There are many reasons for the Hyundai Tucson being a good choice for those looking for a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV).
Chief among them are the premium materials in the cabin, and a tonne of safety and comfort features, in line with the Korean automaker’s “Modern Premium” brand direction.
Our test drive unit was the top-range Executive trim, which is priced about RM13,000 higher than the Elegance variant.
Paying extra gets you a tonne of nice kit including side and curtain airbags, sporty-looking chrome coated radiator grille and door handles, puddle lamps on the wing mirrors that light up automatically when you approach the car with a smart key, automatic headlamps, navigation system, a powered driver’s seat, electronic parking brake, front fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, smart key with push-start ignition, and front parking sensors.
The extra money also gets you a Safe Drive Recorder, which records video in the event of a road mishap, as well as a Drive Mode switch with three choices - normal, sport and eco.
Black leather upholstery is standard but our test drive unit came with the optional White Nappa leather seats (RM1,988 upgrade).
The white leather upholstery makes a striking contrast with the black plastic surfaces.
Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors also offers red leather upholstery as a RM1,288 option.
This locally assembled Tucson was launched late last year, and the new-generation SUV is slightly wider and longer compared with its predecessor.
There is very decent rear legroom, with a 2,670mm wheelbase as well as more than adequate 488-litre rear cargo room.
While it is not the most refined of powertrains, there is plenty of grunt from its 2.0-litre Nu petrol engine with 155ps and 192Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
According to Hyundai, the Tucson has a 1,435kg kerb weight and thus, the best power-to-weight ratio in its class.
The motor-driven power steering is not the most communicative sort, but it is precise and direct.
The Tucson runs on Continental ContiContact MC5 tyres sized 225/60 wrapped around 17-inch wheels, and handling is decent enough when we threw it into road curves at speed, although it’s far from a performance-oriented SUV.
When driven at 80kph on smooth highways, we noted that the tachometer needle was hovering between 1,500rpm and 1,750rpm.
At 110kph, the needle hovered around 2,250rpm.
For infotainment, you get an Android-powered system with touchscreen display, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
The interface is similar to smartphones, and you can drag your finger across the touchscreen and scroll through options on the display.
There are quite a number of apps here, including a Papago! GPS navigation app.
We also liked the space-saving electronic parking brake and Auto Hold function, which automatically holds the brakes once the car is at a standstill.
The car remains stationary even if you release the brake pedal, and the gear shift lever is in D mode.
The brakes are released when you step on the accelerator pedal.
This reduces work for our left arm and right leg in a traffic jam.
Other features we like in the Tucson Executive include the 4.2-inch colour TFT LCD display in the meter cluster, which shows useful data such as travel distance remaining before refuelling, and average fuel consumption.
There are also rear air-conditioning vents, and a removable black plastic cover for the fabric surface of the rear cargo floor - which is great for wet items or sweat-stained clothing.
There is plenty to like about the Tucson Executive, which offers a value for money proposition, especially when you need a comfortable vehicle for the long journey or balik kampung drive.
Our only niggle was the lack of automatic air-conditioning.
It has ample power under the hood, and is quite well-equipped, comfortable and roomy.
In summary, the Tucson Executive is not the most exciting SUV to drive but it scores high marks when it comes to practicality and comfort, especially for those of us who get caught in bad traffic congestion and commute long distances (27km from home to office) on a near-daily basis.
Photos by IBRAHIM MOHTAR