Roomy, drives neatly, abundant in well-conceived tech
There's a chance the looks won't do it for you
What is it?
Hyundai describes the new Tucson as “a design revolution” for the brand. It's not kidding. In an incredibly saturated corner of the market – the middle-sized SUV-thingy – it’ll stand out. Which is exactly the point. Whether you like the look its Parametric Hidden Lights lend it or not, it’s surely got your attention among the Qashqais, Kugas and Tiguans of this world.
Still, eye-jolting aesthetics are just one half of the bargain. If it can’t back them up, it’s as diverting but ultimately powerless as Elmo and Count Binface standing alongside Boris on election night as the results roll in.
So Hyundai's got its mojo back?
This is Hyundai at its most strident and confident. The Tucson name first appeared in 2004, on a quirky looking car that put value for money above all else. The two generations which followed (one of which was called ix35 in the UK) forwent any aesthetic interest in order to chase the tidy dynamics and interior quality of rivals. Now Hyundai’s nailed those, interesting styling is truly back on the menu.
And how. Hyundai tells us the new Tucson wasn’t created by traditional sketching, but “through geometric algorithms produced by cutting-edge digital technology”. What we’re picturing is a computerised version of those spirograph kits we played with as kids. What they’ve pumped out is pretty memorable, with the headlights, DRLs and indicators hidden among little lozenges in the grille – only coming to life as they’re switched on – and the wheel arches looking like the end result of looking at a Lamborghini Countach poster before a cheese dream.
It’s notable because Hyundai’s engineering team is chockful of former BMW employees. We’d argue their current workplace is more successfully pumping out bold design ideas than their former workplace…
What else has it got going for it?
Backing up the bold styling is a tech-packed interior (which can’t help but feel a touch conventional when it’s sheathed by such wild wrapping) and a mixture of powertrains, which heavily feature electrification.
All engines are versions of the same 1.6-litre turbo petrol. The base car has a manual gearbox, front-wheel drive, 148bhp and no electrical assistance. Then there are two mild hybrids with 148 or 178bhp. The former is manual or auto but FWD only, while latter is auto only and gets the option of AWD. A full hybrid links a 44.2kW electric motor with the same 1.6-litre turbo (for a 227bhp total) and AWD.
Any other electrified models on the way?
Recently launched is a plug-in hybrid version, which boasts 261bhp and around 30 miles of electric-only range. Will a fully electric version or a high-performance Tucson N follow? There’s already an ‘N-Line’ Tucson with sportier styling, after all. It’d be hasty to rule either of them out.
Loads more options than the cars before it, then. Dynamically it ought to have more depth, too, with development miles encompassing everything from laps of the Nürburgring to hauling trailers around the Alps. So it looks more arresting than the bulk of its competitors. But is it any more arresting to drive?
What's the verdict?
Love the way it looks? Then the Tucson doesn’t put a foot wrong beneath them, driving eloquently and brimming with well-implemented tech. Always bought Hyundais for their sensibleness, and not so sure on the styling? Then rest assured the only thing longer than the equipment list is the warranty.
This fourth-gen SUV proves how broad-shouldered Hyundai’s getting. The first Tucson was odd looking and not in an especially confident way, the two cars which followed it anonymous beyond belief, while this one is a real statement – a borderline essential approach to attracting any attention in a most aesthetically homogenous (and saturated) genre of the car market. If former Tucson buyers don’t like it, then maybe that’s the point.