2011 Hyundai Tucson
2011 Hyundai Tucson Expert Review:Autoblog
Like it or not, the small crossover segment is booming. Not only are budget-minded automakers all putting forth their best efforts to create new-and-improved vehicles for the class, even higher-end manufacturers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are getting into the act hoping to win over customers looking for a more premium experience. Why? These vehicles offer an excellent coupling of both utility and economy – two of the most important must-haves for the vast majority of new car shoppers.
We recently invited the latest small CUV offering from Hyundai, the 2010 Tucson, into the Autoblog Garage for a week, and found it to be a stylish, useful workhorse for everyday tasks that doesn't sacrifice too much in the way of driving enjoyment. What's more, with a sticker starting at $19,995, it's quite a bargain. But just because the Tucson carries a wallet-friendly price doesn't mean it lacks refinement or quality. Hit the jump to find out why.
Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
Perhaps the biggest win for the new Tucson is its exterior styling. After years of lookalike product, Hyundai has finally begun to find its design muscles, and we're pleased with the way the automaker's "Fluidic Sculpture" styling sets its latest small CUV apart from the generic stalwarts of the class. We still affectionately refer to these crossovers as "cute utes" every now and then, and it's pretty safe to say that the Tucson is among the cutest of them all. No, the styling isn't a huge leap forward in crossover sex appeal, and that's okay. These types of vehicles are designed to appeal to the masses, but being able to do so fashionably will definitely earn you bonus points.
Our GLS tester benefited from Hyundai's $1,700 popular equipment package, which adds styling upgrades like handsome 17-inch alloy wheels (wrapped in 225/60 Kumho Eco Solus rubber), body-colored mirrors and door handles, a set of roof rails and tinted rear windows. If we're honest, we actually prefer the styling of our less-costly GLS model to that of the high-zoot Limited – mostly due to the dismissal of chrome trim around the front grille. This gives the Tucson a more streamlined schnoz while allowing the front fascia's design language to do the talking without being overshadowed by shiny lipstick. The sloping lines up front carry over well across the sides and around the back, but we're still scratching our heads over Hyundai's decision to add black plastic molding to the bottom of the doors. Our test car's Ash Black paint does camouflage this quite a bit, but it's still a rather large wrinkle in an otherwise sleek design.
Moving inside, Hyundai has clearly tried to mimic the exterior's chiseled good looks within the cabin. Notice the curves of the dashboard, the sloping line on the right side of the gearshift surround and the aluminum accents on the steering wheel and air vents – these all work together to give the Tucson's insides a much more upscale appearance. It's a tease, though – especially since the majority of the dash plastics can be unpleasant to the touch. The knobs and buttons found within the center stack don't feel cheap or clunky, but it's the surrounding sea of colored dash (brown, in this case) that isn't particularly pleasing. Still, the overall levels of refinement are better than what you'd get in a comparable Nissan Rogue, though they aren't nearly as good as what the Volkswagen Tiguan has to offer (at a significantly higher price point, it has to be said). And though some of the interior materials leave a bit to be desired, the Tucson's overall build quality is solid, with no noticeable rattles or unacceptable panel gaps.
Nitpicky stuff aside, the Tucson's cabin is actually a rather pleasant place to spend time. We liked the darker tan and brown color palette of our test car's interior, and as we mentioned before, the whole package looks more costly than the crossover's budget price would lead others to believe. Furthermore, it's quite comfortable and spacious. The standard cloth buckets up front provide ample amounts of support for both your back and thighs, though we wish the seat bottoms were a bit longer to provide better comfort just above the knees. What's more, little amenities like a height-adjustable driver's seat and a steering wheel that's adjustable for both rake and reach make it easy to find a comfortable driving position no matter your height. Rear seat passengers won't complain, either – there's an ample amount of both head- and legroom, and the rear bench is surprisingly comfortable as well.
