The Hyundai Tuscon remains the third-best selling medium SUV in the country and with its value for money proposition and extensive powertrain and package offerings, it’s also one of the most diverse.
If the choice of four different powertrains, three transmissions and four variants wasn’t enough, the South Korean brand has now added a limited edition model that celebrates Hyundai's 30 years in Australia.
Dubbed, rather unsurprisingly, Hyundai Tucson 30 Special Edition, the Korean-built Tucson (all variants except Active X are sourced from a factory in the Czech Republic) is based on the value for money proposition Active X variant and priced at $37,750 (plus on-road costs). Only 300 are making their way to Australia.
Unlike the Active X, however, the 30 Special Edition has gained all-wheel drive, a six-speed dual clutch transmission and swapped its 2.0-litre petrol naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit, now delivering 130kW of power and 265Nm of torque (up 9kW and 62Nm).
Previously this engine was only available in Elite trim, which starts from $38,990.
From the outside you may mistake the special edition as something from a custom import shop, thanks in large part to its gloss back highlights and the very noticeable 19-inch Rays wheels that, while looking rather mint, are somewhat at odds with the character of the Tuscon we’ve come to know.
That’s probably a good thing, as while the previous generation – known as iX35 – sold mainly on a pure value for money offering, the Tuscon is far more accomplished than that. An not just in terms of design inside or out, but also in the technological features and general fit and finish that come together as a complete package.
The wheels and side steps add a sporty element to the car that is certainly lacking in the Tucson range, but is evident in the larger Santa Fe SR. Unlike the sporty Santa Fe, though, the 30 Special edition doesn’t get Brembo brakes. But it certainly gets a few double takes.
We started our journey in the new Tucson from Canberra airport, heading towards the icy surrounds of Thredbo, an ideal test for the SUV’s AWD system.
From the outside the Tucson, particularly with the addition of matte black wheels, looks rather good. It’s arguably the best looking model in the Hyundai range for us and the designers certainly haven’t pushed it too far for it to become tacky.
The interior though, is untouched. Not even a special edition sticker is found inside (there is a ‘30’ badge on the rear, though). It’s not the sort of cabin that screams high quality material, but given the price, it’s more than good enough. We would love to see some of the surfaces improved both in texture and feel, but the actual buttons and all the bits that you need to touch, feel and function as expected.
The leather seats of the 30 Special Edition model include, according to Hyundai, “elements of genuine leather, polyurethane leather (leather substitute) or man-made materials, or a combination thereof.” As such they feel little hard and scratchy but the upside is they will probably last better in Australia’s sun than genuine leather. More importantly, they are easy to wipe and for families with kids, that is a basic necessity.
Insert and turn the key (no push button start) and the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine comes to life. You may think the small engine isn’t up to the task of moving its 1600kg weight but you’d be wrong. The engine response is immediate and the torque delivery across the rev range makes the Tucson feel sportier and more dynamic than it probably is.
The seven-speed dual clutch transmission helps extract the available power and torque from the engine without a hitch, although we found it rather ineffective when it came to slow speed stuff, particularly if you intend to get moving from a standstill on a steep hill. It’s a great gearbox when on the move, but around town and in traffic, it takes a little getting used to.
For our 450km round trip, we never felt the gearbox to be a hindrance. Only when switching from drive to reverse on an incline did it become obvious that this isn’t a conventional transmission. In some ways, it’s very much like the first generation Volkswagen DSG system – amazing on the go, finicky at slow speeds.
What we did feel on the trip however, was the lack of heated seats or satellite navigation, both of which are unavailable on the ‘30’ edition, which is somewhat peculiar for an SUV that is close to the 40k mark, from a brand that has long established itself as the feature-packed offering benchmark.
Thankfully then, the 7-inch touchscreen is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, making satellite navigation a breeze so long as you’re willing to plug your iPhone/Android smartphone in. Doing so will also allow full messaging and other phone functionality via Apple’s own system, which basically takes over the screen.
Once you’ve got the infotainment linked up and singing, the best thing about the Tucson becomes the ride. It’s genuinely very good. Despite the 19-inch wheels (245/45/19), the Tucson rides smoothly without much crashing or bouncing.
It seems as if the Koreans have nailed the perfect balance between what makes an SUV too soft and what makes it too harsh. If you frequent country roads or poorly-surfaced suburban areas, this should be high on the consideration list.
The second row offers two ISOFIX child seat points and a ton of space for two large adults or three if the time comes. Despite being a ‘medium’ SUV, families of four would have no problem with the cabin room. Nor is the 488-litre boot going to cause concern for large prams or the week’s shopping. Fold the rear seats down and it expands to an Ikea-loving 1478 litres.
Overall, the Tucson 30 Special Edition is a near $5000 price increase over the standard Active X model, which apart from the aesthetics, is largely made up for by the turbocharged engine, AWD system and the dual clutch transmission. Do you need it? Probably not. Do you want it? Depends on your needs...
What the Special Edition does emphasise, however, is just how good value the standard front-wheel drive Active X model is, which is the one you should be buying unless you absolutely need all-wheel drive requirements, in which case we would recommend you spend the extra bit, ditch the bling and go for the European-built Tucson Elite.