HYUNDAI TUCSON REVIEW & BUYER'S GUIDE
On balance, the Hyundai Tucson is a Mazda CX-5 killer. This is the five-seat SUV you must drive, if only to convince yourself you're making the right choice with another five-seat SUV - it's the benchmark for comparison.
The Hyundai Tucson is a five-seat SUV, and in some ways it's the most impressive vehicle in the Hyundai lineup. The vehicle is very well thought out, and offers pretty good value at all the pricepoints.
Private buyers probably won't want to go below the Active X specification grade. (Active is a bit 'poverty', and Active X - the next step up - doesn't cost that much extra.)
Great styling and impressive standard technology eclipses most competitors in this hotly contested five-seat SUV market segment.
Additionally, few can match Hyundai on warranty or service cost, and while many competitors are cursed with a space-saver spare tyre, the Hyundai offers a full-sized alloy wheel and tyre.
Reliability seems good, and safety levels - following an initial hiccup - are now at five-star levels. (See 'Safety >>' below.)
Tucson is comfortable, well equipped and easy to drive. Great family transport option, as well as a good getaway machine - provided you limit yourself to moderate tracks (at the most) and assuming you don't need to tow the QE2.
Tucson will easily tow a moderate trailer and take you places conventional cars can't go on the family camping front, especially if you buy in to one of the AWD models in the range.
Two-wheel drive Tucsons (see 'Model Range' below) are best left for those on a budget and/or who really harbour no 'getting away from it all' aspirations - or at least for those who are content to get away from it all to places conventional cars can go.
Closest competitor? Mazda CX-5. See more on CX-5 here >>
See also: Kia Sportage >>
HYUNDAI TUCSON VIDEO REVIEW
Read the transcript of this video >>
TUCSON MODEL RANGE
Vehicle manufacturers distinguish their vehicle ranges in two main ways: By powertrain (engine and transmission) and by specification grade (equipment level). This simplifies supply logistics, as well as giving the dealer the opportunity to 'sell you up' into the next model, because it offers you more - more power, or more equipment/features, or both.
The Hyundai Tucson model range is pretty easy to digest: four different engines and four specification grades are available. The specification grades are, from cheapest to most expensive:
- Active X
It'll cost you about $2500 extra to step up from Active to Active X - a worthwhile investment because it costs comparatively little extra and it just feels a lot more 'premium'. Note that the 2.0-litre MPI versions of the petrol engine feature an older kind of injection technology (multi-point) and the newer 2.0 GDI engine has superior 'direct injection' technology.
Hyundai sources the Tucson from two different factories: South Korea and the Czech Republic. The 2.0 GDI comes from South Korea, and the 2.0 MPI comes from Europe. Earlier this year (2016) Hyundai did experiment with sourcing Active and Elites from South Korea, and hence the GDI engine was added to those ranges. Supply of those variants has since reverted to Europe, and the GDI engine is consequentially being phased out of Active and Elite, sadly.
Tucson Active X has the GDI engine, and continues to be sourced from the South Korean factory, and Highlander (which is not available with either the 2.0 MPI or 2.0 GDI engine) continues to be sourced from the Czech Republic factory.
The residual benefit here, to this 'on again, off again' dalliance with extending the 2.0 GDI engine to Active and Elite, is that Elite has had rather an extreme makeover.
When Tucson first launched, Elite was an odd fit; in many ways a step backwards from Active X. Now it's a real step forward, and, in many ways, the real 'value' proposition in the range. It was originally packaged with smaller alloys and cloth interior, but Elite 2.0 MPI now gets 19-inch alloys, an extra 12-volt power outlet (total of two) plus rain-sensing wipers, cooled glove box, and an optional sunroof. Elite AWD (1.6 turbo petrol and 2.0 diesel) adds all those features, plus leather seats.
Both turbo engines feature a solid AWD drivetrain as well, including a lockable centre differential that transmits 50 per cent of the drive forwards and 50 per cent rearwards. You hit the 'lock' button when it's slippery, and your tractive effort improves, basically. (So it's less likely you'll get bogged in mud or sand.) However, DO NOT drive with the drivetrain locked up like that on a high traction surface (like a normal road) because it imposes substantial stresses on the driveline and you could easily break something expensive.
Stepping up from (say) an Active X petrol auto to an Elite 1.6 petrol turbo AWD is going to involve you spending a bit over $5000 extra - a considerable sum. Electing to go for the diesel, which makes a heap of low-rpm power, will cost you another $2000 on top of that. It's a big step up.
