Hyundai Tucson VS Toyota RAV4
- Exterior styling is aging well
- A conveniently small mid-size SUV
- New safety equipment in 2020 update
- Cabin is a bit plain
- Dual-clutch can be jerky in traffic
- Diesel is a bit noisy
- Massively practical
- Impressive standard inclusions
- Ultra-comfort ride
- Manual not great
- Thrashy engine
- Might be too big for some
The Hyundai Tucson is one of the go-to mid-size SUVs in Australia, along with the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail. So, what makes it so popular, what do you get for your money, and what extra features have been added in this 2020 update?
Let me be your Tucson tour guide. Having been in and out of a stack of Tucsons, and having clocked up thousands of kilometres in them, I’m familiar with their great points and have discovered a few of their shortcomings, too.
It speaks to the wide-ranging, seemingly infinite appeal of the Toyota RAV4 that a manual version of it even exists.
Sure, only the base car can be fitted with it, and we’re confident it will impress those vocal few people in every single comment section who demand it, but is it actually any good? Or does a manual gearbox tarnish the rather excellent package that is CarsGuide's Car of the Year 2019 overall winner?
While we’re at it, we’ll also give you the low-down on what the cheapest RAV4 is like. Read on to see what we thought.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The changes to the 2020 Tucson are few, but important – the extra safety equipment added to the lower grades is great news.
Despite being a few years old and a new-generation Tucson coming by 2021-ish, the current SUV is a great workhorse that has served my family well in the form of a long-term test car, and more recently in these week-long stints in the updated model.
Parents will like the hard-wearing materials and wipe-clean surfaces, and I reckon everybody will appreciate the city-friendly size while staying fairly spacious on the inside.
When Toyota launched the new RAV4 it couldn’t afford to get it wrong.
It didn’t. Even this absolute base car is incredibly well equipped, superb when it comes to comfort, and offers the largest cabin in the mid-size segment.
I’m as surprised as you possibly are that Toyota even sells it as a manual, but honestly, it’s this car’s worst attribute. It only serves to tarnish the drive experience. Pay the extra and get the auto.
There’s a new-generation Tucson on the horizon, but we won’t be able to buy it for a couple of years yet. But rest assured Hyundai is cooking it up in its laboratories as you read this.
Can’t wait until around 2021 (probably)? Well, in the meantime this current generation still looks stylish even if it’s been here since 2015.
There have been some cosmetic upgrades over the years to freshen up the Tucson’s look, with Hyundai giving it a new grille and redesigned headlights in 2018. Same for the cabin which was also given a design revamp.
I’m a fan of the exterior and think it’s aged well, with its tough-looking face and elegant side profile. This sounds super nerdy, but I also like the shape of the tailgate with its little ‘lip edge’ and those taillights.
Even in the ‘government issue’ standard white paint worn by the Active X I tested (see the images), the Tucson still looks mighty fine. And it has to, the competition is a good-looking bunch – as a model comparison there’s the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage all on the rival list.
Talking of paint, the colour palette is limited to Phantom Black, Gemstone Red, Pepper Grey, Platinum Silver, Aqua Blue, Pure White, Sage Brown, Dusk Blue and White Pearl. Yep, no gold, orange, green or purple here I’m afraid.
The Tucson’s insides get fewer design accolades, with its fairly plain styling and there’s not a great deal of difference in look and feel between the cabin of an Active X and that of the Highlander - apart from the electric handbrake and dual-zone climate. Have a look at the interior images to see what I mean.
Spotting the difference between the grades from the outside isn’t easy: if the Tucson has dual exhausts it’s a Highlander, but if it doesn’t and it has chrome around the windows then you’re looking at an Elite, while an Active X has bigger wheels than the Active.
Now the dimensions. The Tucson is 4480mm end to end, 1850mm wide and 1660mm tall. That makes it 120mm shorter than a RAV4 and 70mm shorter than a CX-5. So, the Tucson is a smaller mid-sized SUV but that will suit many families in the city well.
The RAV4 has come far in its design and aesthetic since the previous generation. It’s much better at grabbing your eye as it cruises past, and although it borrows a lot from the Kluger which has been on the market for a while now, it still strikes the eye as modern and angular.
