If ever-skyrocketing fuel and electricity prices are already somewhat disconcerting, the evolutionary shifts in new car shopping trends make for a not-dissimilarly frightening analysis.
The humble sedan, once the mobility mainstay of the four-member nuclear family, in 2021 shrank to a mere nine percent of the South African automotive landscape. No prizes for guessing the winners, with five-door hatches and yes, you guessed it – SUVs and crossovers slugging it out at the opposite ends of the scale with a respective 40.5 percent and 41 percent of local market share.
Today, it’s all about practicality, and as household budgets continue to wilt under below-zero salary increases and rising utilities costs – value.
As a consequence, it’s trench warfare between manufacturers as bargain-hunting consumers relentlessly compare model specifications to establish what models offer the tiniest iota of rand-for-competitive advantage.
Few automakers are more aware of this than Hyundai – a brand that, similar to Toyota but unlike its German competitors, sells its products off the showroom floor as what-you-see-is-what-you-get and (apart from maintenance plan upgrades) with no orderable extra options – and who recently introduced their fourth-generation, mid-size Tucson.
The new line-up spans just three two-litre automatic, front-driven derivatives in petrol (graded as Premium – R519 900, Executive – R569 900 and Elite – R634 900) and one diesel (also Elite – R699 900).
N-line massaging promising a more muscular visual but no performance enhancements, is set to arrive in future.
Stretching to 4630 mm in length, the newcomer is 150mm longer than previously; which translates to an 85 mm increase in the wheelbase.
Although there’s no escaping the visual limitations of a two-box SUV, even so the Executive and Elite’s black grille that houses integrated LED daytime-running lights, creates a standout impression compared to its rivals when viewed from head-on. The side profile’s triangular theme and wheel rim design appears a little less coherent; and is rounded off by a chrome insert framing the roofline and wrapping the C-pillar. It’s a matter of taste.
Outputs (115kW and 192 Nm) for the petrol engine are largely unchanged, except that curiously it’s sacrificed 4Nm in its transformation into the latest iteration.
Conversely, the diesel engine is brand new. The aluminium-block D4HD engine produces 137 kW @ 4000 r/min and a generous 416 Newton-meters from 2000 r/min; yet only for the next 750 revolutions per minute thereafter. We found that such abundant torque will nonetheless spin an unloaded tyre with ease in the dry; its cause even less helped by the fact that only two of the four wheels are driven.
In South African specification the Tucson is solely available with a mechanical gear selector for the torque converter transmission (as opposed to a pushbutton drive-by-wire configuration available abroad), which takes up a bit of otherwise usable centre console space and has a rather clunky feel when engaging cogs.
At the national limit the ride is quiet and comfortable, if a little uneventful. Pushed beyond that the engine note goes a bit gruff; and there was noticeable vertical movement from the bonnet at high speeds.
All new Tucsons come with trailer sway control (the Elite will tow a braked 1900kg), heated front seats (additionally vented in the Elite), front parking sensors with a reverse camera and wireless cell phone charging. Over and above that Elite and Executive models are fitted with leather electric seats and a suite of safety interventions that include among others – lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert and forward collision alert.
The Elite diesel also has 19-inch tyres fitted as standard. Apart from the extensive list of standard equipment, which some of the Tucson’s rivals are able to match in isolation but none of them unless as a matrixed cross-brand hodgepodge – thanks to its extended wheelbase, the Tucson’s true party trick is its chasmal rear passenger space. It, uhm, trails only the Nissan X-Trail by a mere 10 mm in length for overall class honours – and it shows.
Competitors? A Tiguan rides better but is specced lower (although there is no comparable diesel model); the BMW has the better badge but is no less bare-as-bones in standard trim. Neither can a RAV4 be had in diesel; and what’s more its personality may be considered a bit too bland for many.
All of which considered – and brand bias aside – in this company, along with its unparalleled 7 year/200 000 km warranty and giant leap forward over its own predecessor, the Hyundai is the winner. Not one of them is entirely deserving of top marks, but the Tucson Elite scores the highest.
Making it perhaps not quite deserving of the heart, but most definitely one’s head.
Hyundai Tucson R2.0 Elite Diesel AT
Price: R699 900
Engine: front-mounted, turbodiesel, 1 998 cm3, four-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 137 kW @ 4 000 rpm
Torque: 416 Nm @ 2000 – 2750 rpm
Driven wheels: FWD
0-100 km/h: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 201 km/h
Fuel consumption: 7.9 l/100km (combined)
CO2 emissions: 169 g/km
Rivals: Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trial, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester
Words; Braam Peens