ROAD-TRIPPING IN A TUCSON: Hyundai's Tucson has fast become one of SA's much-loved SUVs. Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post
Cape Town - Hyundai has created a winning recipe with its latest offerings and the Korean automaker's new Tucson, aka the next-generation ix35, is no exception.
I can't recall being this impressed by a Hyundai in a while - (well the Sante Fe is just as impressive). So much so, that when potential SUV-buyers chat to me about what to purchase, the new Tucson is one of the first cars I recommend as a family car or SUV.
Image gallery: 2016 Hyundai Tucson
It has striking good looks and is a vast improvement compared to its predecessors. Back in 2005, the first-generation Tucson was slightly chunky, had a squat appearance and overall was unusually shaped.
However, local SUV buyers lapped up its niche looks and Hyundai says it became a top-seller in its segment for several years. From 2005 to 2010, 22 716 units were sold locally.
In 2009, the second-generation arrived and with a change in nomenclature to ix35. Its radical design and improved technology proved even more popular, seeing that from 2010 to 2016, 33 692 units found homes in SA.
Big shoes to fill
Earlier 2016, Wheels24 reported on the launch of the third-generation in Cape Town. Curiously, Hyundai ditched its ix35 moniker and reverted to the original Tucson name. Its name is about the only thing it has in common with its predecessors as the new Tucson is even more radical, more feature-packed than before.
Here are 10 things to know about the Hyundai Tucson:
1 It's sophisticated.
Styling, equipment, driving dynamics... Hyundai has lifted its game considerably for is latest Tucson. Overall it's a refined and stylish SUV.
2 Selling like SUV hot cakes
March 2016 saw the launch of the revived Tuscon and since then a whopping 1290 units were sold within two months. Since its launch, local dealers, Hyundai says, are selling an average of 400 units per month.
READ - Tucson returns to SA: 'Tougher, Prettier' Hyundai SUV
3 Great interior quality
I remember the first Tucson was fitted with hard plastics throughout and this made it feel "cheap" inside. It was the kind of harsh, grey material that would fade over the years. For 2016, the cabin has been substantially upgraded with the addition of soft-touch materials. The fascia is neat and uncluttered and has a much better tactile feel.
4 It's a comfortable, practical SUV
The Tucson's seats are soft and makes you feel like you're sitting on a comfortable lounge chair whether you're upfront driving the SUV or seated at the rear. It has heatable front and rear seats and a lovely high-riding position that provides a commanding view of the road.
5 It's good looking
Picture Hyundai (and Kia) models ten years ago and 'dull', 'uninspired' comes to mind. This all changed with then Audi-designer Peter Schreyer, a name that is as synonymous with car design as desperate young adults in search of Kanye West pop-up stores. Schreyer was given the task to make the Korean cars "more desirable" and since applying his creativity both automakers have greatly benefited.
I love the assertive chromed front grille and its LED daytime running lights and high-performance headlights add to its stylish looks.
6 Punch, enjoyable on the road
I drove the 2.0-litre Nu Elite 4WD automatic during a trip to Hermanus. The 2.0-litre power figures are rated at 115kW/196Nm compared to the 1.6-litre 130kW/265Nm. Having previously driven the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel, I'd choose the latter for performance.
The difference in power is as clear as night and day. The 1.6 is a lot punchier and more enjoyable when driving along Clarence Drive (R44) en route from Gordon's Bay to Hermanus.
That being said, overall I'd choose the more premium-specced 2.0-litre. Its fitted with cruise control, blind spot detection, glove-box cooling, sunroof, reversing camera and parking sensors all round. With a little one on board, it's great for a scenic cruise. What's more, it has off-road capabilities and can handle a few 'S'-bends along the Cape's mountain passes. It's as comfortable along gravel roads as it is on regular roads.
7 It's frugal
The 2.0-litre Tucson's fuel consumption is rated as 9.0 litres/100km and is fitted with a 62-litre fuel tank. Having driven about 100km before embarking on our trip - a full weekend's driving through Kleinmond, Hermanus and home - I was delighted to see that the fuel gauge registered half a tank left. We averaged about 9.6 litres/100km and maxing 10 litres/100km at most.
8 It has a huge boot
Packing for a weekend away for two is easy for the most part. Possibly one item of medium-sized luggage each? But try packing for a weekend away with a toddler and you'll need all the space a vehicle can offer. Even hotel staff will ask if you're staying for a week when you request a luggage trolley. Add a daily 'babybag', bottle cleaners (and storage for said bottles), snacks and baby beverages, a large luggage item for clothes, coolerbags when going for a drive, and let's not forget the toys including one for her to ride on... the list of necessary equipment is staggering.
The Tucson's boot can handle all of that, with space for some more. Hyundai says the cargo area behind the front seats measures to 1478 litres with the second row of seats folded flat, while the boot space is rated at 488 litres.
9 It's rated as one of SA's best SUVs
SA's female motoring journalists voted the new Tucson as the best compact SUV in its segment in the 2016 SA Womens Car of the Year competition.
And that's not all...
10 SA's women love this car
Earlier in August, the Tucson was named the 2016 Women on Wheels South African Car of the Year by a majority vote. Wheels24's Janine Van der Post, one of the judges, said: "I based my vote vehicles which I considered to be practical and offer great value for money. The Tucson embodies these qualities and it's a great-looking SUV too."
Wheels24's Sergio Davids: I was suitably impressed with the new Tucson at its local launch in Cape Town earlier in 2016. Having spent a few days behind the wheel of Hyundai's new SUV, it's easy to see why Tucson has been a huge success for the brand in such a relatively short amount of time. Overall, it's a vast improvement compared to its predecessor: the ix35.
The Tucson has reinvented itself with an eye-catching exterior design that's possibly the best-looking SUV in its class. If you're in the market for a compact SUV with great styling, sophisticated technology and comfortable ride, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson should be on your list.
Its biggest selling points are an eerily-quiet cabin, a new suspension setup that feels composed on gravel as it's on tar and steering that's less artificial than its predecessor. Its ride and handling is less sporty than its looks, however the Tucson is composed on most surfaces. Steering is predictable and competent, the ride is refined, and the cabin well-insulated even at highway speeds.
Backed by Hyundai's industry leading 7-year or 200 000km powertrain warranty, the Tucson makes for a great value proposition in the fiercely competitive SUV market.