Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Test Drive: 2016 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Executive - Hyundai's compact SUV grows up

Hyundai have come a long way. Back in the 1990s when Hyundai first set foot in Malaysia you would have never thought that their cars would actually be good to even sit inside. They went through many phases in terms of car design and styling. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s they made nondescript looking cars that were bland to look at. In the late 1990s they started aping certain European brands. But it was when they decided to bring in talents from across the globe that this Korean brand started making waves.

You actually see this in this latest iteration of the Hyundai Tucson which I managed to get a hold on. This compact, C segment SUV was only recently launched here in Malaysia at the end of last year.

This car in terms of design and styling looks quite good for a compact SUV. You see that it looks nothing like the very feminine looking previous generation and it gets a lot of it good looks from the larger Hyundai Santa Fe. This is the new Hyundai design philosophy. Instead of just fluid, rounded lines, we now get a more edgy design.

There is a large grille up front, pumped up wheelarches, nice squinty lights front and back and a proportioned look to it. It looks like a properly tough looking SUV. Even though it is actually designed for the city dweller and that this version tested is front wheel driven.

It does surprisingly come with hill descent assist though (called Down-Hill Brake Control). This means that you can press a button and if you're suddenly off-road with a Tucson and you find a steep slope, you can leave the car to its own devices to find its way down safely.

This is one of many functions in its well equipped cabin. The layout of all the switchgear and instruments is pretty straightforward. The seating position is good and I have a nice view of the surrounding from the driver's seat. The quality of the interior is good for a C segment or Compact SUV. There are no real complaints. I even like the optional white leather with some quilted pattern. This I think is a very brave decision on the part of the local distributors, Hyundai Sime Darby to offer such an option (They offer this white and a bright red also). It actually makes the interior look like some super luxury car in this white. It goes well with the light blue exterior of the test car. Heck, even my daughter says the car looks like something really super duper chic and expensive. I call it a decadent option that is actually worth to opt for even though cleaning it in the long run may be a chore.

So how does it drive?

At first I did not really like the power delivery of the 155ps, 192Nm 2.0liter engine Hyundai calls the Nu series engine. It is coupled to a 6 speed automatic which felt a little sluggish at first. This was the first few hours of driving it but I believe that the Tucson has one of those smart powertrains. The car learnt how my driving style was and things felt better afterwards. Hyundai has better 2.0liter engines with direct injection (like the one in the Veloster).

But for Malaysia, we have the normal non-direct injection, a.k.a normal twin-cam, variable valve timing 4 cylinder. I think this was specced to keep costs and the price down to something relatively affordable here. But it is actually enough in terms of overall driveability. It is a 2.0liter engine and not a 1.5liter engine. It has decent low down torque accelerate briskly at the traffic lights (0-100kmh was dispatched in around 10.6seconds) and it is easy to drive around in most conditions. The 6 speed automatic transmission was also smooth and shifts were not noticeable. I tried all three drive mode functions, I did not like the Eco mode but used the Normal and Sports mode interchangeably between the two. Fuel consumption was pretty decent too – 10.8liters/100km in mixed driving conditions.

I mean, this is a lifestyle vehicle. You buy one, carry your bicycles, raft on the roof, camping equipment, flower pots, bags of flour (not cement) and something easy to maneuver in front of schools. Since it's an SUV, you're going to have to use it to climb curbs and also wade through knee deep waters if it flash floods.

I used the Tucson Executive, as what its called in full to run my errands on the days I had it. I was in Kuala Lumpur in the morning, down to Petaling Jaya for lunch, back to Kuala Lumpur for another event and then back to Petaling Jaya in the evenings. I took it shopping. I drove it to pick up the kid from school and I went out galavanting in it also. Not once did I feel that I was driving something I did not like.

It drove decently well on the highway with good refinement up to around 150kmh. The ride was comfortable on most road surfaces with not much tyre noise, tyre clobber as well as other road noise. Pretty good for a C segment SUV actually. 

And whilst the overall grip levels were not that high, it was predictable through the corners. No. I did not drive it how I drive a car through the twisties. It is a comfortable little SUV. But there are some sportier SUVs where I would do so and throw it into a corner with abandon. This isn't one of them. 

But as an everyday drive it is competent. The only real complaint that I could make of it is that it is a tad bit too clinical. There is that intangible thing called a soul which is lacking when you are driving the Tucson. It is utterly reliable and refined though. Which could be a more important fact to most rather than something subjective like passion and soul. Furthermore, if you compare this to the previous model, which I also had the opportunity to try out a few years ago, this is a vast improvement. It is so much better in every way over the earlier one. This, is a well rounded vehicle.

But I have to add again the fact that I do like the styling of the Tucson. It is quite nicely designed. It has won many design awards too. It is one of the nicer looking C segment SUVs out there on sale at the moment. Those white seats are nice too but it is a RM1,988 option and this is the biggest problem of this car. When you add that amount to the on the road price of the Tucson here, which is RM146,888.59 things get a little expensive.

Pros: Very nice exterior styling, very competent, nice optional white leather seats (or red in the red car), interior feels good, a lot of equipment, should be utterly reliable, high levels of refinement (for a C segment SUV), smooth drivetrain even though...

Cons: isn't the latest Hyundai GDI engine, a little pricey, a little too conservative in the drive, needs a bit more soul, expensive optional white seats

Conclusion: This is a grown up Tucson. A mature design. A stylish design. So the problem with the Hyundai Tucson is that it has super nice white seats which are optional and are a little expensive. I really like them. Really.

Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Executive
Price as tested: RM RM146,888.59 + RM1,988 for the optional white leather seats

Engine : 1999cc 4 cylinder 2.0 Nu series engine
Power: 155ps
Torque: 192Nm/4,000rpm
Transmission: 6 speed automatic
Front suspension: McPherson Strut
Rear suspension: Multi-Link
Tyre size: 225/60R17

Three drive mode function – Eco, Normal, Sports
Audio: Infotainment system with Navigation
Rear View Camera : Standard
Electronic park brake
6 airbags
Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Hillstart Assist Control
Electric Power Steering
Halogen Projector headlights
Daytime Running Lights

Leather Seats with 6:4 folding at rear

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