Lively engine isn’t too thirsty; our test car averaged 9.6 litres/100km.
Johannesburg - The recently-launched Tucson Sport is a home-grown South African version of Hyundai’s SUV, with more aggro styling and extra power. This tarted-up Tucson gets more road presence with the addition of a body kit imported from Korea comprising front, rear and side skirts, while the 19” black alloy wheels with low-profile 245/45 tyres sourced locally from Tiger Wheel & Tyre - the footwear is unique to this vehicle and can’t be bought off the shelf.

Available in front-wheel drive manual and 4x4 auto versions, the ‘power-dressed’ Tucson certainly stands out, and it’s been a long time since one of our test cars has drawn this much positive attention from fellow work colleagues. On the design score Hyundai seems to have a winner on its hands, and the assertive styling is matched with some decent pace.

A freeflow exhaust and a remapped ECU in the 1.6-litre turbopetrol boost power in the Tucson Sport to 150kW and 295Nm, a healthy increase over the 130kW/265kW of the other 1.6 turbo Tucsons in the range, making this the most powerful Hyundai on sale in South Africa.

It’s a fairly lively thing with plenty of get-up-and-go to match the athletic styling, and there’s enough power to cause some torque steer in the driven front wheels when you accelerate hard.

In the front-wheel drive model the 4-cylinder engine feeds its power through a slick 6-speed manual gearbox with well-spaced ratios, making this an all-round pleasant ride with a sporty character.

The sports exhaust system is more contentious. While it oozes visual aggro through four chrome pipes and audibly announces the more athletic nature of this SUV, to the ears of this writer it sounded a little crude rather than particularly pleasant or sporty. It made a ‘boomy’ noise and a vibration at certain revs that were annoying at first, and gave the Tucson Sport the feel of an aftermarket conversion rather than a factory produced vehicle (which, in fairness, is the case). I however got used to the sound after a few days and thereafter hardly noticed it.

For the rest, this sporty Tucson is as refined and sophisticated as its lesser-powered siblings, with well-supressed wind noise and a solid build quality.

Priced at R499 900, the Tucson Sport front-wheel-drive on test here costs 50 grand more than the standard Tucson 1.6T Executive, while the Sport is also available in a 4x4 version selling for R599 900.

The low profile 19” tyres don’t make this Hyundai the first choice for offroading - along with the fact that it’s only front wheel drive - and this is clearly more of a road warrior. It still has a decent ground clearance if you do want to explore the gravelly side, and those low-profiles don’t affect ride quality too badly on rough roads.

It handles about as well as you’d expect a modern SUV to; fairly neat and neutral, but with enough body roll to dissuade you from taking on hot-hatches in the corners.

It gets a healthy dose of standard features including a 20cm touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephone linking and music streaming, as well as a CD player, USB and AUX music input. There’s a reversing camera with a small viewfinder built into the rear-view mirror, but no audible parking sensor to go with it.

The well-stocked toybox also includes cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, climate control, electrically adjusted leather seats and multifunction controls on the steering wheel.

Helping to keep the whole shebang safely on the road is stability control and ABS brakes, while the passive safety comprises front, side and curtain airbags. The Tucson scored a full 5-star safety rating in the EuroNCAP crash test.

The family-friendly cabin is roomy and comfortable, and the large boot carries a full-sized spare wheel.

The Tucson Sport’s price of R499 900 includes Hyundai’s industry-leading 7-year/200 000km warranty, roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000km, and a 5-year/90 000km service plan. Its service interval is 15 000km.

VERDICT

This home-grown sporty Tucson marries great swagger with a healthy dose of performance, even if it doesn’t necessarily make the nicest noise.

FACTS

Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo Executive Sport 

Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cyl, turbopetrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power: 150kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 295Nm @ 4400rpm
Fuel use (tested):9.6 litres per 100km
Price: R499 900
Warranty: 5-year/150 000km
Warranty (drivetrain):7-year/200 000km
Service plan: 5-year/90 000km