Highlander adds all the fruit - with a couple of notable exceptions, like adaptive cruise, which is strangely missing. It costs about $5000 to step from Elite to Highlander - which is impressively equipped and also pretty good value compared with the top-selling medium five-seat SUV (Mazda CX-5). Bear in mind that the range-topping CX-5 Akera does have adaptive cruise control.
Hyundai is quick to spruik the 12-month/15,000-kilometre standard service interval, which is impressive. However, in the fine print you will see the 1.6 turbo petrol requires servicing every six months or 7500km - whichever comes first. Best wrap your head around this at the outset, the better not to get completely jaded about it after the purchase. Those intermediate services (at 6 months, 18 months, 30 months, etc.) are cheap and minor - little more than oil changes to satisfy the operational requirements of the petrol engine's turbocharger.
2.0 MPI manual: $28,590
2.0 MPI auto: $31,090
2.0 GDI manual: $28,590
2.0 GDI auto: $31,090
(All variants are 2WD)
TUCSON ACTIVE X
2.0 GDI manual: $31,150
2.0 GDI auto: $33,650
(Both variants are 2WD)
2.0 MPI auto: $36,750
2.0 GDI auto: $35,990
(Both variants are 2WD)
Turbo petrol auto: $39,750
Diesel auto: $41,750
Turbo petrol auto: $45,450
Diesel auto: $47,450
* Recommended retail pricing shown, as at July 2016. This does not include on-road costs (rego, CTP & stamp duty) or the (highly negotiable) dealer delivery fee.
Remember: pricing on almost all vehicles is highly negotiable. Depending on supply and demand, and a range of other factors, significant discounting is possible if you negotiate effectively. Alternatively, Contact me >> for a better price.
HYUNDAI TUCSON SPECIFICATIONS
Length: 4475 mm
Width: 1850 mm
Height: 1660 mm
Kerb weight: 1572-1744 kg
Maximum tow capacity: 1600 kg
Seating Capacity: five
Warranty: 5 years / unlimited kilometres
Service: capped price for life
Service interval: 12 months or 15,000 km*
*whichever comes first
Roadside assist: 1 year
Spare wheel: Full-sized alloy spare wheel/tyre
SUV SALES IN AUSTRALIA, 2015
SUV SALES BREAKDOWN
STANDARD EQUIPMENT LEVELS
Engine: 2.0 MPI normally aspirated petrol with mulit-point injection or 2.0 GDI direct injection petrol with slightly better performance and economy
Transmissions: six-speed manual or six-speed conventional automatic
Drivetrain: front-wheel-drive only
17-inch alloy wheels
Tilt/reach steering adjustment
Reverse parking sensors
Engine: 2.0 GDI normally aspirated petrol with direct injection (ie, no 2.0 MPI petrol engine availability in Active X)
Transmissions: six-speed manual or six-speed conventional automatic
Drivetrain: front-wheel-drive only
ADDITIONAL STD FEATURES
18-inch alloy wheels
LED daytime running lamps
Leather trim accents
Premium steering wheel/knob
Electric folding/heated mirrors
Engines: 2.0 MPI & 2.0 GDI normally aspirated petrol engines noted left are both available in Elite, plus 1.6 turbo petrol with direct injection or 2.0 turbo diesel with direct injection
Transmissions: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (petrol) or six-speed conventional automatic (diesel & 2.0P)
Drivetrain: AWD, on-demand (1.6T or diesel) or front-wheel-drive only (2.0-litre petrol versions)
ADDITIONAL STD FEATURES
19-inch alloy wheels
10-way electric driver's seat
Electric park brake with auto-hold
Dual-zone climate control
Proximity key (pushbutton start)
GPS with 3yr update plan
Hands-free power tailgate
LED repeaters in wing mirrors
Leather seats (on Elite AWD variants only)
** No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available
Engines: 1.6 turbocharged petrol with direct injection or 2.0 turbocharged diesel with direct injection (ie, no 2.0-litre petrol engines available in Highlander)
Transmissions: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (petrol) or six-speed conventional automatic (diesel)
Drivetrain: AWD, on-demand
ADDITIONAL STD FEATURES
19-inch alloy wheels with 245/45 Continental ContiSportContact5 tyres
Front parking sensors
Tyre pressure monitoring system
LED tail lamps
Six-way electric passenger's seat
Front seat heating/cooling
Panoramic glass roof
Blind spot detection
Lane change assist function
Rear cross traffic alert
Autonomous emergency braking
Lane-keeping assist function
Twin tip trapezoidal exhaust
4.2-inch TFT LCD screen in instrument cluster
HYUNDAI TUCSON ENGINES
Peak Engine Outputs
Hyundai uses four different engines and three different transmissions across the Tucson range. Active (2.0 MPI) and Active X (2.0 GDI) are both basic 2.0-litre petrol engines available with six-speed manual or six-speed auto). Both 2.0-litre petrols are front-drive only (even in Elite - but that's auto only). MPI is the older 'multi-point' injection. GDI ('gasoline direct injection) is the newer and more efficient injection technology.
