2020 Hyundai Tucson Highlander Review

Hyundai’s Tucson is a triumph is style and value.

2020 models have had small upgrades to styling, and handling.

There are 4 models, 3 engines, 4 transmissions, and either front, or All Wheel Drive, to choose from, depending on what model you take.

Models are: Active, which replaces the old Go entry level car, Active X, Elite and Highlander.

Tucson is Hyundai’s best seller behind i30. Buyers are choosing similar sized cars in either a hatch or SUV form. The next best seller is the smaller Kona SUV.

We’ve tested the Active diesel, and this Highlander 1.6 turbo petrol.

What about some HOT RACING DRIVERS. Gay? Or just plain gorgeous?

The outside:

It starts at the front with a strong, very large “cascade” grille. The side profile finishes with this kick up towards the rear end, with tail lights that are given a bit of shape to add intertest on what is a very large expanse of metalwork.

Tucson is 4,480mm long, 1,850 wide, and 1655mm high, and sits on a 2,670mm wheelbase. Ground clearance is a decent 172mm. Weight ranges from 1467kg on the Active, to 1656kg for the AWD Highlander.

The rear windows are tinted for privacy, and it’s all wrapped in this handsome metalwork designed by the Peter Schreyer studio.

Highlander’s wheels are 19”, and seem to fill the arches better than the 17” and 18” alloys on the other Tucsons. Importantly, all Tucsons have a full size spare.

What all Tucsons share, is the suspension system. There are Macpherson struts at the front and multilink at the back. That may not mean much to most people, but it translates into a smooth ride, and predictable handling. Hyundai brought in an engineer from damper supplier, ZF Sachs. Subtle changes mean even rough roads are smoothed out.

We did a little light dirt roading, but the AWD sorted the worst of it out.

AWD is also particularly good in snow. Not that there is much of it around now, and the snow fields are among the areas that have been destroyed by fire. In true TV style, here’s some shots we prepared earlier.

New LED lighting includes full LED headlights and daytime running lights. The light bends with the steering, and has an auto-dusk sensing function which will also come on as you approach, and stay on after you’ve locked the car. That gives you time to find your house keys before being plunged into darkness.

One more thoughtful feature is the doorhandle lights that also turn on as you approach. You don’t need to fiddle with the car keys, because the doors have a push button lock and unlock. The tailgate has an auto-open feature. Just stand long enough and it swings open.

There are tasteful chrome flourishes on what I think, is a particularly successful look. It is balanced, and coherent, with nothing to jar the eye.

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The cabin:

The cabin feels light and airy, even in darker colours. The lighter colours show up better on film so that’s what we’ve used, before you all write in to complain.

Buttons and knobs are where you can get at them easily, and the centre stack is free of clutter with just the climate controls and sockets on view. Above them is the 8” screen (7” on Active) and centre vents.

Below is a wireless Qi phone charger, gear lever, cup holders and drive option buttons. Auto Hold, Parking sensors, Hill Descent, and Drive Mode are neatly laid out behind the Parking Brake button.

There is also a small tray for change, so fill that full of lollies on a long trip.

Front seats are perforated leather, and are heated and cooled, with powered adjustment and includes lumbar support. There is enough scope for even the pickiest driver to find a comfortable place to sit.

There is a Jesus grip for the front passenger, and a further 2 for those in the rear. The armrest folds down with a further 2 cup holder. There are 3 coat hooks, and 60/40 folding rear seats that take the 488L boot to a decent 1478L.

There is USB power for the rear seaters too, just in case.

Space feels abundant, even in the back seat. With the front seat set for a 180cm driver, rear passengers still have 10cms between knees and seat, fora tallish person.

Cool Features:

Tucson is loaded to the gunnels with nifty gizmos that aren’t immediately obvious.

The sun visors have extensions to fill in the gaps, and there are ticket holders for access cards and the like. The doors unlock when the car senses an accident, and the dual glass sunroof has internal shades for the hottest days.

Dual Zone air conditioning has a SYNC function, and Cluster Ioniser to clean the air.

Finally, the glove box is cooled. You won’t appreciate that until you’ve been on the highway in the middle of the mulga and fancy a cool drop of H2o.

The base model misses out on a rather good 8-speaker Infiniti sound system, but all Tucsons have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. There is DAB radio, Bluetooth streaming and phone, Navigation with SUNA live traffic updates. If the latter seems psychotic at times, it is only because it is trying to get you around traffic jams. I strongly suggest you let it do its thing.

You can use Hyundai Auto-Link.

