A bold bet on style, safety and electrification, could the new Hyundai Tucson be the car that sells Singapore on Korean tech?
SINGAPORE — The new Hyundai Tucson showed its face yesterday, along with a shapely and highly sculpted body as it signaled Korea’s bet on electrification, safety and visually striking styling.
The new Tucson is the fourth generation of Hyundai’s single best-selling sport utility vehicle (SUV). It hits some markets this year, but its journey here will take longer. Local distributor Komoco Motors says the Singapore launch for the all-new Hyundai Tucson won’t be until 2021. And it’ll be in the later part of the year.
The long wait might not matter — the new Tucson looks years ahead of contemporary sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Hyundai describes its styling as “ambitious” and “experimental”, and it certainly pushes the boundaries. It previewed many of the Tucson’s styling features at last year’s Los Angeles auto show in the Vision T concept, and it’s surprising how many have made it into production.
The front end is probably the most striking part of the new Tucson, with scattered headlights forming part of the grille. Hyundai calls them Parametric Hidden Lights; the lights themselves turn dark when switched off, to blend in with the rest of the grille’s design elements.
The company says it used “geometric algorithms” to come up with some of the shapes and lines for the car.
The Tucson’s rear also has parametric hidden lights, while the bumper has parametric pattern details with a three-dimensional effect. There’s a rear spoiler and under it is a hidden rear wiper, a first for Hyundai.
Hyundai says the car’s logo looks three-dimensional but doesn’t actually protrude, unlike most car emblems.
The new Tucson’s side is no less distinctive. It has chiseled, angular lines and a wedge shape, with a parabolic chrome accent line running from the wing mirrors to the C-pillar to give the eye somewhere to travel as you view the car in profile.
Hyundai offers nine colours for the Tucson (three of them new) and is making a two-tone roof optional, in colours called Phantom Black or Dark Knight. Customers can apparently pair any body colour with either roof.
All those bulges, creases and geometric shapes might disguise the fact that the Tucson is bigger than before, although just marginally so. The length, width and height are 4,500mm, 1,865mm and 1,650mm respectively. That’s up 20mm, 15mm and 5mm from the previous model.
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More importantly, the wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) has grown 10mm to 2,680mm, which ought to make for a roomier interior. Rear legroom is apparently up 26mm, for instance.
Speaking of the cabin, it’s as ultra-modern as the exterior. Hyundai says its designers took inspiration from waterfalls, which you can see in twin silver garnish lines that flow from the centre fascia all the way to the rear doors.
Dashboard materials are apparently “premium” and come in neutral tones, and in line with how the rest of the car world is headed, a touchscreen (measuring 10.25 inches) replaces physical switches and buttons. All infotainment and air-con controls are actually touchscreen operated now — a retrograde step in our view, since it takes more driver attention from the road than physical controls do.
Virtual instruments help to neaten up the dashboard; they do away with the need for a thick cluster housing, while mounting the 10.25-inch display low makes the cabin feel more open and airy.
Hyundai says the Tucson’s boot is bigger than before, too, with up to 620 litres of room in the back. Why “up to”? Because trunk space varies with the drivetrain type.
The flagship Tucson for now is a petrol-electric hybrid. Also announced are petrol and diesel turbos, with or without 48-volt mild hybrid technology. Next year Hyundai will reveal a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle version, as well as a high performance N-Line variant.
For now, the plain 1.6-litre T-GDI engine has the biggest boot (at 620 litres, rising to 1,799 litres when you fold the back seats down). The 48V mild hybrid petrol makes do with 577/1,756 litres, while the full hybrid offers 616/1,795 litres.
(If history is any guide, we’re leaving out the diesel numbers because Singaporean buyers can’t abide the technology.)
Which engines are headed our way? That’s up in the air and will depend on what does best in Singapore’s emissions tests.
At the moment Hyundai’s petrol options are 1.6-litre T-GDI engines with 150 or 180 horsepower and front wheel-drive, with all optional all wheel drive for the latter. Both are paired with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic, and the 48V mild hybrid system can be had with either.
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The Tucson Hybrid gets a six-speed auto with either front or all wheel drive, and it runs off a 1.6-litre turbo paired with a 44.2kW electric motor for a system output of 230hp. The 1.49kWh lithium-ion battery pack is self-charging, meaning it’s topped up on the move and the car never needs to be plugged in.
Interestingly, Hyundai says the plug-in hybrid will have 265 horsepower, which means the clean, green Tucson will also be pretty mean.
As for the suspension, Hyundai has the same try-it-all-and-see-what-sticks approach. You can actually spec two different setups for the Tucson, and both offer adaptive and conventional shock absorbers. It has MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear.
Hyundai says it tuned the handling on the Nurburgring to make sure it satisfies European drivers, but didn’t sacrifice comfort. The option Electronic Controlled Suspension’s active dampers are supposed to widen the sporty/comfort envelope. Meanwhile, 17, 18 and 19-inch wheels are the factory offerings.
While Komoco puzzles over the bewildering drivetrain and chassis combinations, the new Tucson’s active safety features might be another cause for some careful thought.
The available suite of SmartSense schiesse-avoidance and driver assistance features is impressively long, with several that are new to the Tucson.
Here’s the list of what’s available:
The new Junction Turning feature is an interesting one. If you’re queuing to turn right at a cross junction and the Tucson thinks you might pull out into oncoming traffic, it’ll brake for you.
Not all of those could make it to Singapore — the navigation-based smart cruise control system that adjusts your set speed for corners and curved highway ramps probably won’t work here, for example — but the long list of features makes it clear than Hyundai is determined to move away from its roots as a seller of cheap cars.
Whether the Tucson’s sophistication overshoots buyer perception of Korean technology in Singapore is still an open question, but one thing is clear: SmartSense notwithstanding, the Tucson’s striking styling alone is enough to suggest that Hyundai is no longer willing to simply play it safe.
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