Elite and Highlander have a choice between the turbochrged petrol engine (T-GDI) and the R-Series turbodiesel engine - both with AWD and automatic only. The T-GDI petrol auto is actually a dual-clutch transmission - which is a good news/bad news story: good because it delivers fast, positive shifts for engaging, sporty driving, and bad because it's a bit jerky and non-linear for low-speed manoeuvering (things like three-point turns and reverse parking). The R-Series diesel is a conventional six-speed auto - not as positive on the shifts as the dual-clutch, but more refined for low-speed manoeuvering.
Both turbo engines (T-GDI petrol and R-Series diesel) deliver a lot of low-rpm power, which makes them feel very strong at low to medium revs (check the yellow bars on the graph (right) to see how much stronger this mid-range performance is in the 1.6 T-GDI turbo petrol and (in particular) in the 2.0 R-Series turbodiesel. (Graph shows peak torque in yellow. Power = torque x revs x a bunch of physical constants.) The R-Series diesel makes roughly double the 2.0 petrol engines' peak torque and feels tremendously stronger.
Confused about petrol versus diesel? Read my report below.
Petrol V Diesel: Which fuel suits you best? >>
Each Engine in Detail
2.0-litre MPI multipoint petrol
Verdict: An adequate entry-level engine with average outputs and ageing technology (multi-point injection). Keeps up with the Joneses, just, but will feel a little asthmatic if you want to push it beyond its natural comfort zone (think: Driving Miss Daisy - that's where it slots in).
Description: 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder with older injection tech, double overhead cams and variable valve timing
114 kW @ 6200 rpm
192 Nm @ 4700 rpm
Economy: 7.9-8.2 L/100km
Availability: Tucson Active and Elite.
Front-drive only - in other words, there are no AWD 2.0-litre petrol Actives or Elites available. Six-speed manual or conventional six-speed auto transmissions available. Elite: Auto only.
Verdict: A good, but not stellar, engine with slightly better outputs and better injection technology (direct injection). Significantly better than the older 2.0-litre engine in the Active (which was carried over from the old ix35), but needs a big rev compared with the other pair to make it perform.
Description: 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder with direct injection, double overhead cams and variable valve timing
121 kW @ 6200 rpm
203 Nm @ 4700 rpm
Economy: 7.8-7.9 L/100km
Availability: Tucson Active, Active X and Elite (ie, not Highlander). Currently being phased out of Active and Elite, as a result of production logistics.
Front-drive only - in other words, there are no AWD 2.0-litre petrol Tucsons available.
Verdict: Awesome low-to-mid-range performance. Definitely takes the fight to the Mazda 2.5-litre Skyactiv engine. 7-speed DCT (dual-clutch transmission) is wonderfully positive for driving engagement when pressing on but lacks low-speed linearity and refinement (parking, U-turns, etc.)
Description: 1.6-litre inline turbocharged four-cylinder with direct injection, double overhead cams and variable valve timing
130 kW @ 5500 rpm
265 Nm @ 1500-4500 rpm
Economy: 7.7 L/100km
Availability: Tucson Elite and Highlander only.
On-demand AWD only, with lock function for slippery conditions. 7-speed dual-clutch-type auto transmission only. No T-GDI or AWD for Active and Active X, and no manual diesels available.
Verdict: The winner for most drivers. Features the most low-rpm power by a country mile, and the best fuel economy too. Conventional auto is also the most refined transmission of the two premium engines in the range, especially for low-speed driving. Worth every cent of the $2000 extra price.
Description: 2.0-litre inline turbocharged four-cylinder diesel with multi-point injection, and double overhead cams
136 kW @ 4000 rpm
400 Nm @ 1750-2750 rpm
Economy: 6.4-6.8 L/100km
Availability: Tucson Elite and Highlander only.
On-demand AWD only, with lock function for slippery conditions. 7-speed dual-clutch-type auto transmission only. No diesel or AWD for Active or Active X, and no diesel manuals.
HYUNDAI TUCSON ROAD TEST
The Hyundai Tucson rides and handles very well, across all model grades. Hyundai does a lot of local suspension development here in Australia, and thanks to increasing sales volumes in this country they've got the budget to develop unique-to-Australia suspension settings - and it shows. Hyundai claims it went through 104 different suspension tune parameters before arriving at a production spec, and the result is quiet composure. It's dynamically on par with a CX-5 (benchmark five-seater for handling) but it's also quieter (CX-5's Achilles heel).
