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Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel 2019 review

Fresh, approachable, well equipped. The new Tucson ticks a lot of boxes.
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Oh, look. It’s another upper-mid-range SUV, but should the Tucson elite be the standard to which other SUVs are measured?

Yes, it’s a Hyundai Tucson Elite. “Isn’t that the same as the last one?” I hear you ask, as you squint at the pictures trying to figure out if anything has changed.

The answer is, not quite. 

There are a few big changes for the 2019 model year - like a new safety suite - but also a lot of very small ones - like the shift-lever has moved from the left to the right of the centre console for some reason. 

It adds up to a significant overhaul underneath the similar looking package, and if you weren’t sold on the Tucson before, well… you just might be now. 

Before reading on, you should know that the Tucson Elite can be had with a choice of three engines and automatic transmissions, but the one reviewed here is the most expensive 2.0-litre diesel all-wheel drive (AWD) version.

Hyundai Tucson 2019: ELITE CRDi (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$43,150

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

So, how much does the most expensive mid-range Tucson Elite cost? That’ll be $43,150 before on-roads, thanks.

That price tag pits it against rivals like the Mazda CX-5 Touring diesel ($41,590), Toyota RAV4 GXL diesel ($45,125) and Honda CR-V VTi-LX petrol ($44,290).

The Tucson's standard kit does a great job of facing down opponents in a tough segment. The Tucson's standard kit does a great job of facing down opponents in a tough segment.

A formidable set of opponents. All are AWD, well equipped, at least semi-luxurious, and well renowned nameplates. 

You could also pick the Kia Sportage SLi diesel which has the same engine and transmission in a different package at $42,190.

The Tucson is the most recently updated of the bunch, however, and has a spec level that reflects it. 

Let’s tick some key spec boxes shall we? Big (7.0-inch) touchscreen with built-in nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and even digital radio (DAB+) combined with eight-speaker premium audio? Yep. Sporty 18-inch alloy wheels? You bet. Leather ‘appointed’ seats with multi-way adjust on driver’s side? Got it. Rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, keyless entry, tinted windows, rear park assist and some aesthetic upgrades, so people know you bought the slightly fancy one? Got all that too.

The big, well featured, and easy-to-use touchscreen is a huge selling point. The big, well featured, and easy-to-use touchscreen is a huge selling point.

Not bad, then, when you consider the faux-leather looks and feels better than the CX-5’s ‘Maztex’ and leather seats are optional on the RAV4. The Tucson’s multimedia system is one of the best in the business, let alone the mid-size SUV class, and that’ll make a big difference to some buyers. It’s fast to react to inputs, not susceptible to glare and generally a pleasure to use.

Notable omissions at this price point are full LED headlights and a digital dashboard, however. The Highlander grade above our Elite scores LEDs, as well as significant luxury upgrades.

Only the top-spec Highlander scores full LED headlights. Our Elite had halogen. Only the top-spec Highlander scores full LED headlights. Our Elite had halogen.

The Tucson also now has some major value adds across the board when it comes to safety, which we’ll get to later in this review.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

To say the Tucson’s recent facelift was a mild one is an understatement. Not much has changed here at all. In fact, I parked this car up next to an example of last year's model I found on the street, and was hard-pressed to spot the changes.

Aside from a few stronger lines across the side and back, only the front fascia is a dead giveaway of the 2019 model from the outside. Aside from a few stronger lines across the side and back, only the front fascia is a dead giveaway of the 2019 model from the outside.

There’s a new front fascia to bring the Tucson in line with the recent new-generation Santa Fe’s looks, and some mildly altered body panels here and there that add a sharper character line across the SUV’s mid-section.

The bigger changes are inside, where the Tucson has had a significant overhaul. It’s far less plain than the last version, bringing some interesting textures, colours and materials to the dashboard, as well as that giant 7.0-inch touchscreen pride-of-place in the centre of the dash.

The new interior look is much more modern than its predecessor and brings nice materials to the front. The new interior look is much more modern than its predecessor and brings nice materials to the front.

It’s a much-needed set of changes, as the embedded screen from the 2016 Tucson was looking old when it came out.

