Which is better, petrol or diesel? The general consensus would dictate that the former is the safest bet. Yes, they are a lot cleaner, more powerful and quieter in comparison with diesel-powered engines. But, thanks to the advancement of engineering and metallurgy solutions, diesel engines can perform just as well, if not better than their petrol contemporaries. There are a handful of car manufacturers bold enough to offer diesel variants into their compact SUV and SUV model line up for a niche that need a vehicle capable of high-mileage and low fuel consumption, while offering high levels of comfort and refinement.
Hyundai Sime Darby Malaysia had recently organised a media-exclusive day trip drive from Subang to Ipoh for us sample both the new 2.0 CRDI and the 1.6 TGDI variants on both the North-South highway and sections of the old Federal Route 1 to see how these two models fare on a long distance commutes.
There’s plenty to talk about the Tucson’s dynamic exterior design; the plastic wheel arch trimmings is very much a standard design feature for modern compact SUVs, which give it a dynamic and expressive exterior design. Besides that, the Diesel and Turbo GDI Tucsons also feature a chrome radiator grille, standard narrow-eyed LED headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps. Other modern features included on both models are outside mirror side repeater, electrically adjustable and folding mirrors and puddle lamps included in as standard.
Both the 1.6 T-GDi and 2.0 CRDi get 17-inch Gun Metal alloy wheels with the option available for customers to upgrade for a set of larger 19-inch wheels on either the Turbo GDI and Diesel models for an additional RM5,500. Personally, a black Tucson with Gun Metal wheels does look menacing and looks much more at home in a Robocop movie set.
Drivers in both cars get 8-way electrically adjustable seats with lumbar support providing drivers high levels of comfort and support on long distance drives. There’s plenty of room separating the driver and passenger, which both sides get to rest their arm on the retractable armrest. Lifting the armrest up reveals a deep and wide cubbyhole enough to fit large and bulky items. If that isn’t enough, there are cubbyholes located on the centre console with cup holders and all four doors with deep storage spaces which each is able to store a 600ml water bottle.
Like the occupants in front, the rear passengers get to enjoy D-Segment rivalling head and legroom at the rear, likewise offering plenty of comfort and sitting much lower than in most compact SUVs. The rear bench seats can be folded down 60:40, and suit the two adults’ preference to either sit upright or reclined. It comes with a retractable centre armrest with space to put two drinks bottles as well. Rear occupants’ get rear air-conditioning vents as standard in both the Diesel and Turbo GDI variants.
The dashboard layout is ergonomically on point with all of the controls, buttons and switches located within the reach of the driver and passenger. The driver may feel perched up higher than usual but benefits from a much larger field of view ahead and the immediate surroundings. That said, the Tucson’s driving position is comfortable to most drivers and allows them to settle in whichever way he or she finds comfortable thanks to its height and reach adjustable steering column. The steering wheel controls are large and chunky and have a satisfying solid tactile feedback to them.
If you have the key with you, the Tucson’s Smart Tailgate System makes loading and unloading easier by opening automatically when standing near the back of the car for three seconds. This feature is only available in the Turbo GDI and Diesel models that allow hands-free access into its 488-litre cargo space. It can fit larger things still; by folding the rear seats down, the Tucson will be able to offer 1,503-litres worth of space sufficient to fit pre-assembled IKEA furniture.
The 1.6-litre TGDi engine is shared with the hot Elantra Sport sedan, albeit the engine detuned and fitted with a single scroll turbocharger instead of the twin scroll unit. It now makes 174hp at 5,500 rpm, but retains the same 265Nm of torque output available from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm. When tested, the average fuel economy number settled at 8.7 L/100km, which is impressive considering the drive consisting mostly of hard driving.
The turbo petrol unit is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, which has three drive modes to choose from: eco, normal and sport. In sport mode the steering wheel becomes weighted and the transmission holds gears a little longer. You can choose manual mode – shifting gears via paddle shifters and gear selector is possible – but the gearbox will step in if you try to reach to rev the engine out. That said, the gearbox is intuitive, snappy and allows you to explore the rev range as much as you really need.
The 2.0-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine is the biggest surprise and may change your views on Diesel powered engines for years to come. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel lump makes 175hp at 4,000 rpm and makes 400Nm of torque from 1,750 to 2,750 rpm, which offers just as much power as the turbo petrol engine and makes 135 more torques. Its doesn’t drive and sound like a pick-up truck, in fact, the Diesel engine is just as quiet and refined, while offering similar performance capabilities as the turbo engine.
The turbodiesel engine is mated to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission – without paddle shifters that are sent to the front wheels. Power delivery from the engine and transmission combo is decent and can be well described as linear, and complements the turbo diesel’s low and large torque output. Fuel economy here is not bad either managing to clock at 7.6 L/100 km with plenty of hard driving done as well.
The suspension deals with bumps and rough road surfaces exceptionally well and makes light of potholes or speed bumps, too. Soft damping means that the Tucson rolls quite a bit in corners with noticeable body lean. The Tucson has a slight tendency of understeer, but manages corner entry speed well as it handles much like its smaller Hyundai i10 sibling – fun, responsive and rewarding. Navigating through small and tight alleys is no problem at all with its electrically assisted power steering, which feels light enough to even perform a three-point-turn with just a finger.
As with all Hyundai cars, both the Tucson Turbo GDI and Diesel comes with 5 Years or 300,000km manufacturers’ warranty, which you can drive 164km a day for 5 years knowing that your car is cared for. They also come with Safe Drive 24/7 Roadside Assist on-site repair and towing services to Hyundai owners. All Tucson variants have been granted the Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) status from the Malaysia government.
The Tucson 1.6 Turbo GDi is priced at RM145,688 and the Diesel is priced from RM155,788 – both prices are OTR without insurance – which both compact SUVs are reasonably priced and are good enough to fight with big named rivals. But having to choose between which suits you, think of it this way; the turbo petrol engine is suitable for city use while the diesel is good frequent long distance commute. Eenie meenie miney mo, either way, they’re very much the same.
Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo GDi
Price Msia: RM145,688 (OTR W/ Insurance)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder
Top Speed: 200km/h (Tested)
Fuel consumption: 8.7 litres/100km (Tested)
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 CRDi
Price Msia: RM155,788 (OTR W/ Insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel in-line four-cylinder
Top Speed: 200km/h (Tested)
Fuel consumption: 7.6 litres/100km (Tested)