It's a good thing the 1.6 T-GDI and R-Series diesel have AWD, because it's doubtful the additional low-rpm power of those engines could be adequately controlled by a front-drive powertrain. The 2.0 MPI and 2.0 GDI petrol engines are, however, OK with a front-drive powertrain.
The drive experience is very rewarding. There are no real nasty surprises, and the range-topping Highlander manages to feel premium. That's 'premium' in the context of all the competitors on sale around $50k, not 'premium (for a South Korean Car)'. When you walk up to a Tucson for the first time, you also see how well the styling works in the flesh. This is the first vehicle from Hyundai that design boss Peter Schreyer has overseen. (He's the design genius who blipped on the world stage after designing the Audi TT, was then poached by Kia and heralded its recent design revision, and is now Hyundai's design supremo.)
The 2.0-litre MPI and GDI engines are fine for family transport on a budget - clearly the Active X is the pick there, because the spec is better than Active and (in many ways) Elite, and the GDI engine is a more willing participant. The 1.6 T-GDI is great for spirited driving - at least on a par with Mazda's 2.5-litre Skyactiv engine in CX-5 - and the R-Series diesel is a clear winner on mid-range performance (at low to medium revs) and also ideal for effortless long-distance cruising and towing.
Ergonomics are also excellent - better in many ways than Santa Fe: cleaner layout, better driver's footrest, better front seat ergonomics, etc. You'd have to be a pretty hard marker to fail it on ergonomics grounds. Biggest criticism: Some softer plastics on the dashboard and other tactile surfaces could have been forthcoming.
The main differences between the two premium engines are felt at low speeds. The 1.6 T-GDI has a dual-clutch transmission, and that's more jerky and non-linear in its clutch take-up response than the conventional auto in the R-Series diesel. At least Hyundai understands how to make a dual-clutch transmission function reliably - unlike Ford or Volkswagen, for example.
Tucson is great to drive, and completely in character for a family friendly SUV. If you like pressing on at times, the Highlander is very rewarding. The biggest criticisms as a driver have more to do with the specifications and functionality of secondary systems. Frankly, Mazda does a better job with MZD Connect (the rotary dial system that drives the infotainment functions) than Hyundai does with its touchscreen-based user interface. CX-5 Akera has adaptive cruise; Tucson Highlander doesn't.
The model range isn't really a progression - or at least, Elite is an 'odd man out'. In many ways, moving from Active X to Elite is a step backwards - you lose the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interface, you lose the leather, you come back in wheel size, and if you buy the 2.0-litre petrol version, you lose direct injection. The model range would make more sense if Elite were deleted, and T-GDI and R-Series powertrains were simply offered on Active X. (This incongruity has something to do with the Active X being the only Tucson built in South Korea. All others come from Europe, from Hyundai's factory in the Czech Republic.)
HYUNDAI TUCSON SAFETY
The new Tucson is one of the safest vehicles on the road today - provided you buy one built after the critical safety redesign dates. (See 'Safety Controversy' below.)
All Hyundai Tucsons feature a reversing camera, regardless of specification grade, which is great because driveway deaths are the second most common cause of accidental death in children, and a reversing camera - while no silver bullet - is a powerful weapon in the prevention arsenal.
Daytime running lights are also standard across the range.
Tucson scores very well in the official ANCAP protocols, as you can see on the right, beating many Japanese and European contenders in the class.
Many of Tucson's advanced safety systems are available only in the high-priced models, mainly Highlander. These include autonomous emergency braking (where the car applies the brakes automatically to avoid or mitigate a threat the driver hasn't seen) plus blind spot detection, lane departure warning, rain-sensing automatic windscreen wipers, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
(This last one is a good idea, too, because sustained running on an under-inflated tyre is a major cause of blowouts, owing to the heat generated in the sidewalls, from flexing too much.)
Two key features from the 'advanced safety' department have been deleted, even though they are available overseas: a manual speed limiter and an 'active' (pop-up) bonnet that mitigates pedestrian injury. Also deleted in this way are pre-tensioners for the outboard rear seat occupants.
However, overall, Tucson is a very safe vehicle compared with key competitors. All those listed at the right are five-star performers on safety (except the Fiat Freemont at the bottom of the list). It shows there are differences in five-star performers.
Overall ANCAP Safety Score
(Maximum Possible: 37 points)
Subaru Outback 35.99
Honda CR-V 35.91
Subaru Forester 35.64
Mitsubishi Outlander 35.58
Hyundai Tucson 35.53
Subaru XV 35.33
Nissan X-TRAIL 35.28
Audi Q3 35.15
Mazda CX-5 35.10
Skoda Yeti 34.67
Toyota RAV4 34.56
Holden Captiva 7 34.32
Volkswagen Tiguan 34.25
Fiat Freemont 32.15
Shortly after the release of Tucson, in November 2015, ANCAP announced the results of its independent crash testing of the Tucson. Shockingly enough, the vehicle failed the minimum requirements in the offset frontal crash test to be awarded five stars, and was thus awarded four stars on safety.
It had been years since a new Hyundai had achieved fewer than five stars by ANCAP, so the result was shocking both internally for Hyundai and externally for commentators like me. And for buyers like you. The vehicle failed to achieve the minimum score of 12.5 out of 16 in the offset frontal crash test, which is meant to simulate a severe 'clipping' style of head-on collision. It scored 11.46 in this test, with the protection for the driver's left leg, and both feet rated as 'marginal' (the second worst possible rating).
So-called 'high mechanism' leg injuries (in which a lot of energy is injected into the victim from the collision) are often fatal, owing to the fact that the legs and feet are highly vascular and it's easy to die of blood loss (hypovolemic shock) at the roadside following such an incident, before critical care can be effected. So, this is a big deal.
Hyundai went to great pains to do two things following this result, one of them excellent and the other pretty damn cynical. On the excellence front, a team of engineers implemented a fix for the floorpan, in record time, and ANCAP agreed to re-test the vehicle following this fix. The result was five-star crashworthiness, with the re-tested Tucson this time managing an excellent 14.53 out of a possible 16 points. An excellent response.
You can see from the results (right), extracted from the official technical report from ANCAP, that the engineering fix to the floorpan made a massive difference to the lower leg injury outcome, and the improvement to the chest region was significant as well.
Make sure you note these dates: Hyundai Tucsons manufactured in South Korea (Active X variants) from 17 November 2015 and those manufactured in Europe (Active, Elite and Highlander) from 16 December 2015 are the ones with the engineering fix in place. Do not buy a Hyundai Tucson built before these critical dates.
Spin Doctoring Crash #1
10 Sept 2015
Overall Score: 11.46
Upper legs: 4.00/4
Lower legs: 0.41/4
Verdict: "The structural integrity of the driver footwell was compromised ... there was also excessive rearward and upward movement of the brake pedal."
SECOND CRASH TEST
9 Dec 2015
Overall Score: 14.53
Upper legs: 4.00/4
Lower legs: 2.80/4
Verdict: "The passenger compartment held its shape well ... pedal and steering wheel displacements were well controlled."
The cynical part of this story was the degree to which Hyundai downplayed the original four-star result. The company disingenuously tried to limit the four-star rating to the model variant tested (2.0-litre GDI Active X 2WD). It claimed the vehicle was "strong" (it did ace the very severe 'pole' test) and the other variants (ie Elite and Highlander) were "unrated" by ANCAP. This is, at best, pretty poor form on the ethics and credibility fronts.
My take on this: if it smells like bullshit, and tastes like bullshit, and quacks like bullshit ... chances are it is actually bullshit. The fact is, the engineering fix was implemented on all variants, in both factories, to cure the problem. Hyundai deserves significant credit for getting this fix in place so fast. Companies like Jeep and Audi have been happy, historically, to let vehicles like the Grand Cherokee and Q7 languish with four stars for years without doing anything about it, and thereby putting those owners knowingly at risk - which is completely unacceptable in my view, especially for a company like Audi, in which five star safety is surely a presumption in the minds of many.
Hyundai is, however, today happy to acknowledge that all variants post-fix are five-star (even though only another 2.0-litre GDI Active X 2WD vehicle was tested). ANCAP even bought into this particular flavour of bullshit, which is unfortunate - as it diminishes the crash-tester's claim on independence.
The problem is: Logic. If you test one Active X and it rates four stars, then you fix it and test the fix and it then rates five stars, you can't claim all other variants are unrated off the back of the first test without also claiming all other variants are unrated off the back of the second test as well. As things stand, it's an intensely hypocritical position to take. At the time I am sitting here writing this, I've had two e-mails from intending high-end Tucson buyers confused because dealers are telling them the pre-fix stock is "unrated" and therefore "safe" - an ethically unacceptable position for them to take, at least in my view. Dealers already own this stock. They need to sell it. I get that. But bear in mind, they'll generally tell you whatever they think you will swallow to get that sale across the line. Whether you live or die following a crash is beyond their concern...
Take note of the critical manufacturing dates above. Don't buy a Tucson manufactured before those dates. The five-star ones don't cost any more ... but they might stop you dying at the roadside. I am, however, very confident that Tucsons manufactured after those dates are among the safest you can buy.
HYUNDAI TUCSON BEST & WORST FEATURES
Excellent turbo petrol and diesel engine performance in Elite and Highlander. Those engines are paired to sure-footed AWD system (Elite/Highlander only) with 50:50 'lock' function for some real (albeit light-duty) off-road traction. Brilliant value proposition, excellent warranty, long service interval (except 1.6 turbo petrol) and full-sized spare tyre are real plusses. Great styling and good to drive - quieter than a Mazda CX-5 and at least as comfortable, dollar-for-dollar. Rear-view camera (a lifesaving feature for children) is standard across the range. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (available for Active X only) takes infotainment to next level.
Highlander lacks adaptive cruise control - despite having all the required hardware for the job (such as the radar sensor for the autonomous emergency braking). This is especially perverse seeing as the (older) Mazda CX-5 Akera does have adaptive cruise. Autonomous emergency braking and some other advanced safety systems are available only on Highlander. Dual-clutch transmission (on 1.6 turbo petrol, Elite and Highlander) can be jerky and non-linear during low-speed manoeuvering. Some hard plastics on (in particular) Highlander interior. No AWD available in Active or Active X, and no diesel in lower variants means affordable adventuring (or at least cheap adventuring) off road is not really possible. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in Elite or Highlander - perversely enough... Confusing incongruities between Active X and Elite 2.0 2WD.
OWNING A HYUNDAI TUCSON
Hyundai offers one of the most compelling ownership propositions in Australia: a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing for life and one year of free roadside assistance thrown in. The 2.0-litre diesel (R-Series) and 2.0-litre petrol (2.0i & 2.0 GDI) engines have a great servicing interval, too: 15,000km or 12 months - whichever comes first. Note, however, that the 1.6 turbo petrol engine (1.6 T-GDI) requires services at 6 months or 7500km - whichever comes first.
Hyundai generally offers something else many manufacturers don't - a full-sized spare alloy wheel and tyre. That's good for two reasons: first, the alternative is a space-saver (one of those temporary narrow spare tyres). These space-savers are speed limited to 80km/h - which is dangerous on freeways (because you'll be driving 20-30km/h slower than the prevailing traffic flow), and they just don't grip the road as well as a full-sized spare. They wear out quickly if used, and they are very expensive to replace. They are also a pain in the arse if you happen to be towing a trailer (boat, camper van, etc.) at the time you get a flat. The other advantage is purely cosmetic: if you scrape your front left wheel on the gutter, you have a pristine alloy wheel to replace it with, and you can then use the blemished one as the spare.
The final issues are reliability and customer service: How reliable are they? Does Hyundai do a good job when something goes wrong? Do they look after you? Frankly I get very few reliability complaints concerning Hyundai vehicles. Those few that do filter through tend to get resolved quickly and efficiently. What a pity you can't say that about Holden, Ford, Jeep, and Volkswagen...
HYUNDAI TUCSON COMPETITORS
There is staggering competition among manufacturers for small and medium SUV sales. In total, there are roughly 50 different vehicles of this approximate size available today, from which you might choose. It's impossible to drive a representative sample, or start with a blank sheet of paper (or spreadsheet) and whittle your way down to the perfect SUV via a series of objective logic and subjective preference steps. At the very least, doing so is a full-time job.
Remember not to compare the vehicle you're driving now to the vehicle(s) you're considering upgrading to. (Old, crappy vehicles with 100,000km on the clock make any new vehicle feel excellent.) So, it's important to compare new with new.
If you're unfamiliar with this market, drive at the very least the Mazda CX-5 and one other vehicle from the 10 below, and make sure the variants you drive are on sale at about the same price-point as the Tucson you're considering - the better objectively to evaluate their features and benefits.
Essential tips on test driving like a professional >>
Marketplace Popularity: Tucson -Vs- Key Competitors
KEY HYUNDAI TUCSON COMPETITORS
Made in Japan
This is the Tucson's closest rival. Strong and efficient 2.5-litre petrol engine, decent 2.0-litre engine, good diesel. Akera model variant is very impressive on value and features - and has adaptive cruise control (an excellent feature that's unavailable on Tucson). Ride perhaps a bit on the harsh/noisy side, but great dynamics. Can't match the Tucson on warranty, service or spare tyre (Mazda's is a space-saver spare). If you are going to benchmark one vehicle against the new Tucson, this is the one to get behind the wheel of for comparison - check them out at the same price point.
