BACK in high school, we had the classic PE teacher straight from central casting. Quads like wine barrels, a head like an Easter Island statue, and a top lip crowned with a belter of an í80s pornstar moustache (well, to be fair, it was the í80s, and what he did in his spare time was his own business).
He also had a sadistic love of inflicting pain on pimply teenagers. Prized among his cache of suffer-fest activities was the dreaded Tuesday morning shuttle-run session.
It took the normally semi-enjoyable activity of running, but stripped it of any rhythm, flow or changing scenery. Instead, by making it a series of stop-start bursts between marker cones, it turned running into something that made us mostly turn purple and want to puke.
Iíve been inflicting the automotive equivalent of shuttle runs on the Tucson this month, but rather than turning purple and puking on me, payback is being delivered by consumption in the mid-12s. For those of you playing along at home, its official urban number is 8.9L/100km.
Iíd wager that the main reason most SUV buyers opt for diesel over petrol is not so much the bigger torque figure at lower revs, but for the promise of better economy.
And in highway driving, where a diesel can purr away in its most efficient operating zone, thereís no question of the consumption advantage. But lots of short trips, time spent idling with air-con on while waiting for kids, and the sort of stop-start traffic we citydwellers have to endure, all quickly conspire to snuff out the diesel advantage. nít Our SUV comparo last November, over a typically wide variety of driving conditions, saw the Tucson Highlander in 1.6-litre turbo-petrol spec come second to the Mazda CX-5 for economy at 10.9L/100km. The turbo-petrol Highlander may not have the grunt of my diesel (265Nm at 1500-4500rpm against the oilerís 400Nm at 1750-2750rpm) but itís appreciably quieter at idle and under initial load, and of course itís more eager and enjoyable in its upper reaches. Itís also $2000 cheaper than the diesel.
Iím on the fence with this one, as I do like the dieselís unstressed urban response and the mapping of the torque-converter auto to deliver swift short-shifts to keep the revs down on a light throttle.
If you are considering a Tucson Ė or pretty much any vehicle where you need to decide between diesel and petrol Ė Iíd urge you test drive both, and think hard about what sort of conditions will make up the bulk of your driving. And, of course, treat the official consumption numbers with the same scorn and scepticism as a politicianís promise.
One key design element the Tucson nails is packaging. It never feels unwieldy or oversize in car parks or when searching for a spot, yet I canít imagine needing more interior space. Thereís ample room in the back for adults, the sense of spaciousness enhanced by a full-length glass roof. By comparison, Mazdaís CX-5 is 65mm longer, yet doesnít offer as much hip or legroom, and has 85 litres less cargo space. Also nice to know the Tucson packs a matching full-size alloy in the spare-wheel well.
Date acquired: January 2016 Price as tested: $45,490 This month: 946km @ 12.4L/100km Overall: 2080km @ 12.3L/100km
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