The boring butterfly
Remember that quiet, geeky kid in school? They were most notable for not being noticeable, had good manners but never caused a stir. Until you bumped into them at your matric reunion and they’d morphed into a stylish, vibrant entrepreneur. Well, cars can do the same and Hyundai’s Tucson is a prime example.
Launched in 2004, the first generation Tucson certainly fitted the bill. Sensible, unexciting and well on its way to becoming the librarian’s favourite. Despite being boring, the compact SUV sold reasonably well until its parents had a change of heart and decided to set it free. So it did a gap year. In Europe.
What emerged through the international arrivals gate was ix35, the second generation of Tucson which had pulled a pretty decent caterpillar to butterfly move. Although it still had normal engines, the proud parent Hyundai must’ve been delighted at the warm reception and stealthy glances its prettier offspring received.
Which brings us to this new, third generation Tucson we had on test recently. While taking photos of this white press car, I couldn’t help thinking how it has grown up. The Korean manufacturer long abandoned value in favour of style and new tech, relentlessly improving the looks and gadget count with each model.
Interesting design lines are set off by crisp light clusters, sensible proportions, quality and convenience features that don’t have to fear rival products. Third gen Tucson is the latest product to get “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” styling and – finally – turbo petrol power for this top-of-the-range derivative.
Borrowed from the Veloster Turbo, here beats a heart with 1.6L capacity and clever turbo-charging to give you up to 130kW (177hp) or 265Nm. Although 20kW down from Veloster’s maximum power output, the torque figure remains the same and is available from about 1,750 to 4,500rpm.
Actually, Hyundai is lying to us. Like the profound conversation with a former book nerd, this engine had me riveted. I floored it in various high gears at low speeds and it pulled from as little as 1,200rpm onwards. Not drastically, mind you, but there was an almost immediate urge to pick up the pace.
Chatting about gears, the top-spec Tucson 1.6 can be had in 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). Hyundai insists that this is not an automatic but rather an automated manual box of cogs. Once you get your head around that, it’s quite pleasant. Not DSG fast or smooth, but sufficiently efficient.
This eager drive train suits the Tucson’s improved ride and handling well, never mind how it shocks ex classmates with its new looks, fashionable interior and gadget count. Highlights include cruise control, Bluetooth, pleather, chrome trim, power seats / windows / mirrors, keyless entry and six airbags.
Steering feel is rather light while hard cornering is greeted with safe under-steer and mild ESP intervention – perfect for this type of vehicle and its intended target market. Passenger comfort and space is also commendable with the only negative mark being road noise from the big 19-inch wheels.
The manual version rides on more sensible 17-inch wheels and every new Tucson has a full-size spare. Average fuel use is 8.5L/100km (claimed) from the 62L tank. This 1.6 TGDI Elite DCT costs N$499,900 and Hyundai includes a 5-year/150,000km warranty and a 5-year/90,000km service plan.
The new Hyundai Tucson has not only caught up with the competition, it actually gives them something to think about when comparing price, spec, looks, power and comfort. “Are you sure that’s Tucson?” whispers the somewhat wrinkly blonde at the reunion, clutching her fourth glass of Chardonnay. Yes it is.
0-10km/h: 0,59 seconds
0-20km/h: 1,09 seconds
0-30km/h: 1,65 seconds
0-40km/h: 2,21 seconds
0-50km/h: 3,05 seconds
0-60km/h: 3,81 seconds
0-70km/h: 4,71 seconds
0-80km/h: 5,93 seconds
0-90km/h: 7,07 seconds
0-100km/h: 8,40 seconds
0-110km/h: 9,95 seconds
0-120km/h: 11,86 seconds
0-130km/h: 13,77 seconds
0-140km/h: 16,24 seconds
0-100m: 6,95 seconds @ 88,97km/h
0-200m: 10,49 seconds @ 112,47km/h
0-300m: 13,47 seconds @ 128,48km/h
0-400m: 16,16 seconds @ 139,62km/h
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.59G
All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box