Hyundai’s midsize SUV contender, the Tucson, has been around for a decent innings now (in fast-paced automotive terms, that is), having been on sale in Australia since the middle of 2015 in its current guise.
There’s an update coming, with the usual styling tweaks front and rear, some detail changes inside, and safety specification improvements, the full extent of which won’t be announced for Australia until later this year.
With that in mind then, should you hold off for the updated Tucson, or drive a hard bargain on the current model as it enters its runout phase?
Using the Active X as a reference point, due to its step up from the base Active grade and its targeting at private buyers rather than fleets, we check through Hyundai’s top-selling SUV one last time ahead of its mid-life overhaul.
Active X specification means power is provided by Hyundai’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 121kW and 203Nm, and driving the front wheels only through a six-speed automatic (there’s a six-speed manual available too).
Higher up in the Tucson range, turbo petrol and turbo-diesel engines with all-wheel drive are available, but the Active X doesn’t offer those options.
Although those output figures may not get pulses racing, they’re solid for the entry-end of the medium SUV class, and Hyundai has given the Tucson a surprisingly eager throttle tip-in resulting in brisk performance off the line.
The engine is also well-mannered in terms of noise. From idle it’s so smooth and quiet, you can barely tell it's running, and it isn’t until you work it fairly hard that it becomes vocal.
Official fuel consumption is rated at 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle. After a week with the Tucson, the trip computer showed 11.4L/100km, but in its defence, the vast majority of its time was spent in the city where Hyundai claims 11.0L/100km, so not wildly off the manufacturer's claims.
The six-speed auto is a good fit to the engine. A traditional torque converter rather than a CVT or dual-clutch design means the drive experience is smooth, quiet and comfortable. Most drivers won’t need to adjust to any odd characteristics, as might be the case with those other transmission designs.
The transmission and steering can be cycled through Normal, Sport or Eco modes. Toggling Sport holds gears slightly longer and adds extra weight to the steering, the other two settings bring progressively earlier shifts and lighter steering.
Another of the Active X upgrades is a set of 18-inch alloy wheels (in place of 17s on the base car), though the impact on ride quality is minimal with a settled urban ride that copes well with bumpy roads.
Pick up the pace and the Tucson will happily handle freeway cruising too, remaining composed on rural roads with secure and predictable roadholding. It’s fair to say Hyundai hasn’t set out to be a dynamic leader here, but the balance of ride and handling is right where it should be.
On the inside, the Active X delivers a few surprises, not least of which is a leather interior. With a list price of $33,650 plus on-road costs that’s an unusually upmarket touch amongst its peers, though not entirely unique.
Hyundai hasn’t gone too fancy elsewhere on the inside, though. The dash design and layout are conservative, there are a few soft-touch surfaces on the dash and door uppers, but mostly finishes are built to be practical rather than plush.
That puts the Tucson about middle of the pack for interior ambience. It doesn’t look as fresh as the Honda CR-V, or as premium as the Mazda CX-5, but still manages to outclass the newer Holden Equinox.
Standard features include height and lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, manual air-conditioning, power windows, cruise control, and split-fold rear seats with recline adjustment.
Specific Active X upgrades compared to the Active include heated power-folding exterior mirrors, illumination for the glovebox and vanity mirrors, and the aforementioned 18-inch wheels and leather-appointed trim for the seats, steering wheel and gear selector.
Interior space is generous, no doubt helped by the lofty driving position, but even the basics like driver’s seat adjustment and position are well sorted.
Move to the rear and most passengers should find little to complain about. Very tall occupants might find knee room as the main dimension lacking, but those of average height or below won’t be troubled.
The ability to tilt the rear seat backrest makes a big difference to long-range travel comfort, however a lack of face-level rear seat air vents might be a concern to family buyers in warmer areas.
On the technology front, Hyundai was one of the frontrunners in the adoption of smartphone mirroring, so naturally there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility for the 7.0-inch touchscreen, along with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, plus 3.5mm auxiliary and USB inputs for the six-speaker sound system, which delivers relatively punchy sound.
The Australian-essential digital speedo display in the 3.5-inch instrument cluster screen is a handy thing to have, and although the info displayed may lack full-colour high-resolution bragging rights, there’s a comprehensive suite of trip computer info available in an easy to read and access format.
The updated Tucson is likely to make its biggest advance over this current model when it comes to safety equipment. Although nothing has been confirmed just yet, a quick look at recent trends suggests there’s likely to be an uptick in basic equipment.
Right now the Active X comes with six airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, ABS brakes, traction and stability control, and a rear-view camera with active guidance lines and rear park sensors.
Amongst other medium SUVs (and across the entire car industry) autonomous emergency braking is considered a must-have, and right now the only way to get it in a Tucson is by opting for the top-tier Highlander variant.
Internationally, Hyundai has announced that adaptive cruise control, driver-attention warning, high-beam assist, a surround-view monitor and other undisclosed semi-autonomous safety tech will be joining the range. Don’t expect everything to be made available in base-grade cars, but bank on a fuller safety list arriving later this year.
The other area family buyers are likely to focus their attention is all-important boot space. With 488 litres to the rear seats, the Tucson manages to edge ahead of cars like the Kia Sportage (466L) and Mazda CX-5 (442L).
To add to the versatility, there’s a bag hook on each side of the boot, and a two-position cargo blind to maximise blockout with the seats both fully upright or reclined. Under the floor lives a full-size spare, there’s a 12V power outlet in the boot too, but the Tucson does without seat release levers inside the cargo area.
With a five-year warranty and no kilometre limit for private buyers, Hyundai’s after-sales care matches brands like Honda and Mitsubishi (which also imposes a 100,000km limit), doesn’t quite match Kia’s seven-year warranty, but edges out the three-year plans of Toyota, Mazda and Subaru.
Servicing is covered by a capped-price program at 12-month or 15,000km intervals. Over five years servicing costs will tally $1505, or $275 each for the first three visits, $405 for the fourth service, then back to $275 for the 60-month/75,000km interval.
With all of that to consider, should you jump in now for a runout deal on the Tucson as dealers try to clear stock ahead of the updated model, or wait for the refresh to hit Australia?
Unless you consider autonomous emergency braking absolutely vital (as a growing number of buyers do), then it’s hard to find glaring faults with the Tucson in its current guise. Of course, Hyundai will make tweaks here and there, and you’ll likely get some extra features and a few infotainment revisions in the new version when it arrives.
On the other hand, there will be discounts applied and negotiation room aplenty with the current model, which still drives well, still looks decent, and still outclasses many of its rivals. If newness matters, you won’t be able to help but wait, yet thrifty purchasers are in a prime position to make the most of the current version as it winds down.