Weirdly, the shift-lever has moved from the left of the transmission tunnel to the right as part of the interior overhaul. Strange, but likely has to do with this car now being built in South Korea instead of the Czech Republic.

The addition of soft-touch materials to the dash and occupant-surrounds are lovely and help to lift the cabin ambiance above, say, the RAV4. It’s also a bit more conservative than the Honda CR-V, but doesn’t quite have the flashy elegance of the CX-5.

The leather was comfortable and seemed hard-wearing. Rear seat space was great, too. The leather was comfortable and seemed hard-wearing. Rear seat space was great, too.

Ideal for the more conservative buyer who wants something that feels new, then.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Tucson is as practical as one could expect from a mid-size SUV, but it doesn’t score flying colours thanks to some serious competition.

Boot space is rated at 488 litres, which is about middle-of-the-pack. Sure, it’s way larger than the CX-5, but the CR-V’s boot space is larger and smarter, and the RAV4 owns the class at 550L.

Boot space with the seats up is decent, but far from the front of the segment. Boot space with the seats up is decent, but far from the front of the segment.

With the rear seats folded fully-flat you can boost that up to a fairly large 1478L. The boot floor is quite high to accommodate the full-size alloy spare, so that likely compromises the space a little.

Do you prefer a larger boot, or a full-size spare? Worth considering. Do you prefer a larger boot, or a full-size spare? Worth considering.

Inside, there’s good bits of storage all through the centre console, including a large stowage area under the air-con controls, two different sized bottle holders next to the shift-lever and a rather large armrest-box with a floating tray for an extra layer (good for keys and wallets).

The choice to relocate the screen to the top of the dashboard keeps the cabin ergonomic, although the volume knob is a bit of a reach for the driver, who instead will have to rely on the slightly dodgy switches on the steering wheel.

While the media setup is excellent, the volume knob is a bit of a reach for the driver... While the media setup is excellent, the volume knob is a bit of a reach for the driver...

In the doors there’s also some practical binnacles and properly-sized bottle holders for front and rear passengers.

The faux-leather seems like hard-wearing stuff suited for family life and is comfy all-round. I never felt myself wanting for head, leg or arm space in any seat. Rear passengers get air vents in the centre stack, a 12-volt power outlet and some netting on the back of the front seats.

Most Hyundais now have these deep, practical binnacles with logically-sized cupholders. Most Hyundais now have these deep, practical binnacles with logically-sized cupholders.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

Our Tucson had a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, mated to an eight-speed traditional torque converter automatic.

The engine produces 136kW/400Nm which is not bad at all, considering it is more powerful than the RAV4’s 2.2 litre diesel and comparative with the CR-V’s 1.5-litre petrol-only offering, only with far more confidence torque-wise should you want to tow.

The 2.0-litre diesel and 8-speed transmission aren't the last word in performance or refinement, but work well together. The 2.0-litre diesel and 8-speed transmission aren't the last word in performance or refinement, but work well together.

It is bested by the excellent 2.2-litre diesel engine in the CX-5, which was significantly overhauled by Mazda in the last year. The Mazda is more powerful (140kW/450Nm) and more refined.

At the Elite level, as tested here, the Tucson can also be had as a 2.0-litre petrol (front-drive only, 122kW/205Nm) or with a 1.6-litre petrol (130kW/265Nm). 

If it were my choice I’d stick with the 2.0-litre diesel.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The AWD 2.0-litre diesel Tucsons are claimed to drink 6.4 litres of diesel per 100km.

Over my drive week I landed on 9.1L/100km which is a bit of a miss, but I did enjoy the torquey diesel acceleration perhaps a bit too much. I also spent minimal time on freeways during my week.

The Tucson has no stop-start system, and the 'Eco' mode did little to improve my fuel figure. The Tucson has no stop-start system, and the 'Eco' mode did little to improve my fuel figure.

If you were truly mixing usage I suspect you could land closer to 7.5L/100km. I scored 8.0L/100km in the diesel CX-5 against a claimed figure of 5.7L/100km which is about comparable.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Tucson has ‘Australian tuned’ steering and suspension, which seems to have become a catchphrase for ‘it’s stiff and sporty’. 

