by Brian Byrne.
It was the silence that impressed me first. I suppose every Hyundai Tucson I have driven since the model was introduced has been a diesel, because that was the powertrain of choice for everyone. And in the last five years, the Tucson has been an option for everyone in this part of the world, heading the best-selling car lists much of that time.
But the 2021 model I got the time to review last week was hybrid, the first time Tucson has had a full hybrid engine. And since the primary motor here is petrol, it was generally going to be quieter anyhow. But it was also so because the car travels in electric-only mode for a significant chunk of driving time.
Let’s look first at the styling of the new version, which only went on sale just before Christmas. The previous generation had been jazzed up somewhat in the year or two of runout, but it was really showing its design age both outside and in. Not any more.
There’s a strongly futuristic look at the front, especially with the daylight running lights built in as part of the very distinctive new grille. The profile has also been totally overhauled, with lots of sculpting and edgy details building to a very athletic overall theme. Bling detailing, especially around the rear windows line, put the new Tucson into a very standout place amongst its SUV peers. Equally, there’s a dash to the rear view which will no doubt get those overtaken to think, “I’d like one of those”.
If they get to see the interior — which can only happen online at the moment with the showrooms closed — they’ll probably like it even more. Design and implementation have moved things well forward of the previous car. A nice clean style to the new dashboard, a new main instruments cluster with bright graphics, and a central screen that offers infotainment control at least as good as anything else out there.
Tucson was always a pretty comfortable car, one of the reasons for its popularity. They’ve moved that up too, certainly in the review version I drove. Leather in this case, with the essential seat heaters for the cold spell we’ve been having. The roominess that was the older car’s other attraction remains, and there’s that cavernous rear cargo area that will cope with any busy family’s gear transportation needs.
Being a hybrid, the car is also automatic. Like a few others I have driven lately, the gear mode selecting is operated by buttons, with manual operation while driving available by steering wheel paddles. In combination with the petrol-electric it’s altogether a smooth drive.
There are other options, of course. You can still have a diesel engine, including one with mild-hybrid electrification and an auto dual clutch gearbox. You can choose from four grades. You can only get 2WD, but my version included a hill descent control which would certainly help manage downhill slippy conditions.
Driver assist technology includes lane-keeping, forward collision avoidance, auto high beam dip, and more.
All in all, Tucson has the potential to lead the field again. And it did in January, taking the Ireland’s best-selling car token. I suspect a lot of previous owner took the chance to upgrade. And here’s the thing, a third of them chose the petrol-hybrid over diesel. That’s an indication of sea-change.
PRICE: From €32,845; hybrid from €36,345. WHAT I LIKED: The silence through the land.