The double-barreled snout, air dams and chunky wheelarches add a sense of capability to its contemporary guise. Even this base car gets chunky alloys and is covered in contrast black plastic cladding, adding to its look over base-model competitors. The blue tinge of LED headlights rather than the dull tones of halogens seal the deal.
Around at the rear it modernizes the dated Kluger formula with squared-off light fittings and a roof spoiler. The wholly unnecessary dual-exhaust is nice, too.
The interior is where the most base model tells are. You’re greeted by a sea of grey plastics, although to Toyota’s credit, many of them are soft to the touch. It’s all too easy to notice the blanked-out buttons, covered over climate control dials and six-speed gearshifter that looks like it was dropped out of a last-generation Corolla.
While the big screen nestles in the dash, 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen and silver highlights help counteract the base-model blues, there’s no escaping a nasty plastic steering wheel.
The overall visual aesthetic of the RAV4 is still cool, though. On the inside there are great textures hidden everywhere. There’s a triangular pattern in all the storage areas designed to help stop objects from moving, stripped rubbery textures on the inside of the door handles and rubbery turbine patterns on the air-con and volume knobs. Nice touches.
The seats are in a plain pattern but nice to the touch and should be fairly easy to clean as they are comprised of a rugged synthetic material.
All that adds up for a cabin ambiance that easily outclasses most price-competitors, and even higher-spec cars from rival brands.
The Tucson is a five-seat SUV and there’s no option to get a third row to make that seven. If you do need more seats and want to stay with Hyundai then the larger Santa Fe is what you’re looking for.
The Tucson’s size is an advantage in that, at less than 4.5m long, it’s easy to park, but the trade off is that the interior isn’t overly spacious. Still, even at 191cm tall I can fit behind my driving position in the second row with about 20mm to spare between my knees and the seatback. Headroom is also good, even with the sunroof in the Highlander which lowers the ceiling slightly.
Up front there are the big seats and good head, leg and elbow room.
What about boot space? The cargo capacity of the Tucson’s boot with the seats up is 488 litres. That was enough room to fit the CarsGuide pram and Kim Kardashian’s big suitcase (see the video), both at the same time. With the seats folded you’ll have 1478 litres to help you move house or pick up that thing you bought online. Not the biggest boot size in the class, but not the smallest.
Cabin storage is pretty average – there’s a deep, but narrow, centre console storage bin, door pockets, a standard glovebox and four cup holders (two up front and two in the back).
I parked this RAV4 next to a last-generation Toyota Kluger and really shouldn’t have been surprised how close they were in size. Still, bracket creep means the RAV4 is now truly gigantic compared to its forebears and that means family practicality all over.
It’s things as simple as the fact that both doors are massive and open very wide, allowing for super easy access to any seat for less mobile passengers, those lifting cargo up into the cabin, and those who might need to fit child seats.
Leg and headroom for the front two passengers is stellar, and the driver’s position is very adjustable, even with the base manual-adjust seats. Visibility is up with segment leaders like the Subaru Forester, as the RAV4 is essentially a glasshouse with massive windows and wing-mirrors.
Even the dial cluster is huge and legible, and there are big dials for operating the air conditioning and multimedia while you keep your eyes on the road.
You’ll find storage areas everywhere with that triangle pattern for holding objects in. All the bottleholders (two in the doors, two in the centre console) are massive, and there’s a huge trench in front of the shift-knob suitable for even the largest phones.
There’s even a long trench above the glove box for… aesthetic purposes? It has the no-slip surface, but objects would hurtle towards passengers under heavy acceleration, so I fail to see the point of it.
There's one USB port, one 'aux' jack, and one 12-volt socket for front passengers.
In terms of rear legroom, your second-row passengers will hardly be flying economy. I had a abundance of legroom behind my own driving position. Arm and headroom were also plentiful.
All doors have a soft strip across them for elbows. There’s a drop-down arm rest even in the base car, and the same chunky, grippy doorcards with a big bottle holder.
Rear passengers get a set of air vents on the back of the centre console, too.
The boot is ridiculous with a class-leading 580-litres (VDA) of space. It’s wide and unimpeded by styling bits, and you can even stow the roller cover under the floor paneling when not in use.
