Hyundai Tucson 1.6T Limited AWD review: born to be mild
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Hyundai Tucson 1.6T Limited AWD
- Avant garde styling
- Car-like driving position
- Feels surprisingly posh
- Should feel posh for $69k
- Steering rack rattle
- Sluggish transmisison
The 1990s and first decade of the 2000s were a coming of age time for Hyundai. It got very confident and an even a bit wild with CAD-gone-mad styling on models like the original Coupe and second-generation Tucson.
After a period of settling into relative conservatism, Hyundai is at it again. You could argue that medium SUVs are about the least exciting-looking things in the automotive world, because there’s so little you can do with them: they’re boxes of a certain size and they have to appeal to a very broad range of people.
Nobody seems to have told Hyundai, which has gone to town on the new Tucson. It’s still a basic two-box shape, but there are some extreme crease lines going on which are reminiscent of that second-gen Tucson, not the mention the new Ioniq 5 Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV).
The front is dominated by what Hyundai calls a “parametric” grille that creates a mask-like effect, because the headlights/daytime running lights are hidden in the geometric shapes. There are flashes of trim everywhere and a bit more of that parametric effect in the tail lights. Don’t like it? Bad luck. It’s a deliberately polarising design.
It’s less wacky inside, but it is still a nice blend of new-tech and traditional shapes. Our top-line Limited test model sports a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster (including a blind-spot/lane change video feed when you hit the indicator), with a matching same-size infotainment display and flush pushbuttons for the transmission; but it’s all integrated into cabin architecture that’s otherwise fairly traditional.
That’s not a complaint: I rather like the fact that the lavishly large infotainment screen is nestled lower down in the centre console, not popped up tablet-style on top as seems to be the fashion.
New Zealand has the Clean Car “feebate” scheme coming and Hyundai is intent on being a world leader in Electric Vehicles (EVs), so you might imagine there’s plenty of electric tech in the new Tucson. Well, there’s not. Yet. Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrains are coming next year, but for now Tucson sticks with traditional petrol and diesel engines.
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$306.50 p/w $1,225.99 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$217.76 p/w $871.05 p/m
The 1.6-litre diesel is European-specification (as is the NZ Tucson generally, with indicators on the left side) and is designed to give customers a good “zero band” option under next year’s Clean Car rules; because diesels have relatively low CO2. It’s a nice Clean Car loophole.
You can have the diesel in the posh Limited specification, but our car was powered by the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine. It’s plenty punchy if you like to drive hard, with 132kW/265Nm and a seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).
But the DCT is also the Tucson’s Achilles heel in everyday driving; as is often the case with this technology in Hyundai petrols, it’s hesitant off the line under light throttle and often “hangs” during gentle gearchanges.
That occasionally annoying demeanour is exacerbated by the “shift by wire” pushbutton DCT selector. Because the DCT can be quite slow to engage – during a three-point turn, for example – it adds to the impression of a dithery transmission.
Past experience also suggests Hyundai’s DCT works much better with diesel, so it’d be worth having a look at the 100kW/320Nm oil-burner before committing to the turbo-petrol. Although the 1.6 CRDI is $4k more expensive and lots of people are diesel-averse these days.
But in either case, the AWD system still comes with a 50/50 lock function for off-tarmac driving - a rarity in family SUVs these days.
The Tucson chassis lopes along nicely on the open road, although the steering doesn’t like to be hurried. There’s quite a bit of weight transfer and aggressive turn-in results in steering rack rattle that can be quite alarming.
The Tucson is beautifully built, but also clearly built for comfort. It’s not sporty, which is absolutely fine for a family SUV.
It does, however, make the kitted-up N-Line version (no extra cost over the Limited, turbo-petrol only) seem questionable… except that it looks really smart in its exclusive Shadow Grey with black roof. And you do get Electronic Controlled Suspension (ECS) as standard, so it’s a potentially sharper drive after all. Which makes three Tucsons you have to test drive before you commit that $70k.
HYUNDAI TUCSON 1.6T LIMITED AWD
ENGINE: 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four
GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual clutch, AWD