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IT may have the smallest engine in its model range but the latest Hyundai Tucson 1.6 is actually the top-of-the-line variant.
The Tucson is the Korean carmaker's compact crossover and when the third-generation car was introduced here last year, it wowed with its striking styling and newfound refinement.
With Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design cladding its new and bigger body, this handsome Hyundai was presented with either a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine or a 2.0 turbodiesel, both mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Now, there is a third powertrain option - the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine which drives the front wheels through a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
This four-cylinder turbo in the Hyundai Tucson 1.6 was first seen in the funky Veloster with three passenger doors and produces 175 hp and a maximum of 265 Newton-metres of torque from just 1,500 rpm, which makes it a COE Category B model.
The unit incorporates an electronic waste gate for optimum control of boost pressure, as well as a water jacket that cools the upper half of the cylinder block for leaner fuel/air mixture to improve fuel efficiency.
But even more novel for a Hyundai is the application of the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox for quick shifting with minimum loss of power.
Hyundai says this transmission type also handles higher torque than a continuously variable transmission.
With healthy low-end torque and more direct gear shifts, the roughly 1,600 kg Hyundai Tucson 1.6 is an enthusiastic performer.
The suspension set-up consists of front MacPherson struts and rear multi-links and despite the elevated seating position, body control is acceptable and the Tucson handles confidently for a car that is 1.66 metres tall.
There is a Drive Mode Select button on the lower centre console, with its Eco, Normal and Sport settings. The last one livens the Tucson 1.6 up a bit more and actually evens out the automatic gear changes when driving faster.
There are no steering wheel-mounted shift paddles but the gear lever can be slotted into manual mode for more dynamic driving behaviour.
Under hard acceleration, the engine boom is noticeable though. But it doesn't detract from the Tucson's pleasing interior, which is a black swathe of mostly hard plastics but still manages to look classy.
Only the dashboard fascia facing the front passenger is soft-touch, but since the dashtop has an identical textured surface, it doesn't look out of place.
The steering wheel's multi-function controls are comprehensive, as is the colour multi-function display in the instrument cluster which provides access to everything from the trip computer to the number of turn signal flashes.
The level of standard equipment is equally impressive, with the expected anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and cruise control complemented by blind spot detection, hill-start assist and downhill brake control.
There is also an electric tailgate. Not only is it unusual in this segment but it also includes an automatic opening feature when the smart key is detected next to it. And like the airy cabin, the boot is spacious.
There was much to like about the neatly styled Tucson when it first debuted. Now with its new and punchier powertrain, there is another reason.
Hyundai Tucson 1.6
Engine 1,591cc inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission 7-speed dual clutch
Max power 175 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque 265 Nm @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
0-100 kmh 9.1 secs
Top speed 201 kmh
CO2 emissions 178 g/km
Average OMV S$22,000
Price S$129,999 (with COE)
Distributor Komoco Motors