Published on April 23rd, 2018 | by Subhash Nair1
The Hyundai Tucson Should Have Been a Hit in Malaysia
The Hyundai Tucson is an SUV that, to us, could have really made it big in Malaysia. We drove it before launch in the Philippines and were impressed. We drove it and reviewed its multiple powertrain forms and were impressed. It looks very sophisticated and elegant. It drives really well, with a ‘continental’ flavour to its chassis and suspension setup. Pricing-wise, all four variants are competitive for the kit you get.
It’s also clear that Hyundai Motors spent a lot of money making sure it was fundamentally better in every way to its predecessor.
Why then don’t we see more Tucsons on the road? This SHOULD have been Hyundai’s breakout success in Malaysia. After a recent test drive of the diesel variant, we sat down and did a bit of thinking. Here are some factors that may explain what went wrong.
And to add to the challenge, we’re going to avoid talking about branding and resale value.
Slight Lack of Polish
Local assembly means some parts will be done by Malaysian OEMs. For the Tucson, local part sourcing allowed the for several seat cover options.
This is great, but the little things should have been polished up first. A few minutes in the car and there are glaring mistakes.
The seats and door cards have red stitching, but the leather centre armrest stitching is black.
The front camera is a nice touch, but the font and icon on the button are clearly out of place.
On cars costing over RM125K, Malaysians don’t want to see mistakes like this. The infotainment system is also a point of contention.
Yes, it is large, fully-featured and gives customers everything they could ask for, but it just feels very aftermarket.
It feels more like an android tablet with a skin and some apps thrown in.
Would customers take functionality over polish? Probably not, but it certainly helps elevate the perception of the car as premium.
Trim level mismatch
Here’s how the Tucson is offered in Malaysia:
2.0 naturally-aspirated petrol, 2WD, base spec- RM126K
1.6 turbocharged petrol, 2WD, mid spec – RM146K
2.0 turbocharged diesel, 2WD, mid spec – RM156K
2.0 naturally-aspirated petrol, AWD, high spec – RM160K
There may be legitimate reasons for the way the Tucson variants are prepackaged, but we have a couple of problems with it.
First, the only variant here in need of an all-wheel drive system is the diesel. It’s heavier and the huge amount of torque is wasted on the front wheels. Now, the cost of a high spec diesel model with AWD may be a little ridiculous, so why not offer it with less equipment? Diesel buyers in Malaysia are a smaller group with very particular reasons for wanting these engines. They may be more ready to forgo some equipment for a modern diesel SUV.
Secondly, the most expensive variant on offer, the 2-litre petrol with AWD, gives customers the least powerful engine with even more kit like a panoramic sunroof and automatic climate control. The most expensive variant SHOULD have been a 2WD 1.6 turbo petrol with all the bells and whistles. At under RM155K, a polished up Tucson in this configuration may have been a real hit.
Play More with Equipment Than Drivetrain Levels
We appreciate when manufacturers bring in multiple powertrain options. It shows respect and commitment to the market as it costs more to locally-assemble multiple drivelines. It also shows that Hyundai-Sime Darby respects the maturity of the market and expect Malaysian customers to know exactly what they require out of a vehicle.
But it is baffling to see the brand bring in 4 different drivetrain layouts for the Tucson.
Unless the product is no.1 or no.2 in its segment, Malaysians can be pleased with just 1 or 2 driveline options.
Honda has just 3 levels for its CR-V (2.0 2WD, 1.5T 2WD, 1.5T AWD) which works given their volume, and Mazda has 4 levels for its CX-5 (2.0 2WD, 2.5 2WD, 2.2D 2WD and 2.2 AWD). Again, justified because they assemble the CX-5 for the region.
Every other competitor goes for just 1 or 2 drivetrain configurations (D=diesel, 2WD=2-wheel drive, AWD=All-wheel Drive):
- Subaru (Forester 2.0 and 2.0 Turbo)
- Kia (Sportage 2.0 2WD and 2.0D AWD)
- Mitsubishi (ASX 2.0 2WD and 2.0 AWD. Outlander 2.0 AWD and 2.4 AWD)
- Ford (Kuga 1.5 2WD)
- Nissan (X-Trail 2.0 2WD and 2.5 AWD)
- Renault (Koleos 2.5 2WD and AWD)
- Volkswagen (Tiguan 1.4 2WD)
- Haval (H2 1.5 2WD Auto and Manual)
With the amount of competition from other brands in this segment, Hyundai really should have picked its battles.
Plus, by committing to just 2 powertrain options, they would have been more flexible with equipment levels with costing more under control. They could have a base model, a mid-spec level for the lower tier engine and a mid- and full-spec level for the higher tier engine.
Hyundai has been smart to attack the compact-to-mid SUV market. They’ve been at it for years now. This variant of the Tucson was brought in fairly early (2015) so it had its chance to fight off ageing competitors. However, even in 2015, this particular segment of the market was saturated.
Plus, the Tucson is already a familiar name to Malaysians. Yes, it’s a huge improvement over its predecessor, but Malaysians may have already decided what the word ‘Tucson’ means to them based on previous versions of the model. We were thoroughly convinced that the engineers got it right this time, but for many potential customers, it may have simply been a little too late for Hyundai to offer such a well-sorted product.
And now once again, it looks like Hyundai may miss another critical segment: the compact crossover. Honda Malaysia filled this hole early on with the HR-V, as did Mazda with the CX-3 and Subaru with the XV. Hyundai have the Kona to bring in and we’re sure just like the Tucson it will be excellent, but again the poor timing may stall its success. The Toyota C-HR is already in the market, which means extremely aggressive competition. And once the Volvo XC40 hits the market, there will be little room for a full-spec Kona to grow.
We’re not bashing Hyundai, Hyundai Sime-Darby, or the Tucson. It is just that it is a tough market and we really feel the Tucson deserved a little more success and recognition.