‘Parametric Jewels’ are the ring in the nose of Hyundai’s bullish new Tucson
They (Hyundai’s marketing twerps) had to give the styling of the striking new Tucson SUV a fresh handle, highlights Iain Robertson, which serves either as a culpable excuse for its confusing nuttiness, or a genuinely radical and arrogant raison d’etre.
Personally, I lay the blame for the current run of origami family cars firmly at the door of Toyota. While the Nissan Juke (or Joke, or Puke, dependent on mood) set a fresh standard for SUV styling, when it was finally heaved onto the new car scene, it is the offerings from Toyota, including its luxury arm Lexus, that introduced a change-for-change’s sake display of metal bending. However, there is one major issue related to radicalising car design, which several mainstreamers have discovered over the years.
Ford did it with the first Focus but it was not unique, as the US giant had already failed abysmally with the late-1950s Edsel and the final run of European Granada models in the early-1990s. With the Focus, Ford called it ‘New Edge’. Even the styling supremos in Italy performed a similar task with the Fiat Coupe and its razor slashed wheel-arches, while Renault’s ‘shakin’ that ass’ Megane family courted controversy that led to the downfall of its hugely talented design boss. BMW did something similar with its ‘flame surfaced’ design phase, christened as such by a UK weekly motoring title. These displays intended to stray from the ordinary but, ultimately, became short-lived, mainly because they age rapidly.
Hyundai has enjoyed a fantastic run of success with its Tucson model over three previous generations, selling a substantial 7m examples worldwide (20% of which found homes across Europe) of its conservatively designed and market prising SUV. However, the new fourth generation, apart from introducing a new frontal lighting array that will be sure to add to maintenance bills, has taken the Toyota ‘folded tin’ styling message onto another plateau. In brief, it is fussy and unwarranted.
In Hyundai-speak, the most prominent display of the aforementioned ‘Parametric Jewels’ is within the vehicle’s front radiator grille, where ‘Parametric Hidden Lights’ provide a strong first impression. When the lights are off, the front of the vehicle appears to be clad in dark, geometric patterns, with no distinction between the signature LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), which are integrated seamlessly into the grille. Thanks to state-of-the-art half-mirror lighting technology, when the DRLs are switched on, the dark chrome appearance of the grille transforms into jewel-like shapes, bringing an eye-catching element to an otherwise sleek appearance. Sleek? No. Just messy.
I do not know about you but I have become exceedingly weary with today’s preponderance of LED signature illumination. In many cases, it is complex, far too bright and more than mildly distracting. It is as though car designers have taken the Construction & Use rule book and subjected it to a night of a thousand cuts, to arrive at new lighting structures that defy description but succeed in attracting attention, mostly of the wrong sort. The Tucson’s is excessive and unnecessary, a descript that can apply equally to the Peugeot-esque taillamp arrays and the frilly trim panels elsewhere on the car’s body.
Yet, peer inside and an aura of calm pervades. The main instrument binnacle is a prime example of design minimalism, even though the centre console stack is more multi-button through configurable touch surfaces and a functional nightmare demanding a measured learning and familiarity approach. Comfortable ventilated and heated seating and first-rate space utilisation mean that occupants will find no grounds for complaint and the spacious and practical, fully flat boot floor (even when the rear seats are folded forwards to extend it from a class-leading 620 to 1,799-litres) is a justifiable reward.
Unsurprisingly, the Tucson driver is provided with a full suite of ADAS safety and assistance features, as well as state-of-the-art connectivity and an all-wheel drive option across the range. As is becoming commonplace these days, the 4×4 drivetrain is managed electronically, which means that it incorporates a multi-terrain response mechanism allowing the driver to dial-in appropriate settings for both climate and environment. A selectable range of damper settings enables a blend of more comfortable off-road progress, allied to taut on-road behaviour.
Powering the new Tucson is a comprehensive range of turbo-petrol, mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid choices, all based around the 1.6-litre GDi engine. While a fully electric version is sure to be on the stocks, the punchiest plug-in develops a decent 227bhp, with the promise of a 262bhp zestier version later next year. The base unit develops either 147, or 177bhp, which are generous outputs for such a small capacity engine and they can be mated to a choice of 6-speed manual (with coasting mode), 7-speed twin-clutch automated, or (for the plug-in models) 6-speed automatic transmissions.
The 227bhp hybrid version can accelerate from 0-60mph in around 8.0s, topping out at approximately 119mph. It drives supremely well, providing responsive handling and a level of ride quality that is unusually fluent for the class. Decent brakes keep bursts of enthusiasm under control and the auto-box works effortlessly, with a manual over-ride, should the driver wish to take control when towing, or while dipping into the semi-electrified power pool.
Built at the company’s Czech plant (Nosovice), the third generation of Tucson to do so, it has an important brand strengthening role to fulfil. Naturally, as design is such a subjective art, its appearance is sure to polarise the market, a plan that Hyundai is keen to enact, mainly because an oddball stance will generate strong consumer emotions…one way, or the other. Its market competitive pricing means a starting point of £28,495, rising to £37,195 for the 227bhp plug-in hybrid variant, a factor that underscores Hyundai’s mainstream might and a flight away from former affordability.
Conclusion: There is plenty to like and enjoy about the new Hyundai Tucson, even though its appearance is now significantly more challenging than ever before. While I shall remain outside its current circle of chums, I am almost certain that greater familiarity will lead to future acceptance.