The only engine available for 2010 is Hyundai's new 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which produces 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the last-generation Tucson, a V6 is not available, though the new inline-four is actually more powerful than the outgoing six-pot. Plus, when coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, it allows the Tucson to post some very respectable fuel economy numbers – 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway for our front-wheel drive tester. With a mix of spirited driving on the freeway and various jaunts through the city, we managed 25 mpg.
Obviously, the vast majority of consumers shopping the Tucson won't give two hoots about driver involvement and outright performance, but we're happy to report that from an enthusiast's perspective, the little Hyundai is certainly better than the majority of its CUV stablemates. It's not quick, but it doesn't have to be, and its 176 ponies and respectable twist are more than enough to get the stylish crossover up to cruising speed without feeling overly sluggish. The six-speed automatic is generally smooth, though the transmission did suffer from bouts of shuffling between fifth and sixth gear on the highway – even during relatively low-grade climbs. Thankfully, autobox-equipped Tucsons come standard with a manu-matic shift mode, which allowed us to override these moments of indecisiveness. Yes, the engine is quite buzzy, but it's only noticeable above the 4,000 rpm mark, so unless you're really wringing it out the racket shouldn't prove to be too obtrusive, and that sort of behavior is par for the class.
The big quirk in the Tucson's dynamics portfolio comes from the electronic power steering, a feature that is slowly cropping up on more and more new vehicles, mostly for its minor improvements to overall fuel economy. In the Hyundai, this system definitely takes some getting used to. The steering can feel somewhat heavy on center, and while it does lighten up as you turn the wheel, you'll notice that it takes more effort to make slight turns than you'd think. This extra energy is mainly noticeable around town at lower speeds, and Hyundai is still working on improving its operation. To be fair, though, the vast majority of automakers employing this type of steering aren't exactly getting it just right either, but we're warming up to the technology as the systems are being fine-tuned.
That foible aside, the Tucson's overall driving experience is better than what you'd expect out of a base-grade small CUV. There's little body roll even during moderately spirited driving, and the suspension isn't wafty, though pavement irregularities are nicely softened. The outgoing Tucson wasn't nearly as good in this regard, and we equate the 2010 model's good dynamics to its better proportions. At 103.9 inches, the new Tucson's wheelbase is only 0.4 inches longer than the model it replaces, but its front and rear tracks have been widened by 1.4 inches, giving it a better overall stance. We do find the brake pedal to be a bit touchy, with a lot of stopping force applied at initial tip-in. This takes some getting used to, but when you learn to modulate the pedal accordingly, the brakes inspire confidence – you'll rarely need to press deeply into the brake pedal to get the Tucson to stop where and when you need it to.
As a daily driver, the Tucson has the goods to please the vast majority of small CUV shoppers. Overall functionality is rather good, too. The second-row seats fold flat, meaning that the rear cargo area can swell to accommodate up to 55.8 cubic feet of haulables. It's not as capacious as, say, a Honda CR-V (which offers an impressive 72.9 cubic feet of storage, and comes at a cost), but it's certainly nothing to frown at. And when you consider that the as-tested price of our GLS tester was only $22,590, the Tucson represents one heck of a value proposition – something Hyundai's based its business case on for years.
In a time when many consumers are trading in their humdrum sedans and larger SUVs for more affordable crossovers, the Tucson offers an economical, functional, good-to-drive option wrapped in surprisingly stylish sheetmetal. It's a proper evolution of the cute 'ute, and despite competing in a hotly contested segment, this new Tucson should certainly help further Hyundai's considerable momentum.
Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
Little more than ten years ago, the meat and potatoes of the automotive universe were C and D segment sedans. Think Corolla and Camry; Focus, Fusion and (old) Taurus; Civic and Accord. But then, for better or for worse, something significant shifted in that old sales paradigm. Specifically, crossovers. Also known as CUVs, the overgrown wagons still ride around on C and D platforms, only a foot higher off the ground. Why? Blame the SUV craze and/or what automakers refer to as the "command seating position," an odd euphemism for sitting up high.
A momentary flirtation with $4 per gallon gasoline has – for the most part – shut down the large SUV game. But for whatever reason, consumers still want and demand command seating, so much so that Hyundai believes the compact CUV segment will experience more growth than any other niche in the market. Hyundai knows this specialized segment well, as the outgoing Tucson – the Korean brand's previous generation small CUV – has sold more than one million copies. However, the Tucson has been around since 2005, and to put it nicely, the old Tucson wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. And this is a gun fight. Knowing that, Hyundai has just rolled out its newest car, the 2010 Tucson. But is it a killer?
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Judging by nothing except the flowing new sheetmetal, we'd argue yes. Hyundai has banned boxy from its styling lexicon and is calling its design language of both the new Tucson and the coming-in-January Sonata "Fluidic Sculpture." The name is so contrived that Hyundai's affable President and CEO John Krafcik apologized for the art school jargon during the Tucson's introduction. But silly name notwithstanding, the results are noteworthy, if not striking. The central idea is that, "the line flows around the vehicle." As opposed to say one box grafted onto a larger box. Like the old Tucson.
Hyundai is actively seeking to establish an emotional connection with its customers. Something that, no matter how you slice it, the previous Tucson could never do. And really, most older Hyundais. No one's every been turned on by inoffensive and generic. Fluidic sculpture on the other hand, is anything but. The new curves have the potential to attract some while turning off others. That's a good thing. The best view of the Tucson is the front three-quarters where, starting with the fancy wrap-around headlamps, you can see the thrust of the design's flow and how winds its way around the car.
The sloping hood and highly raked windshield, combined with the grille, comes off as distinctive yet pleasantly restrained – especially in this era of giant, gaping maws. And while there's a little bit of an insect face to the front end, it's used to good effect. Our least favorite angles are from the side. Not only is there too much Buick Enclave going on, but the black plastic chunks below the doors look like the afterthoughts they are. The rear end is pretty simply okay, though it does resemble a Subaru Tribeca. Just a smidge. Besides, SUVs and CUVs never look great from behind. We should point out that the rear spoiler is standard – not because it looks good (it does), but because it aids fuel economy. Overall though, the new Tucson looks several orders of magnitude better than the old one. And much of its competition.
Like the bodywork, the innards of the Tuscon have received a thorough makeover. The outgoing model had all the inner charm and sophistication of a 2005 Hyundai. The new car (obviously) raises the game, but those looking for a lot of trickle down from the Genesis are advised to keep looking. Though we can reasonably compare the Tucson's innards to a Genesis Coupe, it might be damning with faint praise. Not only is there plenty of ticky tack plastic covering wide expanses (something that probably only bothers us nit picky journalist types), but you're forced to touch some of it. Specifically your elbows and knees. As the driver, your left elbow rests on a surprisingly thin piece of faux-leather covering up some rock hard plastic. After an hour, it's both noticeable and uncomfortable. And while the center stack's design is refreshing, it's bordering into Honda's weird territory of organic shapes and spread out buttons.
The 2010 Tucson comes in two flavors, GLS (standard) and Limited (premium). We tested the Limited, which adds a good deal of content to the Tucson's interior. Namely a 6.5-inch navigation screen, leather seats and Hyundai's first "panoramic" sunroof, which is a fancy way of saying two panes (though only one opens). Hats off to Hyundai for nice, comfy leather seats. You can get leather in practically any vehicle these days, but the quality is often times closer to dorm couch than anything resembling luxury. The Tucson not only uses a high grade of leather, but goes the extra step and furnishes the seats with two types of leather. A rougher, stickier grade for your thighs and shoulders, and a smoother, more butter-like surface for your butt and back. An unnecessary step perhaps, but a good one that pays dividends during the drive. The rear seats might even be better than those in the front, reminding us of the Infiniti FX's rear quarters – a compliment, to be sure. Thanks to a three-inch overall stretch versus the previous Tucson, rear passenger leg room is good, even for six footers.
