Tested: the Hyundai Tucson
  |  First Published: May 2005

Hyundai’s Tucson offers something for everyone. It can be used around town or as a people mover for the whole family when it’s time to visit rellies or go on a long trip. Yet, it’s also a great vehicle to run up the beach in, or head out into the bush for a weekend. Hitching the boat trailer to the tow ball and heading off to a dam for some fishing will cause no problems in the Tucson, with its 2.7L V6 motor.

Hyundai lists its Tucson as an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). The term seems to have been imported from the USA where it is used in relation to many vehicles of this kind. In Australia, SUVs are cars that can be used for recreational sports or that have diverse applications as part of their design.

We reviewed the upmarket Tucson Elite with a decent list of user-friendly features for the $32,490 price. The engine is combined with a smooth four-speed sequential – offering manual up or down shifts and an automatic gearbox. With the flick of a button, the drive changes from two to four wheels for those rough spots that demand extra traction.

On the road, the car surprises. The gutsy but thirsty V6 engine and four-speed auto work together to offer potent off-the-mark performance. The car really goes when you put your foot down! It settles down and becomes more sedate at 40-50km/h, after changing to second gear, but the feeling of sports performance is there at the traffic lights if you want it.

While the Tucson is not a dedicated four-wheel-drive, with a low-range gearbox in reserve, it still has all-wheel-drive capability, and the beach or bush tracks shouldn’t be a problem. To help in this area there is plenty of ground clearance, a short front and rear overhang and wheels that are virtually at the corners. The dimensions are interesting: the car is 4.3m long and sits on a 263cm wheelbase, which is quite long for its class.

On the open road at 100km/h, the presence of an incline will see the gearbox drop back one cog almost instantly The driver can enjoy the same experience by flicking the selector to the side to select a lower ratio. Either way, the engine feels willing. The car also brakes very rapidly and responds to the steering wheel just as well. The ‘sports’ part of the SUV tag really fits.

The Tucson’s driving position is just right. The seat is high enough to see over most obstacles in the car park, but not so high as to make it hard to climb up into. The same goes for the back seats – the kids shouldn’t need to be lifted up.

Other features of the Tucson Elite include easy-to-use cruise control; central locking and power windows; sun roof; extra handling offered by wider Bridgestones; and a special Borg Warner electronic traction control system that directs power to the front wheel needing it most if the system detects slip. The Tucson is actually designed to be in front wheel drive 99 percent of the time. The driver can also opt for 50/50 (front/rear) four-wheel drive up to speeds of around 30km/h via the centre console mounted switch. It’s an easy-to-use system. The ride is firm, as it should be, but always comfortable, thanks to coil springs and two sway bars.

There are other small but useful features inside the Tucson: six air bags; a sound system with an MP3 compatible CD player and FM radio; three 12V power points; bottle and map holders on all four doors and extra cup holders in the centre arm rests. The way in which the rear seats fold flat to make a bigger storage area, with washable upper surface plus tie-down hooks, is quite clever. However, there is not a lot of storage space behind the second row of seats with five people in the car.

Fuel economy is claimed to be around 11L per 100km, which my own records confirmed. We had plenty of luggage and used 38L of fuel for 335km, which equates to around 11.2L per 100km. Fuel tank capacity is 65L, which is standard for this class of vehicle.

Overall, the Tucson is a class act. The price is especially right, considering the size and comfort levels the package offers. Hyundai is offering a V6 SUV at what you might expect to pay for a four-cylinder unit. Add a 5-year 130,000km warranty and things look even better. The only down sides are the lack of luggage space with five aboard and the thirsty V6 engine.


1. The smooth riding wagon makes accessing trout or cod water a pleasure.

2. With one of the rear seats folded, the Tucson’s rear cargo area increases significantly. We have two fly rods and a cod stick tucked in there.

3. The Hyundai Tucson features some very clean lines.

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