When a motoring journalist reminisces about his car history, he or she tends to glaze over the duds and focus instead on the Alfa Romeos and original Mini Coopers and so on.
Dig deep into my own past and you'll find that my particularly low point has a name, and that is a 1997 Hyundai Accent 1.5 CSi. It was a direct descendent of the Pony, the little sedan that put South Korea on the motoring map, sort of. It was nothing special – to be completely honest it was crap, and I only recall it now as I sit at the helm of the firm's latest version of their flagship people-mover, a rather saucy version in fact.
Confession, I never did understand the appeal of the previous Hyundai Tucson Sport. But 516 South Africans did, and that's enough to declare it a resounding success by my measure, especially since it's a very much home-grown experiment.
Of those, 374 units were manual – which in itself an interesting statistic, especially when you consider that the new car (cars actually) will come exclusively with a dual clutch transmission. This comes at a time where the South Korean marque was hard at work gaining 8.4% market share of their segment.
The new Sport then, well, is two cars. A 150kW/300Nm (1.6-litre turbo) petrol version or 150kW/460Nm (2-litre turbo) diesel, both front wheel driven and yours for R654,900 in petrol or if you'd prefer diesel, it'll be R10,000 dearer at R664,900. Both are paired with a DCT auto box and come standard with Hyundai's 7 year/ 200,000km warranty.
Power has been raised with a bit of help from Chipbox ECU management system (the previous car used Unichip) but now sees the extra addition of a pedal box upgrade, for a razor-sharp throttle response that will leave you chirruping from many an intersection standing start.
Both Sport models are based on the top-of -the-range Tucson model but further augmented with a front spoiler, a pair of dual exhaust pipes housed in a rear diffuser, side skirting and sporty 19-inch alloy wheels that are exclusive to the Sport models. And again, these are Sport models - not N cars, or N-Line for that matter, where the prior badge is reserved for hotly tuned (official) Hyundai sports models, or in the case of the latter badge, include some visual hopups and addenda. But who knows, perhaps that day will come.
Clamber within and you'll encounter an all-black leather cabin with the aforementioned range topping appointments including electric seats and a 'push to start' button. Also present is dual climate control, glovebox cooling, a panoramic sunroof plus screen sharing via Apple Carplay and Android auto. Add to that further still safety systems such as blind spot and cross traffic alerts and you'll see the raft of technology is quite full.
We were invited to drive both cars on some winding Cape roads followed by some track activity at nearby Killarney. I took to the helm of the Diesel car first and immediately felt the presence of the plug and play upgrade, first with the previously mentioned wheel spinning at the mere sniff of the accelerator pedal - a result of a 'too aggressive' software mapping or a 'not aggressive enough' traction control system I'd guess.
Either way, it does lend a sense of alacrity to the SUV's demeanour. Both cars swell with torque now making long roads more of a pleasure than before, so on that front - job done. But neither have true sports car aspirations, and are conceived to be what they've always been, just with bigger lungs.
Around Killarney and back home it was the petrol car that impressed more, burping and gulping with each gear change and generally making all the sounds you enjoy, appreciably devoid of the old car's drone.
Hyundai are hoping to sell 50 of these a month, with their ability somewhat hamstrung by the local supplier of the extra performance upgrades. That means they're aiming to at least match the success of the previous model, and I can see that being easily achieved.
Both cars nail their brief of a more enjoyable (read quicker) Tucson, but it’s the petrol car I'd opt for. The largest benefit of a diesel drivetrain is the better mileage but if that was a concern in the first place, you'd not be shopping for a sport derivative. The petrol powered 1.6T feels livelier despite having less torque, sounds better and at R654,900 is a tasty prospect for what was already one of Mzansi's favourite cars.
|Hyundai Tucson Sport 1.6T ||R654,900.00|
|Hyundai Tucson Sport 2.0D ||R664,900.00|