Autonomous emergency braking. There’s some perception, right or wrong, that AEB fitment thrusts a vehicle’s safety credentials across a black and white threshold from death trap to certifiably safe territory.
In the case of the new 2020 Hyundai Tucson Active X (and one-below base Active automatic), the Korean maker’s Forward Collision Avoidance Assist technology is now standard-fitment, whereas in prior versions the SmartSense safety suite was a $2200 option.
As far as model updates go, it’s a significant one – partly for how it bolsters standard-fitment safety, and partly because outside an upgrade from 17- to 18-inch wheels and heated/power-folding mirrors, there’s not a lot else new with the MY20 Tucson refresh.
Spoiler alert: our verdict on the front-driven auto Active X has been revised from ‘well regarded if largely unremarkable medium-SUV motoring’ to ‘slightly nicer looking, safer and well regarded, if largely unremarkable and pricier, medium-SUV motoring’.
As we covered off previously, the new Active X (and Active, too) has copped a $1800 price rise, now $34,790 list. Unsurprisingly, the added investment does cover some – though not all – of the SmartSense’s suite of safety technologies.
You do get lane-keeping assistance, guided reversing camera and rear parking sensors: call it basic coverage if you will.
But absent on the Active X are the blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems fitted higher up the range, together with high-beam headlight assistance and the adaptive cruise control. The latter technically tied to the more advanced radar-based AEB offered on Elite and Highlander grades.
Yes, not all AEB systems are created equal. Here, the Active X (and Active) gets a camera-based system functional at city and urban speeds.
Meanwhile, the higher-grade Elite and Highlander get a broader-encompassing radar/camera system that not only allows AEB functionality at highway speeds, but it alone features pedestrian-avoidance tech.
That’s no pointed damnation of some safety loophole. Indeed, the safety and convenience fitted are about on par for mainstream motoring, including the medium-SUV segment. Advanced safety costs… And usually above this SUV’s mid-$30K pricepoint.
So, why might you splurge the extra three grand on the base Active with similar safety chops? Well, feel-good perception for one thing. The Active X gets key upgrades in conspicuous places that elevate it out of base-model doldrums, namely the partial leather (rather than Active-grade cloth) seat trim and the fitment of a large 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system complete with proprietary sat-nav and DAB+ (in place of the Active’s feature-barren 7.0-inch design).
Cabin ambience is a mix of lazy grey-out styling minting otherwise contemporary, clean and easy-to-navigate design. We highly recommend considering the extra $295 for Hyundai’s fetching beige leather trim option for the considerable lift in upmarket vibe it brings for its modest premium.
The instrumentation, controls and infotainment system are all crisp and easily legible, white and blue-lit for clarity rather than that terrible red-lit effect some rivals oft for.
Everything’s intuitive to use, and there’s nothing incongruent or weird for weird’s sake. Materials and fit and finish are middle of the road, but the touchpoints are suitably supple, the seats are comfy and supportive, and there’s a quality feel to the wheel and transmission controller.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are par for the course, too, and there’s ample choice of device power outlets in the central stack.
If there’s any cost-cutting, it’s not conspicuous and is revealed only under close scrutiny: there’s a conventional key barrel and handbrake – though this is a plus in many eyes – together with air-con rather than climate control, mechanical seat adjustment (bar electric lumbar support), and a few too may blank buttons on the console to remind you of the basic features leanings. In row one, at least, it feels properly middle grade.
Row two, though, the Active X drops the ball a little further. The lack of rear air ventilation is the biggest markdown, especially given the family-oriented format, and bar cup holders in the fold-down armrest it’s bereft of features apart from a sole powered USB port.
Roominess-wise, it’s middling for the segment: good head room and acceptable knee room for decent adult-size comfort, if with high window lines that smaller humans might find hard to see over.
Cargo space, too, is about average for the mid-SUV pack: a highly usable 488L, with nice square proportions, low tie-down points and a flat floor (hiding a full-size spare wheel) that converts to a very handy 1478L with the 40:60 split-fold rears stowed.
The on-road experience is middle of the road, if mostly because it pairs a make-do and unremarkable powertrain with a ride and handling package that, in typical Hyundai fashion, punches above its – and the segment’s – weight.
With my week with the Active X, I left judgement on powertrain prowess until the day I sent it packing for home, because it’s easy under first impressions to come off too negatively.
The naturally aspirated 2.0-litre ‘GDi’ four’s 122kW is adequate and feels hardworking piling on enough RPM to reach that figure. And 205Nm, well up at 4000rpm, is just enough once you start loading the Tucson up with loved ones and luggage.
This GDi four, plus a conventional auto with just six forward ratios, is what’s offered on all front-drive Tucsons, and it starts to look pretty lean in the company of the 130kW/265Nm turbo 1.6-litre and seven-speed dual-clutch combination in AWD versions, or the diesel alternative plying 136kW/400Nm through an eight-speed slushbox.
But after a week of mostly urban commuting in the base powertrain, it’s really not too bad, too grumpy, too noisy or too overtasked at all driven to the prevailing conditions.
In fact, it’s quite well-sorted running, with no turbocharger lag or spooling effect to counter, and nice, clean and perfectly co-operative default transmission calibration. No powerhouse, perhaps, but no real shortcomings or annoyances, either.
Consumption-wise, Hyundai claims 7.9L/100km combined, if with a fairly formidable 11.0L thirst for the urban cycle, and our test car settled somewhere in between at around the nine-litre-neat mark with about 20 per cent of the assessment at highway speeds.
Putting fine polish to the on-road experience is certainly the ride: even on now-enlarged 18s there’s impressive discipline and compliance across everything from high-frequency ripples to large, loping speed humps.
The pliancy isn’t to the detriment of chassis prowess, either, the Active X maintaining taut body control with a nice, clean dynamic ‘edge’ that circumvents the need for overly firm damping.
It’s an SUV that doesn’t feel bulky or unwieldy, is easy to steer and place accurately on the road, and is a doddle to park.
The Tucson is covered by Hyundai’s decent five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. There are also a number of pre-paid servicing packages of 12-month/15,000km intervals, the three-year/45,000km packages clocking in at $840.
In fact, at the time of writing Hyundai lists identical spec as our Pure White auto FWD test car as $33,990 drive-away. So you can nab an Active X on-road with three years of servicing bundled in for $34,830 complete – just forty bucks more than its advertised list price, neat beige leather trim upgrade notwithstanding.
That starts to become quite the compelling prospect, especially given the diesel AWD version of the Active X package wants for a further five grand up the fiscal ladder.