Test drive: Hyundai Tucson 1.6L Turbo (RM143,888)

By daryl, 02 September 2019

The Password Is Turbo
Fifteen years from its inception, the Hyundai Tucson remains one of the most mispronounced cars on sale today. It might also be one of the most misunderstood SUVs in its segment.

With two different engines, two different transmissions and two different grilles offered across two different variants, the recently facelifted Tucson presents Malaysians shopping for a new mid-size SUV with a peculiar choice.

At a glance, the 2.0 Elegance comes across as the sportier model because of its blacked-out grille and 17-inch alloys that look no different from the 1.6 Turbo’s footwear. But the Turbo costs more, has LED headlights and has Turbo in its name, so it has to be better. Or is it?

The chrome slats on the Turbo’s massive grille might cost a bit more to manufacture, but you’re really just paying RM20k more for an additional 22bhp and 72Nm of torque. Even then, the Gamma engine’s maximum output of 175bhp is considerably short of the 190bhp developed by Honda’s yardstick 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo. But surely a dual-clutch transmission is more engaging than a CVT.

Hyundai’s first date with a DCT didn’t go so well. The car in question was the Veloster Turbo, and we still remember the Malaysian-spec tester struggling to keep things composed through all seven gears.

Thankfully, the jitters have practically vanished. Though not as engaging as Volkswagen’s DSG, the Tucson’s seven speeder is a thoroughly polished component adept at delivering the direct-injected output to the front wheels (AWD isn’t offered in Malaysia) in silky smooth fashion.

Tucson 1.6L Turbo
Tucson 1.6L Turbo
Tucson 1.6L Turbo

This fluidity is part of a comfort biased drive package which also includes a suspension setup – MacPherson strut at the front and multi-links in the rear – rigged with passengers in mind.

When you’re alone and feeling a wee bit adventurous, the Tucson’s Sport Mode opens up the throttle even more than the same button would in, say, an AMG GLC43. Hyundai should have just made more low-end torque available in the default Comfort setting in retrospect, but we’re not complaining. It’s really quite a good drive overall.

Inside, the car looks fresh and organised, with the head unit’s ability to boot Apple CarPlay seamlessly being a major plus point. Fit and finish is also decent for the most part. If we were nit-picking, the wrap on the steering wheel, which Hyundai claims is Nappa leather, could have been better.

Elsewhere, the Tucson’s cabin is a largely practical one even if it isn’t as capacious as that of the CR-V. The saving grace here is an automated tailgate which isn’t easy to come by for less than RM150k – the Proton X70 is the only other SUV packing this feature that comes to mind.

All things considered, the Tucson’s unique packaging and styling – Peter Schreyer himself was credited for this – will likely continue to appeal to the left side of the field. It’s a fresh and energetic all-rounder trying to find its feet in a pool of seasoned pros.

That said, those who bet on it should enjoy their returns, for the first three years at least. That’s when you won’t have to fork out a single cent on maintenance.

Tucson 1.6L Turbo
Tucson 1.6L Turbo
Tucson 1.6L Turbo
Tucson 1.6L Turbo

A stylish, comfy and practical all-rounder, few odd fittings aside. Good to drive, but only with Sport mode on.


ENGINE 1,591cc, 4-cyl turbo, 175bhp, 265Nm
PRICE RM143,888