Why this SUV is so popular
HYUNDAI'S ix35 SUV was a gangbusters seller for Hyundai - and its 2015 replacement, the mid-size Tucson, was a certified segment shaker.
Here was a model that struck at the heart of exactly what family SUV buyers wanted. Sharp good looks, impressive ride comfort, practicality, safety, technology and the assurance of a five-year warranty.
There was variety, too, thanks to a selection of engines, drive types and specifications. Tucson order books rapidly filled up. Over 20,000 sold in 2016 and nearly 24,000 in 2017.
The model was updated in August this year, so satisfied buyers are upgrading as their cars turn three years old. Hundreds fill the classifieds and all have some warranty remaining.
The Tucson's still young, so unsurprisingly it has proved reliable, with any problems fixed under Hyundai's warranty.
Should you buy one? It's an impressive all-rounder for those needing space for a small family and luggage; the diesel variant is ideal for those travelling greater distances, and you can seek an all-wheel drive version if you plan on mild off-roading.
Cabins are a tad plain but well laid-out and screwed together. Higher grades score some lovely features.
At launch in August 2015 there were Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander grades in that ascending order, with three petrol engines and a turbo diesel.
Active and ActiveX used a 2.0-litre petrol engine, tuned to 114kW and 121kW respectively. Both were 2WD only with six-speed transmissions, manual or auto.
Elites and Highlanders were dual-clutch auto and AWD (the exception being a 114kW 2WD Elite), with either a sportier 130kW 1.6-litre turbo or the torque-rich (400Nm) turbo diesel.
Standard on the Active were 17-inch alloys, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear camera with guidelines, rear park sensors, LED daytime running lights, auto lights and roof rails. The Active X brought 18-inch alloys, leather appointed seats and front fog lights.
Elite alloys were 17-inchers, seats were cloth instead of leather but it gained a hands-free power tailgate, electric driver's seat, electric parking brake, auto wipers, dual zone climate control, smart key, eight-inch screen with satnav and, for towing, trailer stability assist.
Impressively loaded, Highlanders gained 19-inch alloys, front park assist, LED rear lights, heated and ventilated electric front seats and panoramic sunroof.
The top grade added active safety - especially desirable for families - in the form of autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and lane keep assist.
Only the Active and ActiveX supported desirable Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Early cars needed an update to have it installed (at no charge), so make sure a prospect in this grade has had the work done.
In 2016 Hyundai celebrated 30 years in Australia with 300 "Tucson 30" special editions, all turbo petrol with AWD. These are worth seeking out for their beautiful Ash Blue body colour, matt black 19-inch alloys and sporty style elements.
For model year 2018, Tucsons got range-wide smartphone connectivity (finally) and the 114kW engine was dropped in favour of the 121kW job for Actives and Elites.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Most owners are very satisfied with their Tucsons. The most common gripe concerns the 1.6-litre turbo with dual-clutch auto.
As with dual-clutch transmissions in other brands, these tend to be hesitant and jerky at low speeds or when moving from rest. It takes some getting used to but some owners can't stand it - if considering one, test drive it in traffic to see whether you can live with it.
Remember, smartphone mirroring wasn't universal across all grades at first so check that it's fitted before you turn up for a test.
Some owners have reported infotainment gremlins, so check for flickering screen as well as for functioning navigation (where fitted), phone connectivity and Bluetooth. The navigation had a free three-year map update plan, so check that it's been updated. The sole recall was in July 2016, for a bonnet safety latch.
The vast majority of Tucsons won't have been off-road but be wary of any that have. Check underneath for dents, bashes or oil leaks. Favour pampered town cars instead.
Avoid diesel Tucsons that spend their life doing short runs or stuck in city traffic without any long trips; this puts the particulate filter at risk of blockage.
There is fixed price servicing for life so there should be a complete main dealer service record.
Still under factory warranty, the reliable Tucson's a safe bet for those after a stylish family SUV that's practical and drives well.
The 2WD ActiveX or pricier AWD Highlander are the picks for specification. Check you can live with the gearbox in the latter if you choose the turbo petrol engine.
LAUREN AMBROSE: We have a 2017 Active X manual, bought after writing off our BMW X5. We wanted a car without the BMW's price tag but still with some luxury like leather seats. The five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres was a strong selling point. It's comfortable, nice to drive and service costs are only about $180. It's not a big car, it's a bit squishy when Nannie comes too but it's OK.
THE EXPERTS SAY
Hyundai revived an old name, Tucson, for the larger, safer and better driving replacement for the ix35. Sales reached nearly 58,000 for this generation, with almost 24,000 in 2017, when it was Australia's third most popular medium SUV in the hotly contested segment. The year before that it was second only to Mazda's CX-5.
Almost three-quarters of the Tucsons in used listings are petrol powered and the lion's share are front-drivers. The mid-range Active X accounts for nearly half.
The base Active 2.0 manual 2WD from 2015 ($27,990 new) is valued at $20,700. The Highlander diesel auto AWD ($45,490 new) is still worth $35,450. This year's pre-update Active ($28,590 new) is valued at $26,750 and the Highlander ($47,450 new) is $45,550.
The rival Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4 all outsold the Tucson in 2017. Only the Mazda from 2015 posts a stronger resale value than the Tucson, although for this year the mildly upgraded Nissan is marginally ahead of the Tucson.
HYUNDAI TUCSON 2015-18
PRICE NEW $27,990-$47,450
SAFETY 5 stars
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 114kW/192Nm or 121kW/203Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 130kW/265Nm;
2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 136kW/400Nm
TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed man/auto, 7-speed auto; AWD/FWD
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