Hyundai Tucson 2018 Review

Fresh-faced Hyundai Tucson shows a clean pair of heels

The upgraded 2019 Hyundai Tucson takes over from where Hyundai Australia’s top-selling SUV leaves off. The popular mid-size crossover brings a fresh design inside and out, recalibrated suspension and lots of standard features including LED driving lights, a touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and dusk-sensing headlights. There's plenty of safety tech too.

What’s the Tucson like to drive?

Do Hyundai SUV owners think of the places their vehicles are named after? There’s Sante Fe in California, Kona in Hawaii and of course Tucson in Arizona.

Personally I don’t make the association. When I hear Tucson I think “easy to drive, well-equipped mid-size SUV with a solid warranty" and that theme continues with the facelifted 2019 Hyundai Tucson.

Hyundai’s proclivity for tuning the suspension of its cars in Australia for Australian conditions continues to pay dividends, the 2019 Tucson delivering buttery smooth ride comfort that will allow grandma to snooze but also the sort of athletic ability that would make Chuck Norris raise an eyebrow.

The entry-level Go and Active X models cruise serenely on their smaller 17-inch wheels (steel and alloy respectively), the recalibrated suspension soaking up road ructions like a sponge. Speed bumps? You barely feel them; it’s really quite impressive.

Mid-level Elite and top-level Highlander model grades ride on bigger alloy wheels (18- and 19-inch respectively) yet are almost as compliant. But it has to be said, all model grades are fun to drive when you turn up the tempo.

On some twisty hills near the Victoria alpine country the latest Hyundai Tucson proved it can dance like Jason Derulo, generating impressive levels of grip with only mild body roll. The steering isn’t particularly engaging (despite a tweaked ratio: 2.7 to 2.5 turns lock-to-lock) but for a medium-sized SUV the car is a great all-rounder and I reckon it comes close to the top-selling Mazda CX-5 for overall ride and handling prowess.

But wait, there’s more! The Hyundai Tucson handled dirt tracks – at regular and warp speeds – with surprising composure. The all-wheel drive models performed better than expected, delivering plenty of feel on loose surfaces and changing direction in a predictable fashion on a short gravel loop.

Around town the new Tucson is very effective and although its 172mm ground clearance is not class-leading, the raised view of the road is above average and like all SUVs the raised hip height improves ingress and egress and cargo loading into the boot – no more bending over and all that.

There’s no engine idle-stop function to save fuel when stationary but the auto hold electronic park brake is a good feature, automatically engaging the electronic park brake when stopped, such as at the traffic lights. The benefit here is you don’t need to constantly push the brake pedal, reducing wear and tear on the brake lines and pads.

But there’s a catch. Only half the range gets this as standard — the Elite and Highlander variants. The base Go and Active X require a SmartSense option pack to get it… more on that issue later.

Which is the best Tucson engine?

The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol engine (122kW/205Nm) lacks the acceleration of its turbocharged sisters but she’s a willing performer and is the most affordable engine type.

I tested the entry-level Hyundai Tucson Go with this base engine and six-speed auto and the latter is a neat shifter and more involving than the average continuously variably transmission or CVT.

One up, the 122kW engine works well but with four or five people and their luggage on board I get the feeling it would struggle up steeper hills without having its neck well and truly wrung.

The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four (130kW/265Nm) is probably the pick of the bunch, but that’s only because the top-shelf 2.0-litre turbo-diesel (136kW/400Nm) costs more.

The diesel mill has the most pulling power and can really hustle. It would suit those who plan to tow from time to time, with a 1600kg braked towing capacity.

For a diesel it’s a quiet and refined engine and hooked up to a savvy new eight-speed automatic transmission (borrowed from the fancy new Santa Fe) that keeps it in the torque band when you want to go fast, yet slots into higher gears when you want to conserve fuel.

The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol is paired with a smooth but responsive seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that carries over from the previous model, but I reckon it’s worth the extra moolah.

It’s a great all-round powertrain, the 1.6-litre engine developing lots of mid-range torque that’s great for blatting around in the ‘burbs, plus a tasty top-end that’s welcome while burying the foot during an overtake.

