Medium SUVs are among the most popular choices for family transport in Australia today.
They come with a pretty predictable set of attributes. They are five- and seven-seat wagons with petrol and diesel engines choices and light-duty all-wheel drive systems or front-wheel drive.
The Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 are the established leaders in the class, but the Hyundai Tucson and Mitsubishi Outlander are in that next a lump of competitors behind them, all offering a quality product at an affordable price.
Without further ado then, let’s see how the Tucson and Outlander shape up and compare.
The Korean brand Hyundai has been on-sale in Australia for more than 30 years and the quality of its vehicles, its positioning and the way Aussie buyers see it certainly have changed in that time.
The Tucson medium SUV has been instrumental in that transition from the early cheap and cheerless times to today’s big-selling line-up that is modern, sophisticated and high-quality.
The Tucson first appeared in Australia in 2004. Hyundai swapped to the ix35 name when the second generation launched in 2010, but swapped back to Tucson for the third generation that launched in 2015.
With the fourth generation Tucson going on-sale in 2021, it’s the third generation Tucson you’ll find on Cars24.
While only a five-door five-seat wagon, the Tucson was offered in a wide variety of drivetrains and model grades. At launch, generation three included 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated and 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines; a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel; manual, auto and dual-clutch auto transmissions; front- and all-wheel drive and three equipment grades.
Only lower spec Tucsons got Apple CarPlay while the top-spec Highlander was fitted with autonomous emergency braking. Android Auto later became available via a software update.
Depending on grade, Tucson production was sourced from Korea or the Czech Republic. All models received Australian suspension tuning.
The reception was positive for the Tucson, which was recognised for its interior space and presentation, its comfort, practicality and economy. That localised suspension helped the Tucson be rated one of the best driving medium SUVs.
An early setback for the new Tucson was a four star ANCAP safety rating rather than the maximum five. This was the result of lower leg protection for the driver being rated only marginal in crash testing.
Within months Hyundai had modified the Tucson and had the car re-tested. It then achieved five stars.
A 2017 upgrade brought a new-generation entry-level 2.0-litre engine and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard fitment across the range.
A mid-2018 facelift included an eight-speed auto for diesels and a new touchscreen tablet. AEB was now available for all models (although only auto trans), but not standard on lower specs.
That meant the Hyundai lagged behind many rivals on this crucial safety feature. It took until the following year for AEB to become standard on all Tucsons bar the manual base model Active.
Mitsubishi has a long and interesting history in Australia. The Japanese company used to manufacture cars here, taking over the old Chrysler plant in Adelaide in the late 1970s and producing famous models including the Sigma, Magna and 380 until 2008.
The Mitsubishi Outlander was never built here, but it has been a medium soft-roader SUV staple in Australia for almost 20 years. It was first imported in 2003, was updated in 2006 and was again overhauled in 2012.
The fourth generation Mitsubishi Outlander was being rolled out late in 2021 in Australia, which means it’s the third generation you’ll find on Cars24.
Based on an updated version of what Mitsubishi called its GS platform, the new Outlander was barely any bigger than its predecessor, with most of that added space built into the cargo area.
The comprehensive launch range included 2.0 and 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engines; a new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel; manual, auto and CVT auto; front- and all-wheel drive and three model grades.
A key Outlander attribute was - and is - the availability of both five- and seven-seat options, although the third row stowaway seats have always been very much limited on space and for young kids. Disappointingly, curtain airbags only protected the first two rows of occupants.
The reception for the Outlander was relatively muted. Its driving behaviour was uninspiring, something counterbalanced by its comfort, interior practicality and affordability.
Spicing things up was the plug-in hybrid petrol-electric Outlander PHEV launched in Australia in 2014, with pricing around the $50,000 market (a lot in other words).
The first plug-in SUV sold in Australia, its two 60kW e-motors and lithium-ion battery pack assisted the 2.0-litre petrol engine with an acceleration boost and helped lower claimed fuel consumption to just 1.9L/100km… on average in theory.
Sadly, all the electro-gubbins meant there was no room for a third-row seat.
Mitsubishi gave the first signs it was heading off on a much bolder styling course when it unveiled the 2015 Outlander with its twin-tusk chrome-laden grill called a ‘Dynamic Shield’. It also claimed more than 100 component changes, many of them under the skin attempting to improve the drive experience.
There were more updates in 2016, 2017, 2018 and in 2019 but it took until the 2020 model year for autonomous emergency braking to become a range-wide Mitsubishi Outlander standard fitment.
IN 2019 the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV uprated from a 2.0- to 2.4-litre petrol engine and from a 12kWh to 13.8kWh battery pack (fuel consumption went back up to 1.9L/100km). In 2021 the hybrid added bi-directional charging capability and a sporty new GSR model with Bilstein shocks.
The third generation Outlander’s lasted so long and got so many do-overs because of the alliance Mitsubishi entered with Nissan and Renault in 2016. That delayed the new model, which shares much technically with the Nissan X-Trail and Renault Koleos.
Of these two, the Hyundai Tucson is the better vehicle in terms of drive experience, interior quality and equipment levels. So that makes it a pretty straight forward choice over the Mitsubishi Outlander.
That’s unless, you need seven seats and then the Outlander is the only choice. The Outlander is also the one if emissions-reducing electrification is on your list of buying requirements.