The Tucson, which is based on the same platform as the Elantra, shares the same powertrains with its sedan sibling. The 1,999cc ‘NU’ petrol engine comes with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. However, the power output of 155hp at 6,200rpm is a marginal 3hp more than the sedan’s, but this doesn’t translate into better performance and is, in fact, quite the opposite. Weighing 1,514kg, the Tucson’s performance is blunted, compared to the very responsive and quicker Elantra which is 176kg lighter. A more appropriate comparison would be with the only other petrol SUV in this segment – the Honda CR-V, for which the Tucson is no match when it comes to power and performance.
The petrol Tucson is quite refined and feels adequately powered for everyday driving but the torque converter-driven automatic transmission does keep shifting to keep the momentum going. This engine is reasonably responsive when moving from a standstill, but press down further and you’ll discover a pretty gutless mid-range. It’s only past 3,000rpm that the engine really wakes up. Sport mode livens things up and the transmission holds onto revs, unlike in Eco mode where it’s quick to upshift. Downshifts, however, are pretty instantaneous, irrespective of the mode.
To squeeze the most out of this engine you will have to visit the 6,500rpm redline frequently – that isn’t much fun as the engine feels strained at high revs. Performance isn’t effortless, and if you’re in a hurry you end up using Sport mode most of the time and tend to rev the engine quite a bit. But this, of course, kills fuel efficiency. Flat-out performance is decent, with the dash to 100kph coming up in 11.57sec. It’s just that on part throttle or in real-world driving conditions the flat power delivery leaves you wanting more.
From the engine options, the diesel engine is the one to go for – not just for the lighter fuel bills but also for the superior performance on offer. In our tests, the diesel AT breached the 100kph mark from 0 in a brisk 9.48sec; that’s over 2 seconds quicker than the petrol AT. The diesel is a new unit in Hyundai’s line-up and the ‘R’ 1,995cc engine makes 185hp at 4,000rpm. Torque too, is a healthy 400Nm at 1,750-2,750rpm, which is more than twice of what the petrol unit generates. This engine has a wide power band and is fairly rev happy for a diesel, but what really stands out is its punchy mid-range. Riding the tall wave of torque, overtaking is effortless and that makes the Tucson a superb highway muncher. The tall gearing allows for easy cruising and the engine has enough grunt to step up the pace without the need for constant downshifting.
The transmission offers smooth and quick shifts but it does hesitate at times, and coupled with the slightly peaky nature of the engine power delivery is more spikey than progressive. You also miss having paddle shifters, especially on a hill road when you want to be in the right gear at the right time. Sport mode, however, does sort this out to some extent, but this transmission never lets you feel fully in control. Though pretty refined for a diesel, it does get gruff at high revs.