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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

N Line injected Hyundai Tucson now has the show to match the go

Tried-and-tested turbodiesel engine continues without change, but now relies on all four wheels to put its power to the ground.

Despite having a presence in South Africa since mid-2020, it can be argued that Hyundai’s scorching pair of N models, the i30 N and Kona, have only recently started garnering significant attention from a market where “affordable” performance often comes with the letters “GTI” and “R”.

While the addition of the red-hot Tiguan R last year has all but secured Wolfsburg’s existence in almost every performance niche, a direct rival from the Korean marque has so far not materialised in spite of it being rumoured as far back as 2019.

Aiming for Wolfsburg

Although it could be debated that Hyundai got the jump on Tiguan R with the original Tucson Sport in 2017, a comparison is likely to be viewed with some content in the modern sense.

Compared to the mass market all-wheel-drive R with its DSG dual-clutch gearbox, the locally developed Sport only had front-wheel-drive, a limited production run and a manual transmission Hyundai only “rectified” two years later with the follow-up that still lacked all-wheel-drive, but offered both an automatic box plus the option of a turbodiesel engine.

ALSO READ: Powered by diesel N-hanced Hyundai Tucson N Line priced

While it continues to remain unknown as to whether a full-bore Tucson N will indeed see the light of day to rival the Tiguan R, an alternative to the step-down Tiguan 2.0 TSI R-Line has become a reality in the form of the Tucson N Line.


Unveiled in Europe two years ago, the Tucson N Line follows the same principle as the Volkswagen by being all about aesthetics inside and out derived from the i30 N and Kona N.

Hyundai debuts Tucson N Line in South Africa
Down the side, the N Line receives sportier door sills, colour coded wheel arches and at the back, a silver skidplate and dual exhaust outlets.

Already dramatic in appearance without the N applique, the adaptions applied to the flagship Elite model comprises dual-tone 19-inch N alloy wheels, Phantom black mirror caps, the sporty N front and rear bumpers, a gloss black finish for the grille with its integrated Parametric headlights, extended door sills, and satin silver front and rear skidplates.

Hyundai Tucson N South Africa launch
Unique to the N Line is the model specific 19-inch alloy wheels.

The finishing touches include gloss black accents on the front bumper below the fog lamps, colour coded wheel arch cladding, dual exhaust outlets, a blacked-out the D-pillar and a choice of four colours; White Cream, Phantom Black, Titan Grey and Crimson Red.

Sure this is not a “real” N?

Inside, the racy finishes are just as evident and consists of N sport seats trimmed in leather and suede, alloy pedals, a black roofliner, the N steering wheel, N embroidered front seatbacks, red stitching and in place of the regular Tucson’s J-shaped gear lever, the same leather-trimmed stubby item with red stitching found on the Kona N.

Hyundai debuts Tucson N Line in South Africa
Interior changes are evident.

Notable specification items, the majority carried over from the Elite, is dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charger, six-speaker sound system, 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric tailgate and keyless entry as well as push-button start.

Hyundai debuts Tucson N Line in South Africa
N gear lever taken directly out of the Kona N.

On the safety side, little has been left to chance as the N Line gets Adaptive Cruise Control, Driver Attention Alert and Blind Spot Monitoring as standard, along with Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Collision Avoidance Assist, a reverse camera, plus front and rear parking sensors.

Hyundai debuts Tucson N Line in South Africa
Sport seats are trimmed and leather-and-suede and are not only electric, but also heated and ventilated.

While South African models are excused from receiving the same electronically adjustable suspension as the European N Line, Hyundai has availed four driving modes; Eco, Normal, Smart and Sport, and a further three off-road settings; Mud, Sand and Snow.

Diesel and AWD

The latter system also provides the hint of the N Line’s intention as unlike any current Tucson model, the newcomer becomes the first, and so far only, derivative to receive Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system reserved for until now for the Sante Fe.

A configuration that pitches the Tucson N Line closer still to the Tiguan R-Line, the key difference is the choice of engines as Hyundai has made its new flagship available solely with the Elite’s 2.0 CRDI turbodiesel engine instead of opting for a turbo-petrol.

Hyundai Tucson N South Africa launch
Practicality remains as the boot can accommodate between 539 and 1 860-litres of luggage.

Compared to the previous Tucson Sport though, and in-line with the N Line philosophy, Hyundai has resisted the urge to extracted more muscle out of the R-series oil-burner to go with the spruced-up exterior.

Whereas its predecessor made 150kW/460Nm from the same sized powerunit, the N Line offers up the same 137kW/416Nm as the Elite delivered to the ground through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The drive

Said to get from 0-100 km/h in 9.4 seconds and on a top speed of 201 km/h, the Tucson N Line comprehensively bows down to the old Sport in terms of performance, however, during the local launch around of the outskirts of Bronkhorstspruit and Cullinan last week, it felt more impressive and better adept than what its figures suggest.

Besides its appearance, that received little way in the way of objection, the N Line is still quick to respond as a result of its engine being saddled with comparatively little lag.

Whereas an almost violent surge of power characterised the Sport the moment the accelerator received attention, the N Line’s delivery is still potent, but not as ferocious or wayward as a result of all of the wheels being called upon to work together instead of the fronts only.

Select Sport mode, the response improves significantly, but without the same dramatic “kick-in the back” sensation the Tucson Sport exhibited.

Hyundai Tucson N South Africa launch
N Line means exterior and interior tweaks, but no additional power.

The lack of the EU’s model suspension hasn’t been to the Tucson N Line’s detriment either as the ride negates imperfections without sending judders into the cabin, or becoming brittle with a sudden surface change.

At the same time, the heated, ventilated and electric front seats are comfortable and supportive, the steering balanced perfectly with just the correct amount of feedback, and the gearbox about as seamless and slick as you would expect, although the lack of paddle shifters was missed the moment to give the N Line some stick came about.

While the 150 km or so launch route through the backroads of Gauteng didn’t involve any gravel tracking, the N Line felt surefooted and with each stab of the accelerator, unsurprisingly devoid of any traction loss as all four wheels gripped with immediacy.

As for the interior itself, comfort remained high and space more than enough, although the expanded use of piano key black detailing won’t appeal to everyone in spite of build quality being solid and plush.


So-called aesthetically enhanced models often without any extra grunt are known to be popular in South Africa as Volkswagen’s R-Line models and more recently, Toyota’s GR Sport derivatives have proven.

As much it falls in the same category, the Hyundai Tucson N Line feels more substantial and anything but a sportier Elite with all-wheel-drive it ultimately is.

A package well devised and aided in no uncertain terms by what resides underneath its bonnet, it makes for an enticing Tiguan R-Line alternative the petrol-fuelled favourite from Wolfsburg should be more wary off more than ever before.

NOW READ: Sporty N-ified Hyundai Tucson coming to South Africa in May

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