DOES a Hyundai by any other name smell as sweet? Well, we won't have to wait long for an answer to that question with the launch of the Tucson, the medium SUV replacement for the popular iX35, in the Snowy Mountains.
Tucson is longer, wider and more refined, better equipped, quieter and stronger, with sharper looks. It was at ease in the snow and mud, confident on the road and happy to splash along in the water. And with front-wheel and all-wheel drive models, four engines, three transmissions and four comfort grades, buyers are certainly spoilt for choice.
The cabin of the new Tucson is spacious and comfortable with particular attention given to the layout and functionality. Instruments are easy to read, the steering wheel feels well-proportioned in the hand and the overall quality of the switchgear is good.
The increase in soft touch plastics is easy to see but there are a fair few of the harder variety - the plastics that scratch easily - around too.
Brushed metal highlights add contrast to what is a rather conservative design in a space where nothing offends. Both front and rear occupants will be impressed with the size and support of the seats, and there is plenty of head and legroom, even in the variants with sun roofs.
As is usually the case with Hyundai, there are a variety of very useful storage options, including deep cup holders, practical door bins and even a chilled glove box. At 488 litres, the boot has 42 litres on its predecessor, with 1478 litres available when the rear seats are dropped.
On the road
We put three of the Tucson's four engine options to the test on a varied and sometimes challenging drive route, with the SUV digging in to impress.
The petrol offerings - a 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder unit in the 2WD Active X and the 1.6 turbo GDi in the AWD Highlander - were capable and energetic but did need some urging during more strenuous bouts.
They were quick to respond when asked, though, which is all you can really expect. The 2.0-litre common rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel available in just the AWD was our pick, though, offering a strong, pleasurable ride no matter the conditions and terrain.
Hyundai's suspension gurus tried more than 100 combinations in a bid to produce a vehicle suitable for our roads, and their work has not been in vain.
While the 2WD can sometimes feel a tad tighter over bumps, the AWD glides over for the most part, making light work of the gnarliest of ruts.
On the whole the Tucson feels nicely balanced, with very little body roll even around tight corners and some feedback from a comfortably weighted steering. It is assured on all surfaces, with even the 2WD having the courage, we found, to scoot along a four-wheel-drive track deep in Canberra's national parks.
Fuel consumption figures across the variants range from 6.4l/100km to 7.8l/100km, and we found both the petrol and diesel engines quite frugal despite some hard driving. Hyundai offers a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty with lifetime capped-price servicing and 12 months of free roadside assist.
The Tucson has had a slight step up in class size over the outgoing ix35, so it will be pitting its strength against the Mazda CX-5 (from $27,190), Nissan X-Trail (from $27,990), Toyota RAV4 (from $28,730), Subaru Forester (from $29,990) and Kia Sportage (from $25,490).
There is little doubt that in the Tucson, Hyundai has an SUV that can compete on level footing with the best examples in its class. It is fun to drive, good to look at and packed with a generous inclusions level.
What matters most
What we liked: Comfortable and fun ride, very capable diesel engine, generous inclusions.
What we'd like to see: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range, peppier interior design in lower grades.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty and fixed-price servicing for life.
Model: Hyundai Tucson
Details: Five-door two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive upper medium SUV.
Engines: 2.0-litre GDi direct-injection four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 121kW @ 6200rpm and peak torque of 203Nm @ 4700rpm. 1.6-litre GDi direct-injection turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 130kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm. 2.0-litre common-rail direct injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 136kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 400Nm @ 1750-2750rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic and seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
Consumption: 7.8 litres/100km combined 2WD manual (7.9l auto), 7.7l/100km for 1.6 GDi AWD, 6.8l/100km for 2.0 CRDi AWD.
Bottom line: 2.0 MPi 2WD: from $27,990 manual, $30,490 for auto Active, $35,240 for Elite. 2.0 GDi 2WD: from $30,490 manual Active X, $32,990 for auto. 1.6 GDi AWD: from $38,240 for Elite, $43,490 for Highlander. 2.0 CRDi AWD: from $40,240 for Elite, $45,490 for Highlander.
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