Hyundai Tucson : Compact SUV delight
Posted on June 24, 2012, Sunday
Tracing its roots back to 1967, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company is marquee that has earned recognition all over the world as the automaker creates popular vehicles that permeate the most demanded platforms in the contemporary market.
The list certainly includes the sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment in which the Tucson (named after the city in Arizona) has been a visible contender in the compact SUV category since 2004.
The vehicle’s popularity in the global market is clearly evident as Hyundai has strategically set up several assembly plants in Asia, Europe and the Middle East apart from its home base in South Korea.
Further reinforcing the Tucson’s appeal is the fact that the vehicle is currently only in its second generation. This points to less need to change its fundamental elements in design, a remarkable fact given that its history spans eight years.
In the local market, the Tucson is available in two variants: one with a Theta II 2.0-litre engine and two-wheel drive while the other is a four-wheel drive model with a 2.4-litre powerhouse from the same Theta II family. Both variants offer six-speed automatic transmissions.
This week’s test drive was the 2.0-litre variant which featured splendid ergonomic lines in its exterior which was part of Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design philosophy which was quite a departure from its humdrum style of the past.
Aerodynamic streamlines aside, the overall exterior was a departure from the classic boxy design that Hyundai and its competitors had abandoned sometime back; the overall motif gave an impression that the vehicle was an organic being that transcended cold, soulless machinery.
Stepping into the vehicle, I could not help but feel that it felt more like a sedan as the height was not really that different from the platform.
Such was the trend of contemporary compact SUVs in order to woo more prospective cars buyers who would have otherwise opted for a sedan.
The interior was equally ergonomic and organically designed as the seats, centre console, door panels and meter cluster were given a lot of thought and consideration in the design and finishing.
In terms of comfort, ease of operation and practicality, I felt that Hyundai had done an excellent job creating a truly exceptional interior as it was quite a pleasure to just sit in the vehicle even prior to starting the engine.
The ability to configure seating arrangements to suit the one’s taste was a key attractive feature of the vehicle as plenty of rear cabin space could be allocated to allow storage of luggage, sporting equipment or whatever struck one’s fancy.
The ignition was enabled pushing a start button via an intelligent key which could merely be in the vehicle itself.
This was a good feature which eliminated the need to search for a normal key in a crammed pocket or handbag.
The engine with dual variable valve timing had a powerful but subdued acoustic profile to it.
Inside the cabin, it was hardly noticeable and even less when the excellent sound system was turned on to low volumes.
The step gate shift was certainly handy in facilitating accurate settings to the transmission as the six-speed transmission shifted quite efficiently and seamlessly.
The initial acceleration from a stationary position and low speeds was quite punchy as the Theta II engine’s power and torque kicked in at a relatively early stage.
The acceleration was certainly there on demand. The overall handling of the vehicle was another highlight as manoeuvring was such a delight especially in parking, reversing and u-turn scenarios.
I felt that the vehicle was quite manageable and comfortable in taking on city driving environments.
The braking system was well designed as well as I found that I could stop the vehicle on a dime at low speeds.
The vehicle’s Hill Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Brake Control (DBC) were quite handy in handling hilly terrain as they automatically managed the vehicle to take the hassle and pressure off the driver.
Looking at the overall picture, the Tucson is another fine example of the effort out in by Hyundai to reach out to the masses with exquisitely designed vehicles as well as respectable engineering features in standing up to Japanese and Western competitors.