Remember when Hyundai was the laughingstock in the automotive landscape? Even in 2004, its lineup wanted to feel slightly upmarket at a lower cost. However, this was somewhat tainted by subpar quality that wasn’t up there with the Japanese brands.
The Korean giant took a long time, but almost two decades later, it successfully reinvented its image, and the fourth-generation Tuscon exemplifies its futuristic and funky direction to stop being boring.
Along the way, its marketing campaigns have pushed for frequent celebrity endorsements, and this compact SUV had the hottest name in Hollywood by its side.
Many moviegoers would be familiar with the fourth-gen Hyundai Tucson thanks to Tom Holland of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Uncharted. He even appeared in a commercial for the SUV in promoting the latter film, which unfortunately didn’t perform well at the box office.
Nevertheless, this product-placement deal slightly elevated the presence of the Tucson in the current pop culture landscape through association, similar to what Edward Cullen did with Volvo. However, is star power needed to wow the new generation of Hyundai drivers?
Hyundai’s new jewel grille design started with the Tucson, and while initial reactions were polarizing, many—including myself—grew to appreciate the bombastic nature of its styling, especially on the face-lifted Palisade.
The headlights symmetrically blend with the tiles, even better when the daytime-running LEDs are turned on. The pattern continues to appear in the sharp-fanged taillights. More of its geometric cues and kinks are seen in the side profile with chaotic yet neatly arranged lines.
A few months ago, a colleague drove the upper-spec Tucson GLS+ with a diesel powertrain and shift-by-wire automatic transmission. This time, I got to try the base GLS model, powered by a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine that chugs a respectable 154hp and 192Nm, and equipped with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
For the most part, its fuel tank achieved around 6.9km/L, which is nice and excellent for casual city driving, but the weekly visit to the gas station could be sooner than expected. The gearbox shifts like any tried-and-true torque converter automatic with no fuss or annoyance, especially with a regular gear selector instead of buttons.
Greeting everyone in the Tucson is a quirky four-spoke steering wheel design where the bottom ends run parallel with the centerline instead of the usual 45° slants. The 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster might look like an ultra-widescreen tablet stuck on the dashboard, but the dials and the text stay clear and vibrant for any time of day.
The dashboard is given an all-black affair with an eight-inch infotainment system and a small climate control display in the old-school starburst format. Below the piano-black centerpiece are USB connections for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or a simple charge; a 12V socket; and fast wireless charging.
Outlining the glossy screens are responsive capacitive touch buttons and a pair of scroll wheels. Aside from the usual fingerprints galore, an issue with the scroll wheels and the flick switches on the steering wheel is that those also serve as push buttons, which wouldn’t be confidence-inspiring for new users.
For example, when I wanted to turn off the radio, my finger would slightly wiggle and change the volume instead. Sure, different people could quickly adapt and find ways to eliminate such a minor inconvenience, but for me, it was scarily distracting when it first happened while I was driving.
The front and rear legroom is roomy and comfortable, and that’s what we’d expect the Tucson to excel in after three generations. Rear passengers are also treated to a pair of climate A/C vents, USB charging ports, and seat pockets like an economy-class flight.
The rear cargo space is a plentiful 650L and 1,903L with the rear seats folded, making reaching out to the different corners feel like a journey across the ocean. Granted, the second row isn’t rested flat, so applying some weight is needed to relax in the back.
Aside from a different powertrain, a power tailgate, and power front seats, not much is different between the GLS and the GLS Premium. However, comparing the local spec to what’s in South Korea or North America feels like a multiverse away.
Most safety features, such as the Blind-Spot View Monitor and Driver Attention Warning, were stripped out for our market, only leaving the Parking Distance Warning to offer a sense of security within a reasonable price point.
That price would be P1,570,000, impressive for a non-Chinese crossover that goes up against the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V. While the fancy transmission and features of the GLS Premium sound enticing, the average consumer can enjoy the Tucson GLS as is.
Did it need a blockbuster or two to convert consumers to the Korean side? I doubt it, but having this much presence in pop culture is enough to solidify Hyundai’s coolness.
HYUNDAI TUCSON GLS
|Engine||2.0-liter four-cylinder engine|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic transmission|
|Power||154hp @ 6,200rpm|
|Torque||192Nm @ 4,500rpm|
|Dimensions||4,630mm x 1,865mm x 1,665mm|
|Upside||Decent power delivery, geometric design cues, and huge cargo space.|
|Downside||Surprisingly quick fuel consumption, unsatisfying wheel buttons, and underequipped compared to its competition.|