At 6.5-inches big, the nav screen is only one and half inches larger than modern smartphones. Meaning it's difficult to clearly see streets and, frankly, just too small. However, when displaying the contents of your iPod (or similar), the touch screen works exceptionally well and the iPod integration is worlds better than the last generation Hyundai software we experienced in the big dog Genesis. Speaking of MP3s, those who opt for the navigation package get treated to a sweet sounding 360-watt stereo system that takes iPod, Aux or USB. The nav system also includes a back up camera, a first for the segment. Overall, the Tucson's interior is a big improvement over the last generation, but constrained by the reality of the vehicle's $18,995 starting price. As such, a completely tricked out Tucson Limited with every option including all-wheel drive will set you back $28,695.
The new Tucson is motivated by Hyundai's Theta II 2.4-liter I4. The power numbers are class-competitive, but nothing to phone home about – 176 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 168 pound-feet of torque at 6,000 rpm. For comparisons sake, the 2010 Honda CR-V produces 180 hp and the 2010 Toyota RAV4 generates 179 hp and 172 lb-ft or twist. However, there are a few howevers. The big one being gas mileage. Hyundai is serious about becoming the "global fuel economy leader," and as such has bent over backwards to ensure the new Tucson gets more MPGs than the competition. Despite every emotion in our being shouting "WRONG!" at the top of our lungs, higher mileage is probably more important than beating a CR-V in a drag race. Those wanting to beat up on a CR-V (or even the mighty 269-hp V6 RAV4) will have to wait until 2011 when a turbocharged version of the Theta II finds its way into the Tucson. Curiously, Hyundai elected not to put the Theta II GDI (gasoline direct injection) motor from the upcoming Sonata into the Tucson (reason: cost benefit of having just one motor), though we were told that mill will eventually be offered.
Equipped with the optional six-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is standard) and front-wheel drive, the 2010 Tucson delivers 23 mile per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. None of its class competitors can even claim 30 mpg on the highway, let alone 31 (the larger 2010 Chevrolet Equinox claims a freakishly high 32 mpg highway, but Hyundai doesn't consider the two vehicles in the same class). In a suddenly mileage conscious America, this is a big selling point.
Also of note is Hyundai's new six-speed autobox, which it developed and built in-house. Hyundai claims to be one of exactly three automakers in the world that builds its own six-speed automatic transmission, no doubt at a huge expense. Why invest that kind of coin in R&D? Because Hyundai's new transmission is 24 percent lighter than the old five-speed auto, has 62 fewer parts and gets 12 percent better mileage, all of which allows the Tucson to achieve its class-leading fuel economy. Remember, Hyundai is in the volume game, and once that initial cost is amortized out across a few million vehicles (you can rest assured that this transmission will appear in many other models), the money will have been well spent.
Hyundai turned us loose on some of our favorite Los Angeles canyon roads (Kanan, Latigo, Decker). Our initial thought was that such winding, treacherous asphalt might be wasted on a compact CUV. We were half right. On the plus side, the Tucson feels (and is) remarkably stiff, especially for a little crossover. Due to higher federal roll over standards, Hyundai was forced to use higher strength steel for the unibody, resulting in a tight, vibration and body-movement free vehicle.
Hyundai also put MacPherson struts in front and a sporty multi-link setup out back, just like you'd find on a whole host of higher-end performance cars (the BMW 3 Series, for instance). There's a also a thicker – but hollow, to save weight – front sway bar. The Tucson is light for a CUV – 3,331 pounds in Limited FWD Auto trim and just 3,179 as a manual GLS. As a result, the Tucson can carry a great deal more speed than you'd think into, through and out of a turn. The body also stays flat – some might say weirdly flat – through corners. Seriously, there's almost no body roll. Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be a penalty for all that stiffness in terms of ride quality, though the Tucson is on the more rigid side of the suspension aisle. Will the majority of Tucson buyers appreciate the trucklette's newfound athletic prowess? We'd wager not.
