Don’t know about you but I take great pleasure in ripping the plastic covers off of instrument consoles, infotainment displays and what not in brand new cars – which is why I had a particularly good time when the Hyundai Tucson GLS 4WD AT arrived in our office for the first drive review. It had less than 300km on the odo, half of that clocked on the drive from Mumbai to Pune. It was so brand-spanking-new that not only did the seats have their plastic covers but even the alloys had protective covers. Much joy was had ripping it all off, an initiation that makes me even fonder of this SUV.
Anyway the Tucson isn’t new to us and this one is so familiar it’s not funny. Same colour. Same spec. Same alloy wheel design. Same tyres. Same everything, except for the little 4WD badge on the boot – this is the new top-spec Tucson with on-demand all-wheel-drive. On the inside the only difference is the 4WD lock switch. Right now I have both Tucsons parked in my garage, side by side, and everybody thinks I’m nuts. The watchman suggested I could have at least got it in another colour. As I said in the review, Hyundai should have bunged in a sunroof on this so that there’s something to tom-tom about, something to differentiate the top-spec.
To drive the Tuscon 4WD is not much different to the FWD, expect in a few small areas. For one it accelerates harder because of the extra all-wheel-drive grip while taking off from traffic lights, especially on concrete roads. The extra grip also came in handy when we took it to the farm, the 4WD Tucson climbing the dirt track to the house without spinning its wheels and kicking up a cloud of dust. What I also noticed is that there is better feel from the brake pedal, one of the very few quibbles I had with the 2WD Tucson. The Tucson never had great fuel efficiency and I’m assuming that the all-wheel-drive will impact the single-digit figures, but that’s something we will be monitoring over the next few months.
“For now we continue to enjoy the great balance between ride and handling, the easy cruising, the comfort, the refinement and last but not the least, the fantastic music system.”
The arrival of the 4WD Tucson however is actually an exchange programme, for the sensible 2WD version we had for the longest time ever will now be heading back. Hyundais were always sensible, practical, great value cars but over the past couple of years they’ve transformed into desirable cars – and nothing illustrates that better than our long-term fleet Tucson. 12 months went by many, many moons ago yet month after month we extended its tenure in our fleet; we liked it so much!
Let’s start with the driving. Remember how Hyundais handled? The Tucson is nothing like it. It has a near-European feel to its damping. It is not soft or wallow-y and you can feel bumps and ripples in the road. But that underlying sense of firmness leads to a nice dynamic attitude when you hit the corners. There is roll but not so much, there is understeer but that’s something better tyres will cure, there is not much feel to the steering but none of its rivals are any better. Few months ago when we compared the Tucson with the Compass and Tiguan we found out – much to our surprise! – that the Tucson is actually better than the Tiguan to drive. A Korean car being nicer to drive than a German! The Volkswagen’s DSG gearbox does shift quicker than the Tucson’s regular automatic but in Sport mode the shifts do get noticeably quicker and more responsive, never being frustratingly slow. Allied to the more powerful engine delivering a better turn of speed and on our favourite driving road outside of Pune the Tucson was faster than the Tiguan. As for the Compass the Tucson trumped it in terms of space, comfort, luxury, quality and, of course, performance. We had a unanimous winner and it was the Hyundai.
“Few months ago when we compared the Tucson with the Compass and Tiguan we found out – much to our surprise! – that the Tucson is actually better than the Tiguan to drive”
Over the past year I’ve also discovered the Tucson is even better to live with on a daily basis. I know I’ve harped on it numerous times but the stereo, with the Arkamys sound setup, is fantastic. Deep and crisp bass, clear highs and excellent clarity even when cranked right up with no jarring from the speakers. It is allied to a touchscreen infotainment system that is an utter breeze to use. Everything is just so easy to find, the menus are just so logical, and the touch screen so responsive you end up rating it on par with German luxury brands.
During our test period we drove the Tucson all over the country. It started off with the Great India Drive where we drove it from Dharmshala to Vizag and back to Pune and then multiple drives on different stories. We serviced it twice and had zero problems. If there is one area I can suggest an improvement it is to offer better tyres with more grip that will complement the really nice chassis balance and abilities. These Nexen tyres also pick up punctures a little too easily. Also the automated tailgate, it now gets stuck at the last 20 per cent of the hatch opening and requires a push if you want the hatch to be fully open. Better headlights with a more penetrative beam will also help. The wiper blades also need replacing but that’s regular wear and tear.
Right now the Tucson sits at the top ‘This Hyundai is definitely better than other SUVs a few lakh rupees above and below it in price’ of a Hyundai range of truly excellent cars and SUVs. More often than not when we have family over at the farm there are six Hyundai’s parked in the driveway. The picture of Hyundai SUVs on these pages, I assure you, has only one media car. The rest are all friends and family. In fact I’ve been recommending the Tucson to everybody who will listen, though I don’t think many have listened to me, unable as they are to get over the badge at this price. That’s a shame really because this Hyundai is definitely better than other SUVs a few lakh rupees above and below it in price. It’s not just a sensible SUV, it is a desirable SUV.
Hyundai Tucson GLS 4WD AT
Date acquired: May 2017
Duration of test: 1 month
Total mileage: 3,627km
Mileage for the month of June: 103km
Overall kmpl: 9.2kmpl
Costs for the month of June: Nil
Hyundai Tucson GLS AT
Date acquired: January 2017
Duration of test: 17 months
Total mileage: 19,573km
Mileage for the month of June: 302km
Overall kmpl: 10.4kmpl
Costs for the month of June: Nil