Non-traditional brands such as Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and even Lamborghini are venturing into the hot SUV market, trading not just simply raised passenger cars, but a list of model-specificcomponents on them.
That’s how important the SUV market is now, be it a proper land crawler or an urban transporter.
At the same time, traditional players keep upping their game.
While Honda and Mazda brought in Honda SENSING and GVC for their CR-V and CX-5 respectively, Hyundai has subtly updated their Tucson, giving it extra oomph here in Malaysia.
The Tucson itself is not a new car. The current gen Tucson has been around for a few years.
But, last year, Hyundai introduced two new variants with entirely new engines - 1.6 T-GDi petrol and R 2.0 CRDi diesel.
Alongside the new engines, the updated Tucson is also fitted with new full-LED headlights with static bending lights, auto-hold function, powered tailgate and new wheels.
The Hyundai Tucson 1.6 T-GDi featured here is retailed at RM145,688 on-the-road without insurance.
The Tucson in 1.6-TGDi iteration is more competitive than ever with the set of equipment fitted to it.
Too bad this particular car rolls on standard 17-inch wheels because I personally would go for the optional 19-inch ones as they elevate the profile of the already sharp-looking SUV.
But that might be just me.
On the inside, the overall construction of the cabin is rather sedate, in contrast to the exterior.
However, the materials are of a decent quality, with soft touches where necessary.
The occupants’ ergonomics are well-executed, giving the impression of a properly-sized and agile SUV.
To me, the most intimidating feature of the updated Tucson is the 7-speed DCT dual-clutch unit paired to the punchy Gamma 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant.
The engine has a buttery smooth power delivery and when revved to the top end of its scale, does not scream breathlessly, although there is no more significant pull there.
Oh, it may not be the most powerful SUV out there with 177 horses, but have I told you that the Tucson is the torquiest of them all? That’s 265Nm of pulling power.
The swift 7-speed DCT is a joy to operate in town or during a weekend getaway. It does not jerk at crawling speed, upshifts rapidly during acceleration and blips sportily during downshift.
The smoothness at low speed makes it a gearbox that transforms your memory with DCT unit.
Despite its racy powertrain, the ride of the Tucson is silky comfortable. The damping is on the soft side, to say the least.
It’s softer than CX-5’s and is on par to that on the CR-V.
Coupled with advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) occupying 51 per cent of its chassis, the overall ride is refined and enables the suspension to work effectively.
The leather-wrapped steering is a motor-driven power steering (MDPS) that is not too sharp, but nicely-weighted and gives a sense of control to the driver.
On the centre console, the Tucson comes with a drive mode control system, which allows the driver to select from normal, sport and eco.
It alters the onboard computer to deliver different kinds of driving experience; Sport being the sharpest and eco being the most tree-hugging manner.
The difference is there, although it is very subtle.
Speaking of tree-hugging, the Tucson 1.6-TGDi easily returns 17.2 km/l on highway driving.
As a passenger, there’s almost nothing to complain about, but it has to be pointed out that the audio visual navigation (AVN) was not so user-friendly.
And as crucial it is here in Malaysia, there’s a set of rear air-conds to ensure that the temperature at the rear is optimal.
On the safety side, the Tucson may not be equipped with comprehensive Honda SENSING as present on the RM168k CR-V Premium, but the RM22k savings still gives you the usual features; 6-airbags, downhill brake control (DBC), hill-start assist control (HAC), brake assist (BA) and vehicle stability management (VSM).
So, has Hyundai invented a truly winning SUV? Not really, especially in Malaysia where consumers are concerned abou it resale value, but that does not stop it from being a likeable one.
With its distinctive styling and character, and powered by a not-to-be-missed capable powertrain, the Hyundai Tucson 1.6-TGDi is a package that truly offers excitement and gusto in the market.