In what is its second foray into the Indian market, Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL) recently launched the third-gen Tucson SUV. The globally popular SUV brings together a host of positive traits – comfort, space, performance, convenience and safety features and technologies. But are these good enough for the company to ensure the Tucson has a successful return to India? We were invited by the manufacturer to Chandigarh recently to experience the vehicle. Here is what we think.
Hyundai Motor India (HMIL) had stepped into the SUV domain many years back – 2003 to be precise – with the Terracan. Two years later, the Korean automaker had introduced the first generation Tucson SUV. At that point in time though, it appeared the Indian consumers weren't ready to accept SUVs as a mode of vehicle. Both the Terracan and the Tucson were received with limited success, and the company decided to phase them out of the market.
Then came the Santa Fe in 2010. Although the product didn't set the sales charts soaring for the company, Hyundai learnt what the Indian consumer truly desired from an SUV. In 2015, HMIL brought in the Creta, its smallest and most compact SUV yet. Consumers lapped up the Creta unlike any other product in the market, so much so that the company had to ramp up production for the product to 13,000 units a month in over a year's time, from the 5,000 units it started with at launch.
Buoyed by the phenomenal success of the Creta, HMIL has now re-launched the third generation Tucson SUV, slotted in between the Creta and the Santa Fe. For now, the company's SUV line-up seems complete. However, it sees opportunities abound in the SUV segment, and now has announced it will bring in a sub-four metre SUV by mid-2019.
For its positioning in the market, the Tucson doesn't have many formidable rivals in the market to compete against. In fact, it just has the Honda CR-V to account for, since the others in the segment – the Chevrolet Captiva and the Renault Koleos – are no longer sold in the country. That seems easy, but Hyundai still has a fight to put up against slightly larger SUVs such as the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour. Is the Tucson capable of bringing for Hyundai the same kind of success it tasted with the Creta? We find out.
One look at the Tucson and you can't miss Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design imprint. In the front, the Tucson is given dual barrel LED headlamps – LED cluster for the low beams, and a halogen set-up for high beam – and that sits aside a large three slat hexagonal grille surrounded by generous amount of chrome. The headlamp cluster also gets a daytime running light (DRL) strip right over the lamps, while a secondary LED DRL is placed just below the fog lamps. The slim wraparound LED rear combination lamps sit well in a well-proportioned rear. The side profile too gels well with the front and the rear design, despite the irregularly shaped wheel arches. There are silver finished rails on the roof in addition to a shark fin antenna.
The cabin looks and feels plush and premium. Hyundai has offered for the first time in the segment, an eight-inch audio video navigation (AVN) system with voice recognition feature. The infotainment system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and is designed well with easy-to-use on-screen buttons. The odometer panel gets a 4.2-inch colour LED screen that displays all the required information with great clarity.
In terms of convenience, Hyundai has packed the Tucson with a lot of features, including dual zone climate control system with a cluster ioniser air purifier system. There is auto defogger and rear AC vents on the top of the line GLS variant we drove. The rear seats come with the reclining function, and can be split in a 60:40 ratio. The seats overall are leather-wrapped with the driver seat getting power controls (including lumbar). The rear view mirror inside the cabin features a digital compass, while the ORVMs have a segment first heating function to keep them clear in cold conditions.
There is generous amount of room inside the Tucson cabin, and fit and finish overall is top notch. Like in the Elantra, Hyundai has continued to offer the smart-open feature on the tailgate. In the event of someone approaching the rear of the vehicle, the sensor recognises the key in your pocket, and in three seconds, the boot lid pops open automatically.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The new Hyundai Tucson comes with the choice of a 2 l petrol engine as well as a 2 l diesel engine. Both these engines can be paired with either a manual transmission or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The top-of-the-line GLS variant, the one we drove during the media drive, is only available with the diesel engine. We shall soon bring to you a detailed review of the petrol engine on the Tucson.
The 'R' 2 l diesel engine is completely new. The four-cylinder, common rail, double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine is fitted with an electronic variable geometry turbocharger (e-VGT). The engine produces maximum power of 185 hp at 4,000 rpm and peak torque of 400 Nm at around 1,750-2,750 rpm. We loved the refinement of this engine. It is smooth and powerful, with torque available right from the lower rev range. The six-speed automatic gearbox gets two driving modes – sports and eco. In both modes, the vehicles drive smoothly with no jerks or lag experienced during gear shifts.
Hyundai claims to have the best power to weight ratio in the diesel engine. It delivers 18.42 km/l with the manual transmission, while with the automatic unit, mileage stands at an ARAI-approved 16.38 km/l.
The overall performance of the Tucson diesel is very impressive, and so is the vehicle's NVH level. Engine noise doesn't pass into the cabin, and harshness and vibrations are fairly controlled. Compared to the 1.6 l diesel unit in Hyundai's stable, this one felt a little louder, but once inside, it wasn't intrusive. We loved the way the steering behaved in most situations, including the short drive through a hilly terrain. There was some body roll during corners, but it isn't something that will scare even amateur drivers. One must note that the new Tucson is only being offered with a front wheel drive option.
Overall, from a ride and handling perspective, the Tucson scores highly in our books. The suspension set-up – McPherson strut with coil springs in the front and multi-link with coil springs at the rear – do a very good job of offering a pleasant drive and ride comfort. Also aiding the Tucson's overall drive feel are the brakes.
Hyundai has always had high priority on safety. The Tucson body structure, for instance, is made using 51 % of advanced high strength steel. Hyundai has also added significantly more structural adhesives on the Tucson compared to earlier products, measuring 102 m in length.
In terms of safety technologies, the Tucson gets ABS and EBD along with traction control and two airbags as standard. The GLS variant is fitted with six airbags for heightened safety, and also gets electronic stability control (ESC), hill start & brake assist, and downhill brake control. One appreciable feature on the Tucson is the retractable roof mounted seatbelt for the middle passenger on the rear seat, instead of the lap seatbelts offered on most vehicles. Add to that list front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, height adjustable front seat belts and impact sensing auto door-unlock.
The SUV segment currently is the fastest growing segment in the Indian industry, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 32 % between 2015 and 2019. As per Global Insight, in the same time period, the high SUV segment – where the Tucson is slotted – is likely to grow at a CAGR of 51 %. Hyundai is well poised to take advantage of the opportunity and has priced the Tucson rather well. It is not expected to be a runaway success in terms of numbers, but at a starting price of ' 18.99 lakh for the petrol manual, going up to ' 24.99 lakh for the top GLS diesel automatic (all prices ex-Delhi), Hyundai has offered potential buyers with a compelling proposition.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay