Hyundai Tucson Active X 2018 off-road 2018 review

Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

28 May 2018 • 16 min read

What makes for an adventure vehicle? An ability to clamber over mountains like a mountain goat, or the ability to whisk you away from the every day?

Hyundai's Tucson falls somewhere in between the two extremes, and leans towards being a simple, handsome five-door SUV that complements your life rather than defines it.

We've tested the second in the range, the Active X, and rated it on its adventure prowess. Let's take a look.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

In this reviewer’s eyes, at, least, the Tucson is one of the most handsome cars currently on the road in any category.

It's a sign that Hyundai's design language has really matured under its European influences, and the Tucson has the rare honour of appealing across both genders and throughout the age spectrum. It's muscular yet still slender, handsome without being too macho, and very well balanced despite it being a relatively simple shape.

The Tucson Active X gets 18-inch wheels as standard. (image credit: Tim Robson) The Tucson Active X gets 18-inch wheels as standard. (image credit: Tim Robson)

The interior is more workman-like than others in the category with evidence of hard plastics in plain view, while soft-touch materials are found under elbows and in other areas where body extremities can reach.

The relatively sombre grey black interior theme is cleverly offset by the subtle use of satin silver highlights, while the pale roof does belie its price point a little.

How practical is the space inside?

The Tucson Active X is a great family rig with plenty of clever storage touches and useful items to get you through the day.

A deep phone and wallet recess in the centre console is designed to hold inductive charges in higher models, but works perfectly well as a secure phone holder. Cupholders of different sizes reside in the centre console, although a manual handbrake does take up more room than an electronic equivalent. Bottles up to about one litre in size can be stashed in all four doors, and those door pockets are divided to stop items sliding around. The centre console bin is tall but narrow, while rear seaters also have their own pair of cup holders in a pull-down centre arm rest.

  • The leather-appointed seats offer more practicality than luxury, given their easy-wipe surface that's great for young families. (image credit: Tim Robson) The leather-appointed seats offer more practicality than luxury, given their easy-wipe surface that's great for young families. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • The rear seats can be locked vertically to create a squared-off area for stacking boxes against it. (image credit: Tim Robson) The rear seats can be locked vertically to create a squared-off area for stacking boxes against it. (image credit: Tim Robson)

No chargers or vents as mentioned are supplied for that second row, but there are two ISOFIX baby seat mounts.

Cargo room is good at 488 litres, even with the full-size spare that hides underneath the boot floor.

The rear seats, too, can be locked vertically to create a squared-off area for stacking boxes against it; it's essentially like a cargo barrier if you haven't got backseat passengers. Of course, each passenger can then recline the seat back to a favourite position, which is a nice touch.  There's plenty of head room and toe room back there, even for our tall teenage passengers.

Once the seats are flipped, there is 1478 litres of cargo space to drag along all of the accoutrements that a family collects over a weekend.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Sitting second from the bottom in Hyundai's Tucson line-up, the $31,150 (plus on-roads) Active X is a clever mix of essential spec and cost trimming where it's not necessarily needed. Case in point; the single zone air-conditioning unit is complemented by satellite navigation.

It does miss out on a couple of items including automatic wipers and the headlights are still halogen items despite the use of LED daytime running lamps, but the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as automatic headlights, serves to bring the spec level up a little more. As well, the leather-appointed seats offer more practicality than luxury, given their easy-wipe surface that's great for young families.

  • The Tucson Active X comes with hill descent control. (image credit: Tim Robson) The Tucson Active X comes with hill descent control. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • Rear seaters also have their own pair of cup holders in a pull-down centre arm rest. (image credit: Tim Robson) Rear seaters also have their own pair of cup holders in a pull-down centre arm rest. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • While it does miss out on rear charging points, the Tucson has a 12-volt socket in the cargo area. (image credit: Tim Robson) While it does miss out on rear charging points, the Tucson has a 12-volt socket in the cargo area. (image credit: Tim Robson)

It does miss out on rear charging points for second-row passengers, although it has a 12-volt socket in the cargo area, as well as two in the centre console and a USB port.

However, the biggest blot on the Active X's copy book is the lack of AEB as a standard item. Unlike the company's i30, it isn't even available in an optional safety pack, and it's only offered on the line-topping Tucson Highlander (which is $15,000 dearer). It's an odd omission from a company that's dedicated to improving base level safety across its ranges.

What's it like as a daily driver?

In daily use, the Tucson Active X really excels. Its relatively small capacity, 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine matches well with Hyundai's in-house automatic six-speed transmission for seamless forward motion.

The engine can feel strained when pushed, but around town, it works perfectly well, especially in conjunction with the Tucson's front-wheel-drive layout. Its steering is firmly weighted, too, and easy to manage.

The local tune generally imparts a slightly firmer ride quality with less body roll, and this suits the Tucson perfectly. (image credit: Tim Robson) The local tune generally imparts a slightly firmer ride quality with less body roll, and this suits the Tucson perfectly. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Hyundai goes to some lengths to tweak the suspension of its cars to suit Australian roads, and the Tucson is no exception. As a rule, the local tune generally imparts a slightly firmer ride quality with less body roll, and this suits the Tucson perfectly. There's great visibility out the front with a sloped bonnet, as well as all around the car.

The Tuscon's doors open wide allowing for easy access, too. It's just basically a lovely, simple, no-fuss car that does everything right and pretty much nothing to annoy you or your passengers.

What's it like for touring?

The Tucson is as much an adventure device as any other mid-sized SUV in that it offers more cargo room, a little more ride height, and a little more ruggedness than a typical sedan. However, the front-wheel-drive, relatively low-powered Active X isn't the first car that you'd pick for an off road adventure.

But as we've mentioned, adventure is often about using the correct tool for the job and if you wanted to throw a little bit of scuba or mountain bike gear in the boot and traverse a graded fire road to access your favourite spot, then the Tucson will have little trouble coping, despite its relatively regulation ground clearance of 172mm.

  • Cargo room is good at 488 litres. (image credit: Tim Robson) Cargo room is good at 488 litres. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • Once the seats are flipped, there is 1478 litres of cargo space. (image credit: Tim Robson) Once the seats are flipped, there is 1478 litres of cargo space. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • The Tucson will comfortably drag along all of the accoutrements that a family collects over a weekend. (image credit: Tim Robson) The Tucson will comfortably drag along all of the accoutrements that a family collects over a weekend. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Its approach angle of 17.9 degrees, departure angle of 24.5 degrees and its breakover angle of 19.5 degrees doesn't make it much of a threat to something like a Toyota LandCruiser, though. Likewise, if you're on the weekend cricket or football run with your two kids and one of the neighbour's children, then the Tucson will swallow their gear and all of their stuff relatively easily. Those hard-surface plastics will stand the test of time, as will the leatherette-style seat covers.

Its braked trailer towing capacity of 1600kg is pretty reasonable – though 200kg less than a Mazda CX-5 – and a downball weight limit of 120kg means that smaller camper trailers or tinnies won’t be a drama to tow, either.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Hyundai's in-house 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder combines well with Hyundai's own traditional torque converter-equipped, six-speed automatic gearbox.

The 121kW/203Nm outputs are relatively modest, but the engine is seamless and linear. (image credit: Tim Robson) The 121kW/203Nm outputs are relatively modest, but the engine is seamless and linear. (image credit: Tim Robson)

While the outputs of 121kW and 203Nm are relatively modest, the engine is honest, seamless, and very linear.

The 1580kg Tucson does feel the strain when it's loaded up, and steep inclines aren't its best friend, but on the whole, it's a very dependable, very faithful drive train to this category of car.

How much fuel does it consume?

Hyundai rates the Tucson Active X auto as consuming 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle – it’s the thirstiest Tucson in the range by a small margin.

Over our 320km test loop, we recorded a dash-indicated 9.1L/100km, and a fuel top-up of 28 litres works out at 8.75L/100km.

With a fuel tank capacity of 62 litres, it’s got a theoretical range of around 780km on a single tank, and it’s perfectly happy with regular unleaded fuel.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

As standard, the Tucson Active X has six airbags – including full-length curtain bags – as well as a rear view camera, downhill braking control and rear parking sensors.

What it still doesn’t have is any form of active driver aids, such as AEB or lane keep assist – for that you need to buy the range-topping Highlander for $45,450.

This really is the Tucson’s biggest downfall; these safety aids are now common across the sector, and though the facelifted version due later in 2018 is expected to address this shortcoming, it makes current models like the Active X less appealing.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Tucson has given Hyundai its next step forward, especially when it comes to design. It truly is one of the nicest looking rigs on the road today. It doesn't overplay itself, but yet it also has a boldness and a confidence that makes it look good in any driveway.

It’s a shame, though, that the Active X – as well as most models in the Tucson line-up – miss out on important safety aids like AEB, lane keeping and blind spot warning systems.

Combined with sensible practical touches, clever speccing to get it to a good price-point and a low-key yet fuss-free drive train, though, the Tucson Active X is one of the highlights of the Tucson range.

Does the Hyundai Tucson tick your adventure boxes? Tell us what you think in the comments.

$31,150

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'