Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
The cutthroat level of competition in the medium SUV segment means models are evolving at a rapid pace. As a consequence, it’s a section of the market that is brimming with quality.
Buyers are spoilt for choice with the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and big-selling Mazda CX-5 all presenting a compelling argument for purchase. Sharp pricing also keeps the Mitsubishi OutlanderNissan X-Trail
All of this means the recently updated 2019 Hyundai Tucson needs to be good. On test here is the mid-spec Active X all-wheel variant equipped with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine and a new eight-speed automatic transmission. This particular Tucson is priced from $39,150 plus on-road costs.
In keeping with Hyundai’s DNA, every trim level is generously appointed, standard kit includes 17-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights, LED daytime running lights, front and rear fog lights, heated exterior mirrors, a rear-view camera, leather seat trim, electric lumbar support for the driver’s seat, rear park assist system and tyre pressure monitoring.
The Active X also gets an eight-speaker Infinity audio system and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The only thing missing is push-button start. Putting a key into an ignition barrel and turning seems out of place in 2019, with so much standard kit its absence feels like an oversight.
Pleasingly, in a small act of mercy in the name of keeping the peace, there’s a rear USB charging point, although, like those annoying Tim Tams, one is never enough. On the other hand, fighting over the USB port might distract those in the rear enough so they don’t notice the lack of proper air conditioning vents.
In a win for common sense, the SmartSense safety pack is available as an option on the Active X. For an additional $2200, the safety pack brings autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control with stop & go and a driver attention warning.
Ticking the box for the Safety pack also nets dual-zone climate control, a cooled glovebox, puddle lamps and an electronic park brake. Opting for the SmartSense pack is the quintessential no-brainer.
Visually, the 2019 Tucson mirrors the styling of the larger Santa Fe. The strong family resemblance is most obvious at the front with the inclusion of the brand’s signature cascading grille, restyled headlamps and daytime running lights.
The most significant design changes have been reserved for the interior, most notable is the floating, tablet-style infotainment screen that now sits proudly at the top of the dash. The 8.0-inch screen features satellite navigation along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
Moving the screen out of the centre stack cleans things up, there is beauty in the absence of superfluous buttons. Only the climate controls remain, which is our preference for safe operation while driving. The modern, minimalist design gives the Tucson a considerable advantage over its Sportage cousin. Beige leather is on the options list if you fancy dressing it up a bit more.
All the materials feel high-quality which is obviously important in a family car that is likely to be tested by young’uns. To reinforce the point, there are no silly piano black surfaces to easily scratch.
Where the Tucson concedes a point to the CX-5 is rear seat legroom, if carrying taller passengers in the back is a regular occurrence the Mazda offers slightly more space.
So everything looks good, the layout and materials all fit the SUV brief, but it’s the performance that kicks things up a notch.
In an era where diesel is a turnoff in some market segments, in this application, the oiler is brilliant. The 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel pumps out 135kW, however, it’s the 400Nm of torque that comes online from only 1750rpm that’s of most interest. It’s the same unit we sampled in the Sportage Si Premium.
Putting all that torque to the ground is a new eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s a smooth shifting unit that suits the daily chores the Tucson will be asked to complete.
Power can be shuffled between the axles depending on the driving conditions. All-wheel drive Tucson variants have the ability to split the torque 50/50 between the front and the back, however, front wheel drive is perfectly fine in most environments.
Around town, the Tucson’s performance is brilliant. It’s more manoeuvrable than many of its similarly sized rivals.
It’s prompt off the line, the addictive low down grunt of the turbo-diesel provides plenty of hustle. There is no detectable lag as the transmission seamlessly moves through the gears. It’s a powertrain combo that feels more muscular than it should.
Body control is an important aspect of assessing an SUV and impressive was the word that continually came to mind. Although many owners are unlikely to push the envelope, the Tucson can carry a very respectable amount of pace into the bends without making occupants nauseous.
Hyundai undertakes local suspension tuning to ensure everything is properly damped for our roads, the result is a composed and comfortable ride.
Out on the highway, the cabin is a quiet place to chew up the miles. The high level of refinement makes it an ideal car to cover long distances.
Something else that will help the miles tick over is the Infiniti audio system, we'd be remiss not to mention how good it is, throughout this test it proved to be better than some of the big name audio units (cough, Bose, cough).
Also worth a mention is the lack of height adjustment for the front passenger seat, multiple passengers remarked how low they felt they were sitting. The high seating position is one of the main drivers of SUV sales so it’s puzzling to not have height adjustment across the range.
The diesel also shines when it comes to efficiency, we covered 863 kilometres of city and highway driving during our test week returning a consumption figure of 6.8L/100km. Not bad at all. The diesel’s performance doesn’t come at the cost of efficiency.
In terms of ownership credentials, Hyundai was a maverick, the brand was the first to stump up a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Unfortunately, the market has caught up nullifying the showroom advantage. It’s no longer the selling point it once was, a five-year warranty is like a tattoo, it was cool before everybody got one.
Hyundai does offer a lifetime service plan, up to 10 years of roadside assistance and five years worth of map updates for the satellite navigation.
Formally, the Active X was positioned toward the entry point of the Tucson range, however, it’s moved up in the batting order. With the safety pack optioned, the diesel Active X easily eclipses the magic $40k mark.
That said, in the context of the Tucson range, the Active X is the sweet spot where the smart money will go. Spending extra on the diesel brings additional advantages to both performance and economy which are hard to ignore if you like some grunt in your family car.
2019 Hyundai Active X Diesel Specifications
Price from $39,150 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel Power 136kW @ 4000rpm Torque 400Nm @ 1750-2750rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 6.4L/100km Tank Capacity 62L Length 4480mm Width 1850mm Height 1660mm Wheelbase 2670mm Kerb Weight 1820kg Ground Clearance 172mm Turning Circle 11m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre