Is the 2022 Hyundai Tucson really the car of tomorrow?
Don't be fooled by the bold, angular styling – the base 2.0-litre engine in the new Tucson feels like a product of yesteryear.
What is it?
“Tomorrow wants its car back,” proclaims the tagline for this, the all-new 2022 Hyundai Tucson, and certainly, it looks a futuristic design from the outset. Hyundai’s volume-selling mid-size SUV, its styling has certainly been taken in a surprisingly bold direction for what is a car designed to have broad appeal.
Looks are only half of the story, however – whether the new Tucson feels as futuristic as it looks is another thing entirely. To find out, I grabbed the keys to the one you see here, which will likely be one of the best-selling in the range. The mid-spec Elite model, this one features the base 2.0-litre petrol engine like all initial Australian models, with turbocharged petrol and diesel variants and a range-wide N Line package soon to come along as well.
Why are we testing it?
As one of Australia’s most popular mid-size SUVs – a total of 15,789 were sold last year, placing it behind only the perennial Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 in its class, and only just outside the overall top ten – it only makes sense to give this all-new model a thorough look, even if the initial allotment of Australian models is quite limited in the way of engine options.
What's it like inside?
The radical exterior redesign has coupled with a growth in size for the Tucson, and that’s something clearly reflected on the inside of this new model. While the outgoing version already had a very roomy cabin, this all-new version really steps it up a notch, feeling truly cavernous inside. Not only is there enough room for a family of giants inside, but 538 litres of boot space (up to 1860 litres with the rear pew folded flat) ensures there’s more than enough room for their giant luggage, also.
As with nearly all Hyundai models as of late, the cabin quality has been boosted to a higher level as well. Leather upholstery is standard in the Elite, to which the tweed-like cloth accents on the door cards make for a pleasant contrast. Only the plastics lower down in the cabin feel at all too hard, with anything within arms reach feeling nicely premium.
As the centrepiece of its in-swept dashboard, the 10.25-inch infotainment screen and its operating system isn’t exactly new, having been offered in other models since late last year, but it is slick and at the upper-end size-wise in this class. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t wireless on this system, though, so remember to bring a cable. The capacitive touch climate control buttons below the screen do look the part as well, although that is only until you use them and realise just how quickly they’ll get smudged-up with fingerprints.
The Elite does miss out on an unshrouded digital instrument cluster, however, instead going for shrouded mechanical dials (with a reversed tachometer) that flank a smaller 4.2-inch colour display for the trip computer and driver aids. The driver aids it offers are bang up to date, though, with everything from what you’d expect such as AEB and blind-spot monitoring, all the way to things you might not in a car at this price point like semi-autonomous driving capability.
Heated front seats with power adjustment for the driver come as standard on the Elite, as does dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and push-button start. A power-lifting tailgate isn’t something you’ll get on anything other than the top-spec Highlander though, which some family buyers accustomed to their convenience may baulk at, although it’s hardly the end of the world.
It’s a strong features list, then, but I must admit it isn’t one that offers anything especially futuristic as the tagline promises. Quality over quantity could be a better-applied way of thinking towards it, though, and it is an interior that’s mostly been executed well for the class and price point.
What's it like to drive?
Sitting at the bottom of the three-tiered engine lineup is what you’ll find under the bonnet of the model tested here. This ‘Smartstream’ 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol unit only makes a meagre 115kW and 192Nm, and paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, it comes in front-wheel drive form only.
Sporting multi-point fuel injection, this engine certainly looks like more of a step backward than something futuristic on paper, and in reality that assumption is, unfortunately, only confirmed. That diminutive torque figure simply isn’t enough to move this decently-sized SUV around, with the engine feeling forever strained above inner-city speeds, and sounding thrashy as you try to will it on to do the posted speed limit on country roads. If tomorrow wants this particular version of the Tucson with this engine under the bonnet back, it can certainly have it as far as I’m concerned.
Fortunately, two alternative engine options should slowly start filtering into Aussie dealerships soon – one is the venerable 1.6-litre turbocharged four-pot petrol with 132kW and 265Nm paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch, and the other particularly enticing option is a potent 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 137kW and a more exciting 416Nm paired to an eight-speed auto. Both will come with standard all-wheel drive, also, for those looking for a bit more capability from their cars.
Fortunately, the woeful 2.0-litre base engine is where the Tucson’s driving woes end, though, as the bones of the car are certainly good. It’s got a good chassis that’ll be more than able to handle the power of the alternative engine options, and it doesn’t feel at all cumbersome on the likes of classic Adelaide Hills backroads. Turn-in is responsive, and it remains acceptably level for an SUV of its ilk.
The comfort factor and the balance it strikes between that and its handling is right up there, also – something particularly impressive given local suspension tuning wasn’t performed on this model, likely due to the constraints of the pandemic. It feels right at home on the unique roads here despite not being given the true Aussie treatment, so it’s clear that the knowledge gained from past testing Down Under has paid dividends for Hyundai on a global scale.
It’s just such a shame that the base engine is a complete let-down, as the Tucson could very much hold its own otherwise in a market space that includes the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan. Fortunately, the two boosted engines and all-wheel drive versions should help it reach that potential. If you care at all about driving, though, give this engine a miss.
How do the numbers add up?
While at a list price of $39,000 for the Elite 2.0, you do get a fair whack of standard kit for the money, that wheezy engine really devalues it in my eyes. Whether it’s worth the premium to get the 1.6T ($43,000) or the 2.0D ($45,000) will ultimately depend on how much you care about driving, but if you can afford it, I’d go for one of them though. Otherwise, the $34,500 base model which comes only with the base engine might be more your speed.
Fortunately, servicing is pretty cheap for the base engine. Capped at $319 per visit for the first five visits, which are required every 12 months or 15,000 km, it’s cheaper than both the turbo petrol (also $319 a visit, but with a shorter 10,000km interval) and diesel ($375 per service) engine options, so that’s one thing to keep in mind for the money-conscious. It’s a simple engine, though, which bodes well for reliability, and knowing owners of last-gen Tucsons with plenty of problem-free miles under their belts, I’d expect much the same for this. Regardless, a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty is offered on all Hyundai models in Australia, along with a year of complimentary roadside assistance.
Fuel consumption didn’t prove to be as impressive as it could have been, though. Against a claim of 8.1L/100km, I saw a return of 9.5L/100km after my 255km of testing – a sign of just how hard this engine needs to be worked to really get you anywhere. From past experience with other Hyundai models, expect the turbocharged engines to deliver better fuel economy despite being more powerful.
So, what's the verdict?
Get it in the right spec, and the Tucson will be a real winner – it’s incredibly spacious and well-made, its driving dynamics are right near the mark set by the best in the class, and there’s plenty of gear to be found in even a mid-spec model like this Elite.
However, if you plan on heading outside the city and onto higher-speed country roads on a regular basis, give the base 2.0-litre petrol a miss. It’s the real chink in the Tucson’s otherwise shiny (and incredibly angular) armour. It’s the one player that really lets the side down.
Money no object, a Highlander 2.0D is what I’d be picking from this range, although the Elite 1.6T is what looks to be the smartest choice and best all-rounder for the money in my eyes.
This article originally appeared on drivesection.com on September 23, 2021. The vehicle tested here was provided by Hyundai Motor Company Australia. All noted prices are in Australian dollars (AUD).