Obviously, the Tucson is not a Lotus Elise. And every reason why it's not (besides the blatantly obvious) is tied into Hyundai's quest for higher fuel economy. For instance, like the new Ford Taurus, the Tucson features electronic power steering. You can just go ahead and get used to this in most new vehicles, Hyundai or otherwise. Hyundai claims e-power steering adds three percent to a vehicle's MPG rating, and while the steering isn't bad, it's just different than a traditional hydraulic setup. How? It takes more effort to "crack" the wheel out of its on center position, meaning you initially have to put more muscle into turning the wheel and find yourself turning a degree or two more than you intended, especially at higher speeds. However, we got used to the sensation fairly quickly. We should also state that like with most new technologies in cars, the feel of electronic power steering will improve over time. In fact, Hyundai's toying with the idea of letting drivers select the amount of assist they want, though that's still further down the line.
Then there's the issue of visibility. Keep in mind that almost every aspect of the Tucson was done for fuel economy reasons – including the extreme rake of the windshield. Forward visibility is great, especially as the hood drops off so precipitously. Turning right isn't an issue either. However, when you're making a hard left, the A-pillar almost completely blocks your line of sight. It's not as bad as the new Camaro, but it's still an annoyance. We also found that during really sporty driving there's a dead spot in between second and third gear. Second leaves you too close to redline to be smooth and third leaves you torqueless. Yes, we're aware that 99 percent of Tucson buyers could care less. And we're not sure we care, either. Despite what BMW believes, no one buys a small CUV to carve canyons.
While not our first choice in performance machines, the 2010 Hyundai Tucson might in fact be our first choice if we needed a small crossover. There's little doubt that Hyundai's bringing forth the right vehicle at the right time. Its competition is not only getting long in the tooth, but all the segment stalwarts were designed prior to the recent spike in gas prices, meaning that fuel economy wasn't their overriding design concern. But it was Hyundai's. It even included a little green "Eco Indicator" light that shows up when you're driving in a fuel-friendly manner. Hyundai claims that paying attention to the light can increase mileage by 15 percent. We personally found it distracting and were happy to learn we can shut it off. Those foibles aside, we know there are a lot of folks who will appreciate the Eco light and the fact that Hyundai was just named the most fuel efficient automaker in the U.S. And even more will appreciate the combination of style, value, versatility and fun that comprises the new Tucson.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Strong value in a compact SUV.
Launched all-new for 2010, the Hyundai Tucson employs the latest technology. A compact crossover SUV, the Tucson is shorter in length but slightly wider than its chief rivals, the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Subaru Forester. The Tucson is available with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
For 2011, the Hyundai Tucson lineup includes a new value-priced Tucson GL with a smaller, more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter engine and front-wheel drive. The 2011 Tucson GL rates an EPA-estimated 23/31 City/Highway mpg when equipped with its optional 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 165 horsepower.
The Tucson GLS and Limited models are powered by a 176-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. 2011 Tucson Limited and GLS models come with more standard equipment than before.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine in the Tucson GLS and Tucson Limited wins the power-to-weight battle, the key to good performance with good fuel mileage, against every four-cylinder competitor except the turbocharged Forester XT. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder achieves an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg City/Highway. The GLS and Limited come standard with the 6-speed automatic. This compact, extremely light transmission places Hyundai in an elite group of manufacturers who have built their own 6-speed automatic. We think it's a superb transmission and it offers better fuel economy ratings than the standard 5-speed manual gearbox.
Inside, the cabin is a model of straightforwardness and simplicity. It's excellent ergonomically, meaning everything is easy to reach and operate. The materials are nice. The seats are supportive and comfortable. There's plenty of room in both the front and rear seats, with comfortable seating for four, capability for five.
