Is Muscle Coming to Hyundai's Crossover Lineup? Does It Need It?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
is muscle coming to hyundai s crossover lineup does it need it

Hamstrung by Chinese animosity towards South Korea and a crossover lineup that wasn’t sufficiently buffet-like, the Hyundai brand missed its global sales target by nearly 600,000 vehicles last year. It’s a well-reported slump, and we’ve told you about the automaker’s strategy to get its mojo back.

Crossovers, man. Lots and lots of crossovers.

While fleshing out its lineup of two- and three-row haulers seems like a perfectly reasonable plan in a world addicted to cargo volume, it looks like Hyundai’s not stopping there. Some buyers will surely want more power, and Hyundai’s prepared to deliver it.

Speaking at the Korean launch of the 2019 Santa Fe (crossovers!), global sales chief Byung Kwon Rhim told Britain’s Auto Express that a hotter Tucson compact crossover is on the way. When asked what’s next for the company’s performance-minded N sub-brand, he replied, “Tucson is under development, and other models will come after that.”

A Tucson N would likely borrow the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the overseas-market i30N, which is their version of our Elantra GT. That mill cranks out 271 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Currently, the uplevel powerplant in the Tucson is a 1.6-liter turbo making 175 hp and 195 lb-ft.

N-badged models, like North America’s upcoming Veloster N, complement the added power with performance goodies like upgraded brakes and a finely-tuned suspension — something a hot crossover will need in spades.

While a Tucson N seems like a decent fit for the North American market, especially with Ford adding the “ST” badge to models like the Edge and next-generation Explorer, Hyundai’s sales boss didn’t say which countries can expect the little brute ute. Clouding the issue entirely is Hyundai performance boss Albert Biermann’s recent comments concerning a new “N Sport” designation — a mildly meaner-looking appearance package bound for any number of vehicles in the brand’s lineup. N Sport means looks, maybe upgraded rubber, but no added horsepower or suspension trickery.

Will America get a Tucson N, or just a Tucson N Sport? It all depends on whether Hyundai believes the average U.S. consumer can be swayed by horsepower in this particular segment. A hotter Tucson could spark a fire in the bellies of young parents who loathe the idea of completely submitting to the expectations of their new lifestyle. As well, it’s not something offered by any other brand.

Sales performance is yet another reason to lavish extra attention on the Tucson. U.S. sales of the crossover rose 31 percent, year over year, in February. That’s the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth for the Tucson, and its best February showing to date.

Despite a brand-wide year-over-year sales drop of 13 percent last month, sales of Hyundai crossovers rose 19 percent.

[Image: Hyundai]

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2 of 29 comments
  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Mar 05, 2018

    I don't know if the full N treatment is necessary. I think most crossover owners would just be happy with more power, brakes and maybe more aggressive damping. My wife's last gen MKX handles well enough... just needs about 100 more lb-ft down low, and maybe better brakes + wheels + tires. A stiff + clompy crossover makes no sense.

  • Saturnotaku Saturnotaku on Mar 06, 2018

    The 1.6-liter turbo is fine for the Tucson. What it really needs is a replacement for the awful DCT.

  • Jeff I like these 3rd generation Camaros much better than the 2nd generation. I might be in the minority but I always liked these Camaros. As for the S-10 pickups I had a second generation S-10 for almost 21 years very reliable so I might be in the minority here as well but when something gives me good service and costs not much to keep up then I like that vehicle.
  • Art_Vandelay The 80s ended with this car and Nevermind. Be sure to grab the Motley Crue cassette that is surely stuck in the cassette deck
  • FreedMike As I look at this car I feel my hair longing to become mulleted.
  • Tassos just scrap the hillbilly-redneck-high school junior mobileand put it out of its miseryBefore Tim steals it and pretends it is his 'used car of the day'
  • Dukeisduke Oh, and I have one of those Chinese Club knockoffs - I got one recently for my youngest daughter's 2012 Forte Koup, that was for six years my oldest daughter's ride. It got her through her senior year of high school, four years of undergrad, and her one-year Master's program. She was then gifted my mother-in-law's 2017 Elantra Limited. It has pushbutton start, so it's not susceptible to the Kia Boyz thing.The "Club" is still in the package - there's no way in hell she's gonna remember to put that thing on every time she parks it.