This one has been a long time coming, even before the Lamborghini that I test-drove recently. It wasn’t bias; it is just that this cheap crossover is actually quite popular regardless of our review, so much that you might end up counting at least as many of this vehicle as any popular Japanese crossovers on the road. And ‘this’ crossover, which we sourced from a close friend, is none other than the 2013 Hyundai Tucson 2.4, aka “Tuck-Sun”, as it is known to most people, including some of the local dealer’s sales staff.
The Hyundai Tucson is one of the earliest models in the Hyundai line-up, to receive a makeover based on their “fluidic sculpture” design theme. Styled to look more elegant, with smooth and curvy lines running all over the body, while not reaching the point of being overdone, the Tucson has earned quite a decent reputation for its looks alone. The design charisma continues into the interior even, which is nicely detailed with textured-plastics that cover the entire dash and, upper and lower door sills. The middle bit on all doors, the front center armrest, steering-wheel, and the seats, are all leather-clad in our vehicle, but the rest is hard plastic. Fit and finish seem generally solid.
Our upper mid-spec car came with several features, including auto headlamps, in-dash audio unit with 6-CD changer and featuring AUX, USB and IPOD support, 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, backlit steering controls for audio system and cruise control, power-adjustable driver’s seat, panoramic roof with operable sunroof for the front passengers and fixed panel for the rear passengers, dual-zone auto air conditioning, smart key with push-start button, rear parking sensors, and two-tone leather interior. The top-spec model comes with a DVD-navigation system, reverse camera with both front and rear sensors, and Bluetooth connectivity with telephone controls on the steering-wheel.
Going by dimensions, the Tucson sits between the sub-compact and compact crossover categories. Nevertheless, there is ample headroom and legroom for both front and rear passengers. The seats are moderately-bolstered, and the front seat-backs are covered in hard plastics. The electric-powered drivers’ seat is infinitely adjustable, and finding the perfect driving position is never a problem. All-round visibility is good, though rear-visibility is somewhat hampered by the swooping roofline. Even without any rear ducts, the air conditioner easily kept up with the typical May weather. The interior is generally quiet, with wind-noise creeping in after 100 kph.
The Tucson is available in two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, with a choice of 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre four-pot engines, although the latter engine is offered only in the all-wheel-drive setup. The all-wheel-drive system is front-biased, and directs up to 50% of the power to the rear axle upon detection of wheel slippage. There is a centre differential-lock button to manually lock the power distribution between the front and rear axles at a constant 50:50 ratio, should the off-road going get tougher.
Propelling our tester was Hyundai’s four-pot 2.4-litre engine rated for 176 hp and 228 Nm of torque. Mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed tiptronic transmission, our Tucson did the 0–100 kph gallop in 10.8 seconds, on a fairly hot afternoon in May. Although the motor is the same as the one found in the Sonata, the fuel efficiency numbers we achieved with the Tucson were not impressive. With the trip computer constantly displaying a staggering 12.5 l/100 km on a highway drive, it is even worse than the bulkier Hyundai Santa-Fe running on the same motor. And the relatively small 55-litre fuel tank does not help things either, with the maximum driveable range being not more than 370 km, before the fuel-low warning comes on.
While decent handling is usually not Hyundai’s cup of tea, the Tucson happened to be a surprise. Handling was above-average, with good grip levels and cornering limits, all pretty admirable for a compact crossover. There is moderate body-roll at most, and on crossing the limits, the Tucson safely understeers sans any drama. It even held up well in emergency lane changing manoeuvres, unlike its bigger brother, the Hyundai Santa Fe. The good news is that, the ride comfort has not been significantly compromised. Although it rides a tad firmly, it soaks up most road imperfections in a fairly gentle manner. There is mild feedback from the steering and other controls, and the brakes feel a tad bit mushy. While it cannot outdo a VW Tiguan in the corners, it can surely match up to the Japanese competition.
Although not exactly an off-roader, we did take our Tucson for some sand excursions too, which included climbing a fairly steep desert dune, and some beach bashing, all without deflating the tyres. With a responsive all-wheel-drive system, a center diff-lock, good approach angle, and decent low-end kick, the Tucson did not disappoint. Lack of low-range gearing and a car-like ride-height means the Tucson’s off-roading abilities theoretically do not stretch beyond the beaches, and some mild-to-moderate desert or rocky terrains; and within those limits, the Tucson shines. If you fancy going any further though, you shouldn’t be looking at the Tucson in the first place.
The 2013 Hyundai Tucson competes in a crowded, or rather overcrowded segment, where the public is spoilt with a massive amount of choices. Boasting a starting price that sits lower than that of a basic Civic, the Tucson potentially murders atleast half of its competition downright. Great specs, remarkable interior quality, and good looks, only make it a tempting choice for small families who prefer qualities such as, a higher driving position, space and practicality, and affordability. That pretty much explains the popularity of the Hyundai Tucson in this region.
Photos by Vivek Menon.
We’d like to thank Jain Sathian and Dimple Jain, for providing their vehicle for this test drive.