Hyundai SUV now comes with a punchy 1.6-litre turbocharged engine and seven-speed gearbox
Latest Hyundai is punchy, efficient The Hyundai Tucson 1.6T.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The latest Hyundai Tucson is a well-designed and impressively refined crossover.

However, the 2-litre naturally aspirated engine, which it was equipped with at a launch a year ago, is somewhat of a laggard.

It produced 153bhp and 192Nm of torque. Paired with a six-speed autobox, it took the mid-sized SUV from zero to 100kmh in 11.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 181kmh.

Now, the car has a new engine: a 1.6-litre turbocharged, which is punchier, more efficient and road tax-friendlier.

The compact and powerful engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, promising smoothness, responsiveness and efficiency.

And it delivers on those promises.

The car feels very lively at the wheel. With 175bhp and 265Nm on tap, it goes from standstill to 100kmh in 9.1 seconds (but often feels quicker) and maxes out at a respectable 201kmh - thanks to its new gearbox.

With this newfound verve, the Tucson is more complete than before. It affords a more enjoyable commute, with most city drives managed with equanimity and far less effort than in the 2-litre.

It is so zesty that it almost feels like it is a different car. It is still SUV-ish, with ride and handling characteristics tailored more for comfort and leisure.

At the same time, it is not too bouncy.

For those who are happy with breezy progress, the energised Tucson is just the ticket. And it delivers the goods in a cost-effective way too.

Its road tax is 40 per cent lower than the 2-litre at $738 a year. And its fuel consumption is 4 per cent lower at 7.5 litres/100km. Together, they translate to savings of more than $5,400 over 10 years - not exactly small change.

In its engine segment, the Tucson is the most spacious SUV in town. There is plenty of room for passengers and cargo alike on board.

It would have been quite the perfect car if not for a few things. Firstly, the variant does not come with automatic air-conditioner. And it still relies on the traditional "hand brake" lever.

Next, its infotainment system is still as glitchy as the one in the 2litre. Audio instructions on the navigation are barely audible and you are unable to raise the volume via controls on the multi-function steering wheel.

The radio goes on the blink every now and then. Also, the SD card flap cannot be closed completely.

The good thing is that the car still comes with motorised seats, cruise control with steering-mounted controls and a completely hands-free tailgate (which opens when you stand near it with the key on you).

So, it has fewer frills. But the 1.6litre Tucson is still a winner because on top of its looks, space, practicality, value and overall refinement, it now comes with a decent helping of driving performance.