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First drives with Darren Moody - Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai’s popular Tucson recently received a mid-life upgrade to keep pace in the ultracompetitive mid-size SUV category, but did they get it right?

​Externally, the front and rear of the Tucson got the facelift treatment. A newly designed grill, bumper and headlight signature are the key features up front. The rear tailgate, lights and bumper also came in for some treatment just to ensure the overall styling remains fresh. However, the remainder of the vehicle will look familiar.

The range has changed slightly, with the entry-level 'Go' kicking things off, followed by Active X, Elite and topping out with Highlander. Drivetrains are familiar with a 2.0L GDI petrol starting things off with either a six-speed manual or auto option in either Go or Active X. This combination is only available in 2WD. The 2.0L diesel is now coupled with a new eight-speed auto and available in AWD form only. Similarly the 1.6 turbo petrol is mated to a seven-speed direct-shift auto transmission with AWD only.

The interior has come in for the biggest changes. The now familiar tablet design for infotainment has arrived in the Tucson. A 7" screen in the Go also includes Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which you'll need as in-built navigation doesn't kick in until the next model up. Full Bluetooth connectivity and reversing camera also feature.

Active X gains 17" alloys, tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors, and an 8" touchscreen with navigation including 10 years of map updates providing you get your Tucson serviced at a Hyundai dealer. It also features an eight-speaker sound system with subwoofer, leather seats, electrically adjustable driver's seat with lumbar, heated and folding exterior mirrors, with front and rear USB power outlets.

Elite is available with all three engine options in auto only. As with the Go and Active X, the 2.0L GDI is FWD only. The Elite moves up to 18" alloys, a fully powered multiadjustable driver's seat, smart key entry and push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, privacy glass and rear park assist.

The top of the range Highlander is an AWD-only affair fitted with either the turbo petrol or diesel drivetrain option. It comes equipped with 19" alloys, LED head and tail-lights, front park assist, sunroof, power passenger seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, powered tailgate, 4.2" colour LCD screen in the dash and wireless phone charging. All SmartSense safety features come standard on Elite and Highlander variants.

After experiencing each drivetrain on launch, the 2.0L turbo diesel was the pick. Effortless torque mated to the new slick-shifting eight-speed auto made both highway cruising and hill climbing a breeze. While there is a little diesel clatter noticeable at lower speeds, it's generally unobtrusive once on the highway. Hyundai's Australian ride and handling team have also waved their wand to incrementally improve what was already a pretty decent drive.

I was disappointed that Hyundai went for an entry level price point for the base spec Go manual (I'm sure some people buy these ones, although I've never seen one) and in the process didn't include advanced safety systems like autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and driver attention warning, which will add another $2200 to the purchase price.

The same situation applies to the Active X, and in both cases the optional 'Smartsense' safety pack is only available with auto models. While a base level model with no options might see you on the road for around $28,000, if you want a base model Go in auto with the latest safety equipment, expect to spend up to another $8000.