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"Parametric” lights are hidden behind a geometric radiator grille and are only visible when switched on. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
"Parametric” lights are hidden behind a geometric radiator grille and are only visible when switched on. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Hyundai has gone out on a limb with the flashy styling of its new Tucson, the fourth generation of a vehicle that has sold more than 7-million units since 2004 to make it the brand’s best-selling SUV worldwide.

Looking like a prop from a sci-fi movie, the fourth-generation Tucson pops out from the herd with “parametric” lights that are hidden behind a geometric radiator grille and are only visible when switched on. Then, the dark chrome facets of the grille transform into jewel-like shapes. The “jewel” theme continues in the vehicle’s prominently chiselled sides, and the visual drama continues at the rear with claw-like tail lamps that are joined by a horizontal light bar.

It makes the previous generation Tucson look like a shrinking violet in comparison, but the vehicle isn’t just about a futuristic new façade; it’s also grown in size and gained new technology. At 150mm longer and 15mm wider than the previous generation, it is exceptionally spacious inside, with stretch-out legroom for four to five tall adults.

The boot, which contains a full-sized spare wheel, has increased to a generous 539l capacity with the seats up and up and 1,860l with the rear seats folded — large enough to accommodate a fully-assembled bicycle.

Inside, new hidden type indirect air vents create a gentler air flow, and three-zone climate control caters to passengers in the front and rear.

The rear also puts on a good styling show, while the boot has grown in size. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The rear also puts on a good styling show, while the boot has grown in size. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

In the range-topping Elite model the cabin has an upper class air with a soft-touch dashboard and artificial leather seats. Subtle metallic embellishments decorate a cabin that favours neatness over flashiness, while a hi-tech feel is created by a touchscreen console that mostly dispenses with physical buttons and knobs.

The instrument panel also swaps analogue clocks for digital ones, and the dials change colour according to the driving mode selected: blue for Eco, white for Normal and red for Sport.

Tested here is the top-ranked Tucson Elite 2.0 Turbodiesel priced at R699,900, which is magnanimously equipped with heated and cooled front seats that are electrically adjustable, a wireless smartphone charger, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic glass sunroof among the highlights.

Peace of mind ranks high with the new Tucson earning a five-star Euro NCAP rating. All models have six airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, downhill brake control and hill-start assist.

In the Elite, driver safety aids include active cruise control, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist and a feature that automatically dips the high beams to prevent blinding other traffic.

The Tucson is available in front-wheel drive only, making it more of a crossover than an SUV, though its 181mm ride height and high-profile tyres do not shy away from gravel roads or climbing kerbs.

It has a comfortable ride on unkempt surfaces, as part of an impressively solid and refined package. It is a wieldy vehicle that scampers through corners without feeling wallowy.

The midsized SUV steers easily and doesn’t feel intimidatingly large in the bustle of traffic, though its big turning circle sometimes requires extra manoeuvring in parking lots.

A high-tech feel is created by a touchscreen centre console and a digital instrument panel. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
A high-tech feel is created by a touchscreen centre console and a digital instrument panel. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Three of the four Tucson models are powered by a 2.0 petrol engine offering 115kW and 192Nm, while the range-topping Elite also has the option of a 2.0 turbo diesel with outputs of 137kW and 416Nm.

The diesel is a plucky performer with easy cruising and a wide spread of torque, making it the top Tucson option for the caravan- or boat-towing contingent. It powers the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 201km/h.

It’s a smooth and quiet operator along with its hearty performance, though the test car’s fuel consumption was a higher-than-expected 9.6l /100km (the factory claims 7.9l/100km).

Overall the new Tucson is a first-rate family vehicle with striking styling, exceptional space and top-notch safety.

Diesels are a dying breed in this market segment and the Tucson is one of the few that provides this gutsy and fuel-sipping option. At the price there is no vehicle that rivals its torque.

Being front-wheel driven means it loses out to rivals like the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sportage, Toyota Rav4 and VW Tiguan which offer the option of all-wheel drive, however.

The price includes a seven-year/200,000km warranty, a six-year/90,000km service plan and roadside assistance for seven years or 150,000km.

The competition

Haval H6 2.0T Super Luxury, 150kW/320Nm — R539,900

Renault Koleos 2.5 Dynamique, 126kW/233Nm — R544,900

Nissan X-Trail 1.6 DCi 4x4 Tekna, 96kW/320Nm — R622,900

Kia Sportage 1.6 T GT Line AWD, 130kW/265Nm — R663,995

VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI R-Line, 110kW/250Nm — R677,400

Peugeot 3008 1.6T GT, 121kW/240Nm — R684,900

Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD Individual, 143kW/258Nm — R697,600

Honda CR-V 1.5T Executive, 140kW/240Nm — R720,900

Toyota Rav4 VX AWD, 152kW/243Nm — R723,400

VW Tiguan 2.0TSI 4Motion R Line, 162kW/350Nm — R746,400

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