Review: 2019 Hyundai Tucson

Sexy, athletic, eminently unique – these are all descriptions I wouldn’t use to describe the redesigned 2019 Hyundai Tucson. Let’s be honest though: you probably aren’t shopping for a crossover like the Tucson because you’re concerned about blistering lap times or catching the eyes of passing motorists.

If we’re being realistic, the Tucson is meant to be a no-fuss, no-muss vehicle, and it delivers that in spades and then some. It even offers a surprise that has me thanking my lucky tire rubber that this is the vehicle I’m driving during a recent excursion far away from the paved roads of the city. More on that in a moment, though.

Just for a little background, the Tucson is redesigned for the 2019 model year. It gets a generous helping of new stuff, including a handsome new front end and an interior that not only looks nicer, but helps build on the Korean automaker’s tradition of making some of the most user-friendly vehicles on the road today. Hyundai has the right idea here – why waste precious driving time focused on menial tasks like fiddling with audio controls or figuring out what safety features you want active?

When it is time to shift to Drive, the Tucson offers a relatively tame experience. It’s comfortable, it’s quiet, and offers few surprises, so if you’re looking for a vehicle that will quicken your pulse via high-performance, this probably won’t be it. Sadly, Hyundai swapped out the 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine found in the highest trim level (Noir AWD) from the previous model year for a naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre 4-cylinder powerplant in this week’s tester, the Ultimate, which is the trim found at the top of this year’s Tucson heap.

The 2.4 has slightly more horsepower than its turbocharged predecessor, but it has 20 less lb-ft of torque, which peaks at a much higher RPM than the turbo, and it shows. You really have to urge it on with your right foot when passing vehicles on a two-lane country road.

So while I’m not in love with its athleticism, I end up practically kissing its bug-spattered grille after the tough little Tucson little gets me through a potentially disastrous situation.

See, during my week with the Tucson, I plan an overnight getaway to a tiny solar-powered cabin. The company is called Cabinscape, and it has dwellings throughout Ontario. Thing is, you won’t find the cabins next door to large cities, and neither are they accessible via smooth asphalt. They’re definitely off the beaten path, and while the company’s website clearly warns of this, I’m still a tad surprised when I see just how rugged the terrain is that leads to my particular cabin.

Thankfully, the Tucson is a tough little cookie. I lock the all-wheel drive system just to be safe (though the vehicle performs perfectly well without doing that), take things verrrry slow as I traverse mounds of dirt that have me worried about this Hyundai’s underside, and I make it to my destination completely unscathed. I’m probably more nervous than I need to be (more than anything, I’m thinking of my low-slung daily driver that wouldn’t get more than a couple of feet through this particular path), but nonetheless, I’m thoroughly pleased with the Tucson.

Before that final rugged path, though, I travel several hundred kilometres toward my destination, and the Tucson proves itself a worthy steed as the towns become increasingly quaint and the view outside my window becomes ever more scenic. The ride is soft, the interior stays plenty quiet when the speedometer hits triple-digits, and there’s all sorts of cabin space to store my stuff.

I generally have no qualms about extra safety features – of which there are many in the 2019 Tucson thanks to its SmartSense Safety Technologies – but I could do without the Lane Keep Assist. I presume it’s best taken advantage of for precisely the type of extended road trip I’m taking, but I find it’s a little too eager to urge me into the middle of my lane while I’m driving. As alluded to earlier when I was talking about ergonomics, though, that particular feature can easily be switched on or off via an easy-to-find button to the left of the steering wheel.

I’m otherwise thoroughly happy with the experience the Tucson offers from behind the wheel. Android Auto makes playing my podcasts a cinch (there’s also Apple CarPlay for all you iPhone users), and when I’ve had enough of people talking, the sound system is only too happy to take on the nuances of my prog rock album of choice (the classic Rush album “2112” if you really must know). Individual instruments come through loud and clear, and as someone who likes to feel my music as much as listen to it, turning up the bass doesn’t mean everything else gets overwhelmed.

Besides the lacklustre performance, I really don’t have any significant qualms with the Tucson. The seats are good over longer distances, but not great – my backside was getting sore earlier than I would have expected. I’m also not completely enamoured with the look of this crossover – if not for the standout blue paint job, it would be all too easy for the Tucson to blend into a crowded parking lot. As with every model out there, though, attractiveness is very much a subjective thing.

The Tucson returns a very respectable 9.7 L/100 km combined fuel economy over nearly 1,000 km of driving. That’s slightly lower than the officially-tested 10.1 L/100 km average posted by Hyundai. It’s worth noting that the majority of my kilometres were accumulated on clear highways. Methinks that number would be noticeably inflated if you’re taking the Tucson in and out of a congested city on a regular basis.

The Ultimate trim I test is the most expensive Tucson you’ll find for the 2019 model year, with an MSRP of $37,999. That’s a big jump over the base model, which starts at $25,599, but you get a ton of car for under $40,000, and after driving the Tucson for a week, it really isn’t difficult for me to justify that price. As for availability, you should have no problem finding a Tucson. It’s a big seller for Hyundai so far in 2019 (not a big surprise considering it’s new for this year, and buyers love their crossovers), and there are eight different trims to fit all sorts of lifestyles or budgets.

If you’re in the market for a vehicle in this very competitive segment, well, I don’t envy you. The options are abundant, meaning there’s a lot to sift through. That said, you should absolutely put the Tucson on your list of crossovers to test drive. It may not be the most exciting offering, but it makes up for that in so many other ways.

As conservative as it appears on the surface, the Tucson offers a surprise or two. And there is something sexy about the unexpected.



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