four cylinders and displaces l,995cc. It’s assisted by a turbo and develops 183bhp and a massive 402Nm of pulling power. With such numbers, the mid range gets tremendously juicy and a treat to be in. T he huge torque wave comes in linearly at about l,800rpm and stays till you hit the 4,000rpm mark. Though the torque-converter transmission has six ratios to play with, it isn’t too brisk with gear changes. The clatter that the oil-burner develops is contained rather well, with it seeping into the cabin only at high revs.
There’s also a petrol engineon offer – a 2.0-litre four-pot one. It’s the same engine that powers the Elantra and puts out 153bhp and 192Nm. You’d get more refinement and willingness to achieve higher revs in the petrol, but you’d miss riding the torque wave that the diesel offers. This, too, is available with a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto ’box. Similar torque converter type, unfortunately.
Despite the shortcomings, the Tucson does make a strong case for itself in the sea of SUVs that have flooded the market. In fact, Hyundai has won half the battle with the product positioning of the Tucson on Indian market. And the remaining half will be dealt with in a way that’ll put a smile on the buyer’s face once he sits in the cabin. Hyundai asks for $28,000 for the Tucson’s base petrol variant with a manual gearbox and for this, the top-end diesel automatic version, the price tag stands at $37,000.
The Tucson doesn’t offer the solid handling that the smaller Greta offers or the massive bulk that the Santa Fe comes with, but it finds that sweet spot right in the middle of the two. The ride quality and the cabin feel just does wonders for it, but the only fly in the ointment remains to be the lack of an AWD system.
Engine: 1995cc, 4cyl, turbo diesel
Ground clearance: 172mm
Pros: Plush cabin, ride, dashboard layout
Cons: Handling, steering fuel, lack of AWD
Bottom line: Offers the plushness that no other Hyundai offers, and fits in a segment left vaccant. Isn’t the best handler, but has brilliant ride quality.