A missive to Hyundai on how to make a fine SUV brilliant.
EAVESDROP on a typical pub conversation, especially around election time, and it’s clear just how easy it must be to do someone else’s job. Running the country? Pah, nothin’ to it; just ask any schooner-swilling scholar of the Westminster system.
I figured the same may be true for automotive product planning and model development. I have zero experience working for a car company so I’ve no idea of the constraints that these people must work within. Therefore, of course, I could do their job. I’m probably overqualified.
So as the Hyundai Tucson leaves the Wheels garage, and I reflect on the largely positive ownership experience over the last six months, I thought I’d offer some friendly product-planning advice to Hyundai regarding what could be improved with the facelift.
My first missive would be to tell the styling department to put down the crayons and step away from the clay model. The exterior design is excellent and there’s no reason to waste money messing with it. Okay, consider upgrading the rear lights to LEDs, and maybe a discreet Series II badge, but that’s it. I’d say buck conventional wisdom; bin the plans for new bumpers and wheel designs, and spend the money on things customers are actually going to appreciate, like an interior upgrade and plumping up the standard equipment.
Let’s start with trim. The hard dash plastics and budget-looking door-trims need to go. Let’s have some more premium materials, extra padding, nice detail stitching and some flashes of aluminium instead. Line the doorbins to stop stuff rattling (hell, VW manage it in a base-model Golf). And add a proper pair of matching LED lights for the cargo compartment, not the existing dim little bulb that’s less bright than Bob Katter after a B&S ball.
While we’re back there in the cargo compartment, can I suggest adding remote releases for the rear seats? That’s the logical place for them, not on either side of the seats themselves, which make you move from one side of the car to the other just to prepare for a load.
Now, let’s sort the infotainment. Get someone to spend time in a top-spec Subaru Forester XT Premium and listen to its Harman Kardon sound system; that’s the benchmark for this class. Highlander needs a decent centre channel, a subwoofer and a serious amplification upgrade. And better speakers all round, especially in the back, where they sound like they were pulled out of a Taiwanese telephone. A DAB radio tuner is also surely mandatory for Highlander spec. And how about lobbing in a head-up display? The cheapest car in Oz with this feature is the Mazda 2 Genki, so cost excuses are running thin.
Keep the steering wheel; it’s sized right and the audio and cruise controls fall perfectly to each thumb, but could it be trimmed in something a little more tactile, please, rather than vinyl?
Now let’s whip up a job sheet for the engineering team. Top of the list: more NVH suppression for the diesel. I know it’s not bad, but it’s still way louder and more vibey than the Tucson turbo-petrol, and competitors like the CX-5 have closed this gap by a much greater margin. So consider addressing clatter, improving the engine mounts, and adding more firewall and under-bonnet sound-deadening.
Finally, the steering; a clear case of ‘reasonable, but could do better’. For my taste it’s a bit springy either side of centre, and at 2.7 turns it could be a little quicker. It would be ideal if it was benchmarked against the Ford Kuga and delivered that lovely, slick, well-damped yet responsive feel.
Okay, I suspect that some of these suggestions may be a case of easier said than done (hey, I’m an imposter, not a realist), but even if only some made it to the updated model, Tucson would make the step from excellent to outstanding.
The progress of price
A quick visit to Hyundai’s Australian site to check if there had been any price movement on our Tucson Highlander CDRi since its arrival at the beginning of the year indicated a rise of $1960, to $47,450. Added to this was $4756 in NSW on-road costs, taking the driveaway figure to $52,206. But possibly pre-empting any haggling, the site offered a reduction of $4345, curiously described as a ‘Fleet Discount’, taking the on-road price to a more palatable $47,861. No doubt a persistent haggler pitched against a motivated dealer principal could trim that figure further.
Popping (in) a few wheelies
Applying the spanners to my motorcycle is rarely a Zen-like experience, but something I doggedly persist with, so the last load-lugging job for the Tucson was a trip to a tyre fitter to have fresh Pirellis slotted onto the wheels of my KTM Superduke 990. This is the kind of thing the Tucson laps up, with the electronic tailgate rising to welcome anyone with their hands full, and the elevated (compared to a road-car wagon) load area making it super easy to get heavy stuff in and out.
Read part four of our Hyundai Tucson long-term car review.
Hyundai Tucson Highlander CRDi
Price as tested: $45,490
Part 5: 1467km @ 10.5L/100km
Overall: 3750km @ 11.3/100km
Date acquired: January 2016