The GX ships with a space-saver spare, but you can upgrade to a full-size alloy spare for $300. If you do so you’ll remove the false-floor paneling.
Price and features
The Tucson range has four grades: Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander. There used to be a grade called Go, but it’s now gone, replaced by the Active.
The most affordable Tucson is the front-wheel-drive petrol Active with a manual gear box that lists for $29,290 (add $2500 for the auto), but if you want all-wheel drive you’ll need the diesel engine with the auto for $37,090. That escalated quickly, eh?
Next step up is the Active X, which lists for $32,290 in front-wheel drive, manual guise (and $34,790 for the auto), and the diesel auto all-wheel drive in this grade is $40,090.
Now we’re getting into the auto-transmission-only upper echelons of the range, with the Elite coming in three variants. The first variant uses the same petrol engine as the lower grades with front-wheel drive for $37,850, then there’s a turbo-petrol with all-wheel drive for $43,150, and the diesel all-wheel drive for $43,150.
Lording it over the range is the Highlander (which I always read with a Scottish accent in my head). There’s two to pick from and both are all-wheel drive with automatic transmissions. The turbo-petrol Highlander lists for $46,500 and the diesel is $48,800.
So, with almost $20K separating the top and bottom of the range let’s look at what you get for your money.
The Active comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, single-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors, a leather steering wheel and roof rails.
The Active X has larger 18-inch alloy wheels, sat nav, an eight-inch screen, an Infinity eight-speaker stereo system, digital radio, leather seats and heated and power-folding mirrors.
The Elite is the sweet spot the range and scores proximity unlocking with push-button start, rear privacy glass, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control.
The Highlander has all the Elite’s features but adds 19-inch rims, LED headlights and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats, auto tailgate, wireless charging, a heated steering wheel and a powered front passenger seat.
The Highlander’s tailgate is an automatic one which will open if you stand next to it with the key fob for three seconds. It works a bit too well, and I found myself often opening the boot unintentionally.
The big news for this 2020 model year Tucson, however, is that the lower grades have been given more safety equipment. You can read all about this a bit further on.
That’s right. The GX manual is the cheapest way to get into a Toyota RAV4 today. Starting at $30,640 (MSRP – before on-road costs) we’d even consider it great value despite the manual 'box.
To understand why you just have to take one look at its specification sheet. Remember, this mid-sizer competes against the (also surprisingly still manual) Nissan X-Trail ST ($29,890), Honda CR-V Vi (auto - $28,290), and Mitsubishi Outlander ES ADAS (auto - $33,290).
If you’re happy milling your own gears, you get better kit than the auto entry-level CR-V, the manual X-Trail ST and even significantly undercut the entry-level Outlander (if you include the fact that the Mitsubishi requires the ADAS pack to even compete on safety).
Included spec on this absolute base car includes not-so-budget stuff like 17-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (which will ship have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto imminently, but if you buy a current-stock car you will have to return to the dealer for a software upgrade), DAB+ digital radio, built-in sat-nav, manual air conditioning (this base grade strips the cool little screens out of the dials), auto LED headlights, a 4.2-inch display in the dash, front and rear parking sensors, and heated auto-folding wing mirrors.
Other regular sort of spec items include six speakers and a reversing camera.
That’s the best kit at this price in the mid-size SUV world by a solid margin. That’s not all though, even this manual RAV4 features the full 'Toyota Safety Sense' suite. More on that in the safety section of this review (spoiler: It’s good).
Among the few giveaways that the GX manual is the cheapest one is the turn-key ignition, cloth seat trim, and urethane steering wheel. Still… are you really going to complain against its unprecedented list of inclusions at this price?
Options are limited to premium paint (every colour except for ‘Glacier White’ - $600).
Engine & trans
There are three engines in the Tucson range: a 2.0-litre petrol making 122kW and 205Nm; a 1.6-litre turbo petrol making 130kW and 265Nm; and a 2.0-litre diesel with an output of 136kW and 400Nm. All are four-cylinder engines.
A six-speed manual can only be had with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, but for a bit more money you can swap that for a six-speed auto instead. The 1.6-litre petrol engine only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and the diesel is teamed up with an eight-speed auto.