Made in Japan
XV is what Forester was (originally) - but the CVT in Subaru's is far from being as impressive as a conventional auto transmission, and overall, the XV is about on par with a Qashqai - except the XV at least has Symmetrical AWD - which is a real plus on dirt roads or when it rains. Cargo space is small, too. There's a funky bright colour range in XV (if you're into that - many manufacturers are ultra-conservative on colours these days) but the XV is cursed by Subaru's short and expensive service intervals, and the three-year warranty doesn't exactly take the fight to the South Koreans. This is also the only Subaru SUV with a space-saver spare tyre - a real liability in those wet/unsealed conditions in which the symmetrical all-wheel drive system (mentioned above) is otherwise such an asset. Certainly the Subaru XV is a solid alternative to Mitsubishi's ASX or Nissan's Qashqai, but it's frankly not in the same value/features league as Tucson.
Made in Japan
Nissan almost got the X-TRAIL right, and it offers the option of seven seats on some models (but not with AWD, perversely). CVT transmission not as polished as Tucson's conventional autos (in 2.0-litre petrol or diesel Tucson) and not as positive as the DCT in 1.6T Tucson. Like many (but not Tucson) the X-TRAIL is cursed with a space-saver spare and can't keep up with its (3yr) warranty or (6mth) service either.
Made in the United Kingdom
A case of 'honey, I shrunk the X-TRAIL'. A strict five-seater with 2WD (front drive) the only option. A cheap way to get an SUV ... or an expensive way to get a car with a little extra ground clearance: You decide. Warranty, service, features, value and spare tyre all on the back foot, compared with the Tucson.
Made in Japan
One of Subaru's most successful vehicles with a big model range and symmetrical AWD, plus a full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre (like Tucson) make good sense. Less impressive is the three-year warranty, the expensive six-monthly service intervals, and the look (which is, let's face it, less than polished.
Made in Japan
An old SUV trying to look young, and offers seven seats with AWD in some models. Adequate engines, good warranty - and the only Japanese five-year warranty in the class. (But the warranty is for 100,000km, not unlimited kilometres like Hyundai's.) Doesn't match the Hyundai Tucson on equipment or value.
Made in Japan
Not a bad option if you're looking for something smaller, and a better option (perhaps) than a Qashqai - because the warranty is better, as is the AWD driveline - but not really a patch on the Tucson for technology or value.
Made in Japan
Excellent value, practical luggage capacity, symmetrical all-wheel drive and a full-sized spare are Outback's core strengths. It drives well, too, and it's one of the best looking Subarus. EyeSight safety system is a real plus, too - incorporating adaptive cruise, a feature Tucson Highlander lacks. But warranty and service interval/cost don't match Tucson - but at least the Outback is one of the few which, like Tucson, has a full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre. (And no manual transmission available for the petrol variants.)
Made in Japan
Unfortunately 'oh what a feeling' translates to 'mediocre in just about every respect' with Toyota's RAV4. It's typically Toyota - which means basically leading the market through a process of engineered-in borderline adequacy. This RAV4 looks funky, but it's not an example of Toyota's best work on the ergonomics front. If you want performance, you need to rev the hell out of the petrol engined RAVs. A short three-year warranty and six-month service intervals don't compete with Tucson's, but the RAV4 is almost adequate everywhere else - in particular in terms of equipment and value. Still, Toyota has its die-hard fans ... and it's no use telling them there are better alternatives.
Made in Thailand.
Honda has been deeply asleep at the wheel since at least the global financial crisis (and maybe even earlier) and although the CR-V might appeal to those who remember what Honda was in the 1990s (a red-hot innovator full of automotive excellence and passion) the rest of the market has moved on, in terms of technology and value in particular, and Honda hasn't. Today, Honda is, sadly, just another average carmaker (at best). The Honda CR-V can't really hold a candle to the Hyundai Tucson in terms of warranty, value, technology or servicing (CR-V has a three-year warranty and six-month/10,000-kilometre service interval - whichever comes first.) CR-V's petrol engines need ridiculous revs (for an SUV) to perform. The platform is dynamically dull, but at least the interior is spacious and the spare wheel is alloy, and full-sized and not a space-saver.
DON'T BUY THESE SUVs
Care review websites and magazines are drowning in uninformed comment - and those that aren't are generally offering glorified road tests. (What the vehicle feels like to drive.)
Don't get me wrong, you have to enjoy driving the vehicle, but if you're a real potential buyer (as opposed to a car nut) there are considerations that are just as important - if not more so. I'm talking about things like reliability, because it's no fun having a new car off the road for 10 weeks in the first year you own it.
