Hyundai launches a new-generation Tucson with a turbocharged engine.

Chunky. That word sums up the new Hyundai Tucson. That was my first impression of the new model and the image I was left with at the end of my test drive. I owned the previousgeneration Tucson for three years, so it is a car I am accustomed to and like.

As a South Korean carmaker, Hyundai often gets overlooked in favour of German luxury models such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, especially when it comes to sport utility vehicles (SUVs). But as budgets get squeezed in Singapore, many car buyers are widening their nets and looking at Asian manufacturers.

It is the perfect time for Hyundai to launch a new-generation Tucson, along with a few tweaks to its flagship SUV. The biggest difference, apart from the chunkier frame, is that the engine is now turbocharged.

Not everyone is a fan of turbocharged cars, as it is a bit like allowing weaker athletes to take steroids. For the Tucson, however, it is a win-win situation as downsizing the engine and turbocharging it actually improve its fuel efficiency.

It was probably a necessity for the new Tucson to be fitted with a turbocharged engine, given that this bulky SUV would otherwise be powered by a standard 1.6l engine.

While this edition is definitely bigger, it is also sleeker and sportier- looking. It is 4,475mm long, 1,850mm wide and 1,660mm high — not a car you would miss on the road. Thankfully, its looks mirror its performance as it is much sportier than its predecessor — although that is not much of an achievement.

The turbocharger gives it that extra kick it needs, allowing for a faster response in urban surroundings. It may weigh a hefty 1.6 tons, but it does not drive that way. Instead, it is nimble for its size and punchy at junctions. Its power output is higher than some 2l sportier SUVs such as the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota RAV4.

The new Tucson comes with all the sturdiness and stability you expect from an SUV along with the high-seating position that many of us crave. Inside the Tucson, you can quickly tell this is a South Korean-made car as opposed to a high-end German SUV. But, of course, it comes with a much lower price tag too.

There is an abundance of solid plastics throughout the cabin along with some nice-looking leathers. The steering wheel has also been updated and is now multi-functional, while there is a nifty reversing camera built into the rear-view mirror. It also comes with a choice of driving modes, including Eco and Sport. Sport always feels the best option for the Tucson as it takes on a more aggressive driving style. Next to the driving mode button are hill descent control and park warning buttons.

Despite these modern updates, there is still a familiar feel about the interior. It even has the manual handbrake rather than a modern electric one. And while it may not be full of premium black leathers and shiny chrome fittings, it is very practical and comfortable inside.

During my two-day test drive, I received quite a few stares from other motorists. If my assumptions were right, they were trying to work out the make and model of the Tucson, having seen it for the first time. That is a positive sign for Hyundai as this re-invention takes shape. It looks decidedly un-Hyundai.

One complaint about the Tucson is the lack of ventilated seats, given that the Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GLS Elite has such luxuries. But on the plus side, there is plenty of boot space. It starts off with 513l with the back seats up. Once they are folded down, it increases to a very handy 1,503l. All in all, this is a new edition worth waiting for, thanks to its practicality and value for money. If you can put aside the stigma that comes with South Korean-made cars and give the new Tucson a chance, you will be pleasantly surprised.

HYUNDAI TUCSON 1.6 TURBO
$128,999 including COE
Engine: 1,591cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power/torque: 175bhp/265Nm
Fuel consumption: 7.5l/100km
0-100kph: 9.1 seconds
Top speed: 201kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 762 (Jan 16) of The Edge Singapore.