True to its crossover roots
Among the many C-segment crossovers today, the Hyundai Tucson is one of the vehicles that remained faithful to a tried-and-tested formula.
Before all these A and B segment vehicles like the Raize or the Coolray or even the Creta came in, the OG crossover was very simple to define: front-wheel-drive car-based platform, and a 2.0-liter gasoline engine under the hood.
Since then, the RAV4 got bigger and became a hybrid, the CR-V is soon to go e:HEV, plus the C-segment crossovers from China, for export and downsizing reasons are packing 1.5-liter engines under the hood. But on the other hand, the Hyundai Tucson has always remained in two flavors throughout four generations – a diesel-powered version, and a 2.0-liter gas variant.
As we all know here in the country we love our diesels, which is why most people got their hands on the CRDi Tucson. Given that downsizing and electrification have their benefits, does the OG gasoline-fed variant still make sense these days?
Save for the 19-inch wheels on the GLS+ (the GLS has 18s), looks-wise the Tucson GLS is every bit as similar as the top-of-the-line GLS+ that's diesel-powered. It also gets the full LED lighting treatment in front along with a parametric grille finished in black chrome.
Most manufacturers either follow a signature grille or a signature look in front to establish their identity on the road, but Hyundai has decided their light signatures would do the talking. You see it with the Creta, the Stargazer, and even the Staria. Just by looking at the DRL and the light bar at the back with those “fangs”, you'll easily identify a Tucson on your rearview mirrors, or when you're following one.
The side profile of the Tucson is heavily chiseled and aggressively designed with all the defined character lines, the creases, and the angular shapes, so clearly someone was paying attention to geometry class over at the Hyundai design studio. While at the back, the wipers are nicely tucked in behind the third brake lamp for a clean look.
Inside, the Tucson GLS gets an all-black interior compared to the black and light gray combo found on the GLS+. Arguably, it's less of a hassle to keep the gas-fed Tucson's cabin clean than the top-spec variant. You also have a cabin that's well put together and a dashboard design that Hyundai says was inspired by a waterfall – I do agree as all the lines converge to the middle where most of the in-car features are found.
For the cockpit itself, you do get a fully digital screen with recreated dials for the speedometer and tachometer. It shares the same design with the Creta and Staria, and I say that's good parts sharing for Hyundai. The display is very neat and you don't get information overload.
There's an 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto which is very nice and a dual-zone climate control below it. Furthermore, it has a cool air diffusion system like what Honda did with the HR-V. If don't want cold air blasting directly to your face with the vents, the air diffusion system directs the cold air into the tiny little holes in the dashboard. In the GLS variant, you also get wireless charging, USB charging ports, and an electronic parking brake with auto brake hold as standard so all is well and good up to this point.
What's rather odd for me is that Hyundai carried on using touch panels instead of tactile knobs or physical buttons to control things like the A/C and the infotainment. It's not the best in terms of being user-friendly, but I'd still prefer this over the current trend of burying simple vehicle functions on submenus.
Given that this is a lower variant, do expect manual adjustment on the front seats. Normally at the Tucson's price point, you would expect power adjustment even at just the driver side, but that's not the case unfortunately for the GLS.
However, the Tucson really means business when you're seated in the second row. The kind of legroom it has is something you won't get even in the roomiest B-segment crossovers out there. In fact, it's almost executive sedan levels of room in the 2nd row, especially when you recline the seats. The only thing we found though is that the center seatbelt remains a lap belt; that's something we hope to see addressed once Hyundai updates the Tucson.
Speaking of more room, the cargo space won't leave you wanting for more out of a crossover. With the second-row seats up, you have 37 inches of length, 40 inches of width, and 28 inches of cargo height – more than enough to swallow a weekend's luggage for five persons.
In an era where 1.5-liter turbos, mild hybrids, DCTs, and CVTs are the norm, the Tucson GLS remains powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter Smartstream G engine that puts out 156 PS and 192 Nm of torque through a 6-speed torque converter automatic. While the engine makes significantly less power and torque than the GLS+ and its CRDi engine, you do have to note that the GLS weighs 150 kg less than the top-spec diesel.
And really when I was driving it for a week, it wasn't anemic as I thought it would be. For sure, you'll miss the extra torque provided by a gas turbo or the low-down grunt of a turbodiesel, but when you do understand how a naturally-aspirated large displacement engine makes its power, then you'll learn to manage your expectations.
Since peak torque is somewhere in the mid-rpm range, you do have to prepare for your overtakes on provincial roads and step on the throttle heavier than you want to. And on stop-and-go traffic, don't expect to reach double-digit fuel efficiency numbers with its engine size. I only averaged 7 km/l at 16 km/h.
But when it hits its stride and you're at cruising speeds, the Tucson GLS is happily in its element. The revs are down, so you can do 16 km/l easily at 82 km/h. On the expressways, you'll enjoy its great levels of refinement. There's barely any noise inside the cabin. It's almost as if you're driving a hybrid or an EV with how quiet it is inside. That's something you can only start to get when you move up to a segment where the Tucson is.
The suspension is more on the comfort side and is oriented for providing great bump absorption. Handling won't be its best suit, and body roll will start to show once you build a bit of speed in the corners, but nevertheless, the chassis remains balanced.
However, as good as the ride may be, the Hyundai Tucson will rather leave you wanting for more advanced safety features. Things like blind spot monitoring, front sensors, a 360 cam, and even adaptive cruise control are amiss in the crossover, which is odd considering Hyundai managed to put their Smartsense ADAS to the smaller Creta and the 7-seat Stargazer. I just hope the next update would add those things as standard, as the advanced system becomes more mainstream in the market.
But as it is, for PHP 1,570,000, the Hyundai Tucson offers good value for money for its segment. For context, its direct competitors, the Honda CR-V 2.0 S is almost PHP 200,000 more expensive, and even the Subaru Forester costs more than half a million more. The Toyota RAV4 is higher up, but that's partly because it has a hybrid system.
If comfort, refinement, and size are at the top of your priority list, the Tucson is a solid C-segment crossover. It drives smoothly and the powertrain combination is something that's been proven to last. But with a few more additions, we think the Hyundai Tucson in this GLS variant would go from good to great. We've noticed some things missing like the ADAS systems, the power tailgate, and the power front seats, which would have given it better value.
The Hyundai Tucson GLS is a solid option for those who are not shopping for cars like high-end smartphones. While it won't grab your attention with its old-school powertrain approach, it will leave you smiling in other ways. It's simple that you have fewer electronic features to worry about in the long run, but it's just enough that it won't leave you feeling short-changed.