One colleague mentioned the seven-speed auto had a slow clutch uptake, allowing it to roll backwards under light throttle openings on an incline — like the older VW dual-clutch (DSG) cars — but during my two-day launch drive the Tucson DCT exhibited no such foibles.

What’s the Tucson cabin like?

The facelifted 2019 Hyundai Tucson gets new-look front and rear end designs with angular visuals you can ogle in the video, and I reckon all models look good (even the Go model with its steel wheels and hub caps!), but it’s the interior that makes the strongest impression.

Gone are the older air-vent ‘wings’ that dominated the dashboard and flanked the previous Tucson’s smaller infotainment screen, with bigger 7.0- or 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment screens perched higher on the dash, making them easier to decipher at a glance.

The dashboard design has improved greatly with better horizontal flow (I’ve been hanging out with car designers too much!) and although there’s still some cheap, hard plastics in evidence, soft surfaces cover all the major touch points.

All model grades except the Tucson Go come with leather upholstery and it looks and feels pretty schmick, especially with the two-tone beige finish.

There’s a clean and fresh look to almost everything inside the new 2019 Hyundai Tucson… except for the instrument cluster. It looks dull — even in on top-spec models. Is Hyundai aping Toyota in this respect? A splash of colour or a different font would be nice, especially for something you look at all day.

There’s only one USB port up front and one for the back seat – except Go models miss out on the back-seat USB port. Go and Active X also miss out on rear-seat air-vents, which is a bit penny-pinching.

Some of the ‘wow-factor’ features on the range-topping Tucson Highlander include heated, cooled and power-adjustable front seats, a wireless phone charger, a massive panoramic glass roof and even a heated steering wheel.

But every 2019 Hyundai Tucson comes with Bluetooth audio and phone streaming plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to streamline functions, all of which work as intended. All models also get steering wheel audio, phone and cruise controls, reversing camera, six airbags, LED daytime running lights and automatic headlights.

All models also get downhill brake control, hill-start assist and Hyundai Auto Link connectivity — a smartphone app that connects via Bluetooth and provides tyre pressure monitoring, driving history, speed statistics, vehicle health checks and more.

It’s pretty handy, and there’s a premium version that involves an in-car SIM card, the subscription for which is free if you service your car at a Hyundai dealer. Given all the telecom systems, you’ll rarely feel like a bandicoot on a burnt ridge (read: lonely).

Height-adjustable front seat support is good and there’s ample room for two big blokes but the back seat isn’t quite as roomy as some of its larger rivals, such as the Nissan X-TRAIL and Mazda CX-5.

The Tucson (4480mm) is shorter than the Mazda CX-5 (4550mm) and Nissan X-TRAIL(4690mm), but boot space isn’t too bad at 488 litres (expanding to 1478 litres), which compares favourably with the CX-5 (442L/1342L) but not so much the X-TRAIL (565L/945L).

All models have roof racks as standard, with a 100kg load limit, and they can easily tow a jet ski with 750kg of unbraked trailer capacity (1500kg braked for petrol models).

All models come with a full-size spare wheel, double-extending front sun visors and acoustically laminated windscreens, the latter helping keep the cabin fairly well isolated from outside noises.

The new 2019 Hyundai Tucson is a well sorted machine. It has a solid five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty – although the company is considering seven years – and service intervals of 12 months or 15,000km (12,000km for the 1.6 turbo-petrol) are generous.

It’s unlikely we’ll see the next SUV from the South Korean automotive giant named the Hyundai Sydney – it’s a place in Florida! – but the Tucson name is starting to resonate with virtues such as quality and value for money, without cutting corners.

The Hyundai Tucson is arguably one of the best vehicles in its class and its new local chassis tune is excellent.

Given the size and competitiveness of the medium SUV market, and the fact it’s about to face more tough competition from all-new Toyota RAV4 hybrid and Subaru Forester models due soon, this upgrade is well timed.

Now, where did that fire-breathing, muscle-flexing Hyundai Tucson N hero model get to?

Find our more about the Hyundai Tucson’s specs and available Hyundai Tucson offers at Group 1 Hyundai.