There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s your preference (as, apparently, it is for many Aussies), but not everybody will be sold on the surprisingly heavy steering. It’s compounded by the aggressive lane keep assist software that kicks in at 60km/h.

The suspension is also stiff, but not enough to ruin the ride. It does a great job of soaking up potholes and imperfections without ruining the cabin ambiance. The 18-inch alloys aren’t overly large, so that helps with noise intrusion into the cabin as well.

The 18-inch alloys have a more modern design than the previous generation. The 18-inch alloys have a more modern design than the previous generation.

In the corners, the suspension tune and feedback-packed steering keeps it reasonably entertaining. It’s not quite as magical as the VW Group suspension on the similarly-priced Skoda Karoq, for example, but it's comfortable and confident nonetheless.

One thing you’ll immediately notice from behind the wheel is how high you sit in the Tucson. Sure, it’s an SUV, but no attempt at a ‘sporty’ driving position has been made (at odds with the steering and suspension, I know… ) It gives you a commanding view of the road and unimpaired vision, but some drivers have a preference for a lower seat.

To put these factors in perspective, the CX-5 also has a sporty, stiff ride, but slightly lighter steering, the CR-V lets you sit a little lower and has a more luxurious ride, while the RAV4 has softer suspension and lighter steering. Given the characteristics of mid-size SUVs can vary a lot, it’s worth driving at least two of these before you decide.

Engine response from the 2.0-litre diesel is good, but not stellar (there’s still some signature turbo lag) and you can feel Hyundai’s ‘HTRAC’ AWD system working off the line. It really stops the wheels from spinning when that hefty 400Nm torque figure kicks in around 1750rpm. 

Once you reach that 1750rpm mark, it is a bit noisier than Mazda’s refreshed 2.2-litre diesel which I have recently sampled in both the CX-5 and CX-8, but until you reach that point the Tucson is admirably quiet.

The eight-speed transmission is near unnoticeable and shifts super quick when you’re travelling in a straight line.

It all adds up for a fairly slick drive experience, with very little to complain about.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Elite comes into its own in the safety stakes, coming with all the key equipment as standard. Included as part of the standard ‘SmartSense’ safety suite is ‘Auto Emergency Braking’ (AEB) with Forward Collision Warning, ‘Blind Spot Monitoring’ (BSM), ‘Driver Attention Alert’ (DAA), ‘Rear Cross Traffic Alert’ (RCTA) and active cruise control.

The Tucson’s AEB system will bring the vehicle to a full stop from between eight and 80km/h and will help to slow the vehicle between 80 and 180km/h.

There’s also a rather good reversing camera and rear sensors, but no front sensors.

The Tucson maintains its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of 2015 and is fitted with six-airbags and the standard suite of stability systems. 

There are two ISOFIX child-seat points on the outer rear seats and the Tucson has a full-size spare under the boot floor, a boon for long-distance drivers.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Hyundai was one of the earlier manufacturers to offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, but this plan is now matched by Honda, Mazda, Ford, Holden, and more.

It is, of course, bested by its sister brand’s seven-year warranty on the Kia Sportage.

Hyundai backs the Tucson with its ‘iCare’ five-year servicing plan averaging $409 per service on the 2.0-litre diesel variants. The first check-in service a month after purchase is free.

Verdict

Fresh, approachable and well equipped, the Tucson ticks every major box that modern day SUV buyers are focused on.

Perhaps its weakest attribute is how plain it is. It doesn’t have the biggest boot, it’s not the best looking, most refined, or most powerful, and it doesn’t have the longest warranty.

But, it excels at offering something great across the board, and the Elite has a standard safety suite that’s hard to argue with. A good standard from which to measure other SUVs.

Does the Tucson tick all the boxes, or is it a bit too plain for you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$38,623
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$28,150
Highest Price
$49,095

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ACTIVE (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $31,790 2019 Hyundai Tucson 2019 ACTIVE (2WD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $37,090 2019 Hyundai Tucson 2019 ACTIVE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE X (2WD) BEIGE INT 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $35,085 2019 Hyundai Tucson 2019 ACTIVE X (2WD) BEIGE INT Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE X (2WD) BLACK INT 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $32,290 2019 Hyundai Tucson 2019 ACTIVE X (2WD) BLACK INT Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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