How much can you learn about a car in 3km on a closed course? We’re about to find out.
A handful of laps on perfectly smooth tarmac isn’t how we would normally approach an important new car.
However, the first completely new Hyundai Tucson in six years is still a few months away from local showrooms and this final validation prototype is our first chance to get behind the wheel for a small taste of what to expect.
This particular example can’t be driven on public roads by anyone outside the company.
So here we are at a car club racing circuit a couple of hours drive south-west of Sydney standing very near the new Hyundai Tucson.
We also got to poke around the front seat, the back seat, and the boot.
After that, we were able to cut a few laps while still leaving some tread on the tyres for the next journalist’s time slot.
So, some quick observations from our 3km test drive: the twin-clutch auto-matched to the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is still fidgety, and the lack of volume or tuning knobs on the infotainment would be frustrating in the bump and grind of daily life.
But the engine is relatively quiet and the overall refinement was fair for the class (on a perfectly smooth road surface).
There’s not much point in giving insight into tyre grip or steering feel because these Nexen tyres are unlikely to make it on Australian-delivered examples. Here’s hoping Hyundai Australia opts for quality Continental or Michelin rubber as it has done on a number of new models of late.
The experience we’ve had with other Nexen tyres on other cars tells us this is not the way for the company to put its best foot (tyre?) forward.
What we can tell you is that, when the new generation Hyundai Tucson goes on sale in Australia mid-year, there will be three model grades – and a choice of three engines.
The base model comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder matched to a six-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive.
The next two model grades – the Elite and Highlander – also add the choice of turbo 1.6-litre petrol and seven-speed twin-clutch auto or a 2.0-litre turbo diesel paired to an eight-speed auto. Both are matched to all-wheel-drive.
The N Line pack (fitted to the example in these photos) is available on all three model grades. For a more detailed breakdown of each model, click here.
Prices are yet to be announced but the current Hyundai Tucson ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 plus on-road costs.
The Tucson is one of Hyundai’s most important new models. It’s the company’s second-biggest seller behind the i30 hatch – and the Tucson in recent years has been among the top three sellers in its segment.
The latest generation Hyundai Tucson is all-new from the ground up and signals a new design direction for the South Korean car maker.
With two dozen rivals in this particular SUV segment, the creased flanks and daring front and rear appearance and designed to make the new Hyundai Tucson stand out from the crowd.
The dramatic wing-shaped cluster of lights are daytime running lights or parking lamps.
The low and high beam headlights are in the lower section of the front bumper.
The tail-lights are also unconventional, perhaps inspired by the Ford Mustang.
The new Hyundai Tucson has grown in every dimension and will be available with technology not previously offered on this model.
Top of the range examples have full digital instrumentation and a widescreen infotainment system – and there are push-button controls for the automatic transmission.
Although this was a prototype, it’s apparent Hyundai has given the cabin a lift with better quality materials – and the option of premium audio.
High-grade models are available with heated front and rear seats, and the front passenger seat can be moved at the press of a button from the driver’s seating position.
With the growth spurt, there’s extra elbow room front and rear. In the back seat there is a little extra knee room and a little extra headroom than before.
There are rear air vents (as before) but there are now two USB charge ports. Previously there was none for back seat passengers.
The back seat also has two ISOFIX child seat attachment points and three top tethers.
The seat back has a 60-40 split to create extra cargo room, and you can adjust the backrest angle.
An incredible double act, Hyundai has managed to combine a massive boot and still supply a full size spare tyre with all models.
A full suite of advanced safety tech will be standard on all model grades, including emergency braking, blind zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping assistance.
Seven airbags – including a centre airbag between front seat occupants – a rear camera, and individual tyre pressure monitors and are also part of the standard package.
However, Hyundai still does not yet have speed sign recognition technology.
Following a (very) brief steer of the top of the range N Line version of the Hyundai Tucson powered by the turbo 1.6-litre petrol and matched to all-wheel-drive, we can report early impressions were good.
However, we’ll reserve judgement until we can sample the new Hyundai Tucson on the bump and grind of real roads.