  • Driving Information – Displays current distance, current travel time, today’s distance, today’s travel time, fuel efficiency, and fuel consumption
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring – Displays the individual pressure of each tyre on the vehicle – if the tyre pressure is not within tolerance of the recommended pressure, the tyre pressure will be displayed in red
  • Driving History – Provides the owner’s driving history including arrival time, maximum speed, average speed, average fuel efficiency, fuel consumption, rapid acceleration and hard braking events, distance and travel time
  • Crowd comparison – Allows the user to compare their efficient driving skills with other Tucson owners
  • Parking Management – Provides parked vehicle location and parking time reminders
  • RSA (Roadside assistance) – Allows the user to contact RSA directly if there is a problem with their vehicle
  • Statistics (ECO Driving) – Provides statistics of the user’s driving pattern – results can be viewed either daily, weekly or monthly
  • Statistics (Speed) – Provides statistics for the vehicle’s speed pattern
  • Vehicle Health Check – Checks the vehicle’s status and, if a problem is detected, it can connect the phone to Hyundai Customer Care
  • Vehicle Health Report – Provides a vehicle health report (listed in date order)
  • Maintenance – Tracks the wear of consumable parts and provides service reminders
  • Hyundai Dealer Network – Displays dealer information on the map and allows the user to select their preferred dealer
  • Message Box – A messaging system to allow contact from your preferred Hyundai dealer or Hyundai Customer Care
  • Map – Provides your current or searched locations on a map
  • myHyundai – Hyundai Auto Link is linked with the myHyundai website to provide you with convenient functions for your vehicle

The top model gets “Premium link”, adding:

  • Engine start and stop
  • Door lock and unlock
  • Hazard
  • Hazard & Horn
  • Temperature – Temperature will be set when the engine starts
  • On/Off Defroster – Defroster status will be set when the engine starts

External mirrors auto-fold, and the cargo area has a 12v outlet.

Glass has Solar Control, for an extra layer of sun protection. That is something Australians are going to find necessary rather than merely handy as our summers begin to melt roads.

Engine and drive system:

Highlander has 2 engines, and 2 transmissions (7sp DCT, 8sp Auto). They are both paired to Hyundai’s AWD system. FWD, 2.0L petrol engine can be had on the Active and Active X models.

Our Euro5, 1.6L turbo petrol 4 cylinder, puts 130Kw/265Nm to all wheels via a 7 speed DCT (dual clutch transmission) automatic, and is my preferred option. The diesel has a 8-speed conventional automatic which felt sluggish by comparison in the Active Tucson. The 2.0L petrol has a 6-speed automatic.

GDi (gasoline direct injection) engines feel nippy, and this one is a pearler. It spins with little vibration, with excellent fuel economy. Both petrol engines run on 91ron fuel too, for even more savings.

Engine summary 2.0 GDi 1.6 T-GDi 2.0 CRDi
Transmission 6MT 6AT 7DCT 8AT
Power 122 kW 122 kW 130 kW 136 kW
Torque 205 Nm 205 Nm 265 Nm 400 Nm
L/100km 7.8 7.9 7.7 6.4

The Drive:

Tucson Highlander petrol is the pick of the bunch, though most buyers go for the Active X petrol Automatic.

Tucson shines once you get moving. It feels so light, but the turbo takes a moment to spool up, so you have to change your driving style somewhat.

Everything is easy. Steering is light, and the gear changes smooth. Sport Mode sharpens the steering and transmission, and keeps the engine spinning for a quick get away.

Highway driving is a joy. The cabin stays quiet, and serene.

You can let the car do the hard yakka for you. Smart Cruise control has a queue function for heavy traffic, and the active lane control keeps you centred. While that can be annoying around town, it removes the hard work on a long trip. You can turn these things on and off as you please.

We had intended to do a longer drive, but Sydney has been ringed by severe fires for months. In fact the entire country has been ablaze in the worst season on record. We thought it safer to stay in and around town.

Parking is incredibly easy. Sensors, a reversing camera, and excellent visibility, give the driver plenty of scope for navigating the tightest of spaces.

Economy is fairly good, and highway driving would be enough to get you from Sydney to Melbourne on a single 62L.

Safety highlights:

  • Active lane control (over 60kph)
  • Active Cruise control
  • Autonomous emergency braking (all speed on top model)
  • Reverse cross traffic alert
  • Blind spot monitor (also warns of high speed approaching vehicles)
  • Driver attnention warning
  • High Beam Assist (over 41kph)

All 2020 Active and Active X automatics get Safety Sense which is already standard on Elite and Highlander.


There are far too many features to list here.

Engine Transmission Active ActiveX Elite Highlander
2.0 GDi 2WD 6 speed manual $29,290 $32,290
6 speed automatic $31,790 $34,790 $37,850
1.6 T-GDi AWD 7 speed DCT $40,850 $46,500
2.0 CRDi AWD 8 speed automatic $37,090 $40,090 $43,150 $48,800
Option pricing Active Active X Elite Highlander
Premium paint $595 $595 $595 $595
Beige interior $295 $295 $295

Price and Specs:

Price: $26,290 – $48,800

Highlander Petrol AWD 1.6L – $43,150

Extras – Premium pain $595, Beige interior $295

Engine: 1.6turbo petrol, 91ron,

CO2: 178g/km

Econ: 7.7L/100k (9.6 city, 6.5 highway)

Power: 130kw/265Nm

Trans: 7sp DCT


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