Customer service is also vital - because if there is a problem, you want to be taken seriously and have it resolved efficiently. Sadly, in Australia, because we have inadequate lemon laws, you need to be very careful about which companies you deal with - because some are just reprehensible on the customer service front. More about lemon laws and your rights >>
Finally, there's poor objective value to consider. (Paying through the neck and not getting the features you should.)
I've eliminated the following eight SUVs based on poor reliability, potentially poor customer service, poor value, or a combination of these three.
Marketplace Popularity: Tucson -Vs- Marketplace Dogs
DON'T BUY: SUVs BEST AVOIDED
Made in South Korea
Captiva is - and always has been - a dog with fleas. And even the fleas have vermin. This is, without doubt, one of the worst mainstream vehicles on Australian roads. It has had a string of recalls that collectively paint a picture of under-done R&D, and an army of dissatisfied customers can attest to its poor quality. It emerges in our market from the GM Korea factory (formerly Daewoo) which was always on the nose for build quality. (So on the nose that they changed its name.)
Made in the USA
The price is certainly right ... but everything else about this hastily re-badged Dodge Journey is so, so wrong. It's old and outdated. And four-star safety. Fiat (and Dodge) are appallingly unreliable, according to reputable analysts (like Consumer Reports in the USA) and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles is the worst car maker in Australia for customer complaints, according to the ACCC.
Made in the USA
The Jeep Cherokee was rated the fourth least reliable car in the entire North American car market by Consumer Reports (a consumer advocacy and ratings agency not unlike Choice in Australia). If that's not enough, the ACCC says Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (the importer of Jeep in Australia) is, as a proportion of the number of vehicles sold, the most complained-about car maker in Australia. A double-whammy of outright disaster best sidestepped right there.
Made in the Czech Republic
Skoda is like a poor man's Volkswagen (owned by the Volkswagen Group). So it's really just a pug-ugly Tiguan cursed by the same poor reliability expected from every Volkswagen, garnished by the poor levels of customer support you've also come to expect (although worse in many respects because of the low sales) and with the glace cherry of the dieselgate scandal on top.
Made in Germany
The Tiguan - like many Volkswagens - is a beautiful car to look at, and great to drive. Unfortunately, however, there is a dark side to Volkswagen's character: poor reliability, and worse customer service when something does go wrong. The global emissions scandal has also rocked Volkswagen to the core, and nobody yet knows the effect of that in terms of things that really matter to owners, such as resale values of the asset you purchase today, in five years' time.
Made in Spain
This is what you get when you do a Tiguan's hair and makeup differently. The worst thing about Q3 is poor value - a $42k Q3 can't hold a candle to a $43k Tucson Highlander. Almost everything the Highlander gets standard is a Q3 high-priced optional extra. And even if you option it up ($20k) it's still less powerful, has a space-saver spare, and two years' less warranty.
Made in Spain
Kuga handles and steers really well, but Ford's factory closure will have an as-yet un-definable effect on resale values over the term you would own the Kuga. Diesel Kugas also have a dual clutch transmission, and Ford has had an absolute horror run with these in Fiesta and Focus - most notably by displaying total ambivalence to the plight of affected owners. Ford's pathetic customer service response here is a major issue for you to consider if you have any Ford on your shopping list.
Made in Germany
Mercedes-Benz is not what it once was. The model range is diluted to the extent that two-thirds of Benzes are cheapies that mortals can afford. They're over-priced and under-baked - they don't add up on fundamentals compared to rivals like Tucson. Take the GLA you can get for the price of a Tucson Highlander and see how fraudulent the value proposition is. And they are unreliable.
ABOUT HYUNDAI MOTOR COMPANY
Hyundai has grown dramatically in the past 25 years. It entered the Australian market with a host of cheap, nasty cars, undercut the Japanese, and then turned up the wick on quality. (Essentially it did what the Japanese did a couple of decades earlier: Remember when we called them 'Jap crap'?)
Today, Hyundai has few lingering nasty cars in its range. The i20, with its underpowered 1.4 and awful four-speed auto is probably the worst. Most, like the Sonata, Santa Fe, Tucson, i30 and Elantra, take the fight to the Japanese rivals in terms of the engineering and drive experience, and eclipse them on features, warranty, service cost and value.
Hyundai is joined at the hip to Kia. (The parent company is called 'Hyundai-Kia'.) Although the brands compete fiercely in Australia, higher up the corporate latter they share engineering and R&D resources - which explains the commonality of platforms, powertrains and other components in corresponding models. Tucson is approximately equivalent to the latest Sportage, albeit with different hair and makeup, just like the relationship between Hyundai i30/Elantra and Kia Cerato, etc.