There are pros and cons with each engine: the 2.0-litre petrol feels a bit under powered, but the transmission is smooth; the 1.6-litre petrol is punchy off the line but at low speeds the dual-clutch can make acceleration a bit jerky; while the diesel’s eight-speed is excellent, and so is the torque from the engine, but it sounds a little bit like farm equipment.
The six-speed manual version of the GX as tested here can only be had with a 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol engine.
Those power figures are so-so and you’ll need to push up the rev-range (and compromise your fuel economy while doing so) to make the most out of them because there’s no turbo.
There are more sophisticated powertrains available in this segment with superior outputs, although not many at this price.
The manual transmission does let you wrangle the most out of this engine, although I was less impressed with the way it feels. More on that in the driving segment.
If you’re choosing the engine based on fuel efficiency, then don’t. Unless you’re picking the diesel, because it is considerably more fuel efficient than the petrols. Hyundai says that after a combination or open and urban roads the diesel engine will have used 6.4L/100km. My own testing in the Elite with the diesel supported the frugality of the engine with our test car recording 6.9L/100km.
According to Hyundai, the 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engines - regardless of transmission or gearbox - will get within 0.2L/100km of each other. So, after a combination of open and urban driving the 2.0-litre with the manual will use 7.8L/100km while the auto needs 7.9L/100km. The 1.6-litre with the dual-clutch is more economical, but only just, at 7.7L/100km.
My own testing saw me use an average of 9.2L/100km in the 1.6-litre Highlander and 10.3L/100km in the 2.0-litre Active with the auto.
More good news is you’ll only have to feed the petrol engines cheaper, 91 RON fuel.
The manual version of the RAV4 wears a claimed/combined fuel consumption rating of 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. That’s pretty low, although nowhere near as low as the Hybrid auto’s amazing 4.7L/100km combined rating.
Over a week of driving in conditions I would consider true to combined freeway/urban driving, I scored 8.0L/100km which is not bad at all considering the RAV4’s size.
The RAV4 drinks base grade 91RON unleaded petrol and a 55L fuel tank. There’s no diesel version this time around.
There’s a lot to like about the way the Tucson drives, but there are some areas where rivals do better.
I tested the Highlander grade with the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch, followed by the Active X with the 2.0-litre engine and six-speed automatic, and then I drove the Elite with the diesel engine and an eight-speed auto.
In one week I put more than 500km on the clock of the Active X, using it as a family car for the preschool drop-offs and grocery shopping in Sydney, with a trip away to see the grandparents on the weekend up in Newcastle. That gave me a combination of inner-city grind and open motorways.
I put about 300 kilometres on the Highlander and most of those were suburban and city kays, with some motorways thrown in, too.
Both have their merits. For the city I preferred the six-speed automatic in the Active far more than the seven-speed dual-clutch in the Highlander, especially in hilly areas. Traffic and intersections are the enemy of that dual-clutch which cause a lurching motion as you come off the brake and onto the throttle. Yes, there is a hill-hold button but activating it adds a ‘sticking’ sensation that does stop roll-back but does nothing for smoothness.
The six-speed auto meant smooth motion in low speed traffic and assured no roll back on hills.
As for the engines, the 2.0-litre is fine. You’re not going to break any land speed records, or maybe not even any speed limits because acceleration is definitely not rapid, but it's more than adequate.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine is peppy at lower speed, but as you start to push it harder it does feel like it runs out of puff. Being a turbocharged engine, the delivery of the grunt feels different to the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre. If you’ve driven turbo cars before you’ll know the ‘whooshy’ feel they have as the turbo winds up and you’re catapulted away.
On the open road, the dual-clutch is magnificent, changing fast and smoothly. Whereas the six-speed auto doesn’t seem to be enjoying itself anywhere near as much as it DCT sibling.
So, if you’re a passionate driver, then go the dual-clutch which, combined with the 1.6-litre engine, provides a more engaging drive. But if this SUV is just to get you around town then I reckon you’ll be happier with the 2.0-litre. Forget fuel economy - there’s nothing in it between them.
Read More:Hyundai Tucson 2019 review.
But wait, there’s something you should know. The diesel is my pick of all the variants as the best to drive both in the city and country. I tested the Tucson Elite with the diesel engine and eight-speed automatic and while it does sound like a delivery truck, that 400Nm of torque is fantastic for being able to move quickly when you need to, without much in the way of turbo lag.
