Solid ride

The new Hyundai Tucson is handsomely designed and solidly built.
The new Hyundai Tucson is handsomely designed and solidly built.PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Hyundai's compact SUV stands tall among premium- grade rivals

The new Hyundai Tucson is so well put together, its build quality is indistinguishable from that of the best line-up of Japanese compact SUVs, except for a glitchy radio that switches channels on its own.

Perhaps the test-car is a pre- production unit. Car companies often assign these as test-cars to be driven in real conditions, so that the niggles can be ironed out before the production cars arrive at showrooms.

Apparently, prototypes are not tested for such flaws when manufacturers send them to the hottest deserts, coldest tundras and steepest moutains.

These minor glitches are left to motoring journalists to pick out.

Personally, I am glad there was something wrong with the Tucson's radio. Otherwise, the car would have been quite flawless. And a flawless Hyundai is just not very believable - despite the vast improvement Korean brands have chalked over the years.

Yet, it is hard to fault the new Tucson. Its ghostly radio aside, it is a real peach. It is handsomely designed and solidly built, with a standard of fit and finish that you normally see in a premium car.

  • SPECS/HYUNDAI TUCSON 2.0

  • Price: $139,999 with COE

    Engine: 1,999cc 16-valve inline-4

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual override

    Power: 157bhp at 6,200rpm

    Torque: 192Nm at 4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 11.1 seconds

    Top speed: 181kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.8 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Komoco Motors

It does not have a luxurious interior, but a very polished one. All the panels and surfaces exude a high visual and tactile quality. There are no rough edges, hollowness or misalignment at all.

The car has a pretty impressive equipment level too: keyless access and ignition, electronic parking brake with self-release and auto- hold, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel and dual-zone climate control.

Blindspot detection, Bluetooth connectivity, daytime-running LEDs, LED cabin lights, anti-glare rear-view mirror incorporating reverse camera monitor, motorised tailgate with hands-free access, panoramic sunroof and 18-inch alloys are also standard issue.

On the go, the Tucson is a little nondescript. It drives well enough, but it is not distinctive. But you could say the same for a number of cars these days.

Blindfolded, you would be hard pressed to tell this Korean compact sports-utility vehicle apart from a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV.

But if you paid particular attention, you would notice the Tucson's superb noise insulation. The car is especially good at keeping road noise out. Overall, it is almost as quiet as a Lexus NX.

Although fitted with a somewhat dated 2-litre normally aspirated engine with less than 200Nm of torque, it does not feel lethargic. Most times, it whips up a healthy dose of acceleration, even if it means the engine spinning past 4,000rpm.

The engine sounds unstrained (or is it the superior insulation?), and works well with the car's six-speed autobox to deliver a decent mix of punchiness and efficiency.

But on paper, the engine's output has dropped by 9bhp from the previous model and the car's century sprint takes 0.5 seconds longer.

On the flipside, it is more fuel- efficient, using 1 litre less per 100km. The car is also Euro 4- compliant now.

That, however, is inconsequential on the road. The car does not feel lacking in most situations. And its consumption figure is quite believable - provided your mix of driving is highway-biased.

As with other recent Hyundai models, the Tucson offers a decent ride. Even across some of the nastiest speed humps, its occupants, even those in the rear, are not shaken.

It is not a car you would throw around a corner with glee, but it has a rather tight turning circle and its stout steering inspires confidence at higher speeds.

And if I were to nitpick, I would say the car has another flaw - its cabin smells too industrial.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Solid ride'. Print Edition | Subscribe