As for ride and handling all Tucsons have the same suspension set-up: MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink in the rear, which provides comfort and good cornering for the class.
Hyundai has tuned the suspension in the Tucson for Australian roads – a lot of car companies don’t do this.
The Tucson isn’t a large SUV (it’s only 140mm longer than an i30 hatch back) and that makes piloting it into parking spaces and in narrow streets easy. Visibility is hindered by thick A-pillars either side of the windscreen and seeing out the back small windows is tricky, but the reversing camera helps here.
If you’re planning to tow, you’ll need to know the braked towing capacity of all Tucsons is 1600kg.
And while all-wheel drive isn’t four-wheel drive, the Tucson’s ground clearance of 172mm is higher than a normal car and will mean you can go a little bit further off the bitumen.
The idea of a six-speed manual with rev-matching technology (complete with three modes) sounds fantastic on paper. Comment section pundits will be overjoyed. The bad news is it’s simply not that great.
It seems to be geared quite tall, and there’s a long throw between each cog. There’s not much feel to it locking in, nor is there any feel through the extremely light clutch pedal, so I admittedly ground the gears on more than one occasion.
As much as I hate to admit it, I prefer the CVT auto in this SUV for the same reasons I believe all SUVs this size should have spongy suspension.
It’s not meant to be a driver’s car. This is a practicality appliance for families that just so happens to have wheels. It should be comfortable and easy to use.
Thankfully, the rest of the RAV4’s drive experience is exactly that. The suspension has a lovely soft comfort-focused tune, and the combination of soft springs and small wheels (shod with relatively high profile rubber) makes for a quiet and refined cabin.
Of course, the trade off is that the RAV4 is hardly a corner carving sport machine, but ask yourself – do you need that?
The steering is very light, making the big body easy to swing around city streets, but it does lose a little feeling at speed.
As already mentioned, the visibility is excellent out of this car, the amenities are easy to use without becoming distractions, and it’s reassuring that the safety stuff is all really rather good.
A riveting drive the RAV4 is perhaps not, but it nails the brief as an easy-to-use family machine.
While the Tucson’s styling hasn’t changed in this 2020 update, the safety equipment list has in that the lower grades now come with more life-saving tech as standard.
New safety tech on the Active and Active X grades includes AEB that operates at city and urban speeds and lane keeping assistance. That’s in addition to rear parking sensors, rear view camera, and six airbags.
The Elite and Highlander have even more safety equipment such as blind spot warning, AEB which works at higher speeds and can detect pedestrians, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
For child seats, all Tucsons have three tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row. A full-sized alloy wheel is located under the boot floor.
The Tucson scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016.
Even though this is a rare manual, it doesn’t miss out on much of the RAV4’s impressive standard active safety suite.
Included is auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection day and night), active cruise control (yes, even on the manual), lane departure warning (with lane keep assist), but no ‘lane trace alert’ available on the auto, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
That’s among the best active safety in the entire mid-size SUV category, and it’s all on the manual base model. Toyota’s here to win.
The RAV4 also has an above-average seven airbags, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (pretty good), and ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats.
It also has the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.
Somewhat unsurprisingly once you’ve digested all that, the RAV4 wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (with excellent scores across the four new categories) as of May 2019.
The Tucson is covered by Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km. For the 2.0-litre petrol Tucson you can expect to pay $280 for each of the first three services, while the 1.6-litre is a smidge more at $295.
The diesel is more expensive to service – you can expect to pay $390 for each of the first three services, and also at 12 month/15,000km intervals.
The RAV4 is covered by a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty that Toyota thankfully upgraded to earlier in 2019.
But that’s not quite the whole story. If you keep your service record genuine and up-to-date Toyota will cover the engine for an extra two years, and you’ll also be covered by seven years of roadside assist and a 60-day money-back guarantee (if your car should suffer an issue which renders it ‘undrivable’ inside that period).
The five-year base coverage also includes panel work and any genuine accessory you might have fitted.
The RAV4 requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km whichever occurs first, and is covered by a capped price of just $210 (incredibly cheap) for the first four years.
The RAV4 is built in Japan.