Though Korean, the Tucson design is decidedly European in flavor, sporty and aggressive, capturing the crisp, agile look German styling studios are famous for. And the Tucson skillfully tricks the eye, to its benefit. Just as the huge Audi Q7 manages to appear smaller and more athletic than it is, the new Tucson does just the opposite. Its high beltline and squinty side-window configuration make the Tucson appear larger and more capacious than it really is. This may give the buyer a feeling of getting more for the money.
In short, the Hyundai Tucson is a well calculated vehicle that delivers roomy interior space, crisp performance and very good fuel efficiency.
The 2011 Tucson GL ($18,745) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/satellite radio/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, iPod/USB input jacks, iPod cable, roof antenna, power windows, mirrors and locks, remote keyless entry, trip computer, tilt steering, front and cargo area power outlets, bottle holders in all four doors, rear armrest with cupholders, 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, bodycolor rear spoiler, rear wiper and washer, and 17-inch steel wheels. Tucson GL comes standard with the 5-speed manual but is available with Hyundai's 6-speed automatic transmission ($19,745). The GL is front-wheel drive only.
Tucson GLS 2WD ($21,845) upgrades with leatherette upholstery with cloth inserts, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, Bluetooth hands-free phone, illuminated vanity mirrors and glovebox, cruise control, steering wheel audio and cruise controls, faux leather inner door trim, soft-touch interior paint, black garnish moldings, and silver roof rails, 17-inch alloy wheels, bodycolor door handles, heated fold-away outside mirrors, privacy glass, roof cross rails, and an engine cover. The GLS comes standard with the 6-speed automatic. The GLS is available with AWD and heated front seats ($23,495). The GLS Navigation Package ($2,000) adds touch-screen navigation, a review camera, premium audio with external amplifier and subwoofer, and automatic headlights.
Tucson Limited ($24,695) and Limited AWD ($26,195) upgrade to leather seating, heated front seats, eight-way adjustable driver's seat, power lumbar support for driver and front passenger, dual-zone automatic temperature control, solar glass, cargo cover, chrome grille and door handles, automatic headlights, front foglights, front wiper de-icer, side repeater exterior mirrors, and 18-inch alloy wheels. New for 2011 are an auto-dimming inside mirror with HomeLink, and high-tech shock absorbers called Amplitude Selective Dampers (ASD) from German supplier Sachs. The Limited Premium Package ($2,850) adds navigation with rearview camera, premium audio, and a panoramic sunroof that deletes the roof rack.
Safety features on all Tucson models include electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, downhill brake control, four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, EBD, brake assist, six airbags with rollover sensor, active front adjustable head restraints, lane-change assist turn signals. All-wheel drive is optional.
This crossover SUV is nothing if not modern. The Hyundai Tucson takes advantage of the current European taste for dynamic thrusting forms and aggressive angularities. It has swoopy lines darting to and fro along its flanks, nose and tail. The side windows have not the slightest hint of being rectangular, with the little triangular windows behind the C-pillar almost squinted shut.
The Tucson has an athletic, muscular look, the four wheels barely contained by their swollen, stuffed-tight wheel arches. A huge, deeply slanted windshield provides excellent forward perspective for the driver, but for rear seat passengers, looking out of the Tucson's narrow side windows is a little like peering out the gun slit of an armored car.
And there will be those who find the Tucson's exterior a little busy looking, while others will find that standing next to the Tucson and looking down its door sides, it looks oddly slab-sided, bigger and heavier than it really is.
As always, there is ample room for debate about the Tucson's styling. The one point that is not debatable is this crossover's high expectations. Its styling is up to the minute, as aggressive as any crossover in the world market. For those youngish families with a taste of sportiness, Hyundai has opened the door wide.
The Hyundai Tucson is roomy and comfortable. The front seats are excellent both in terms of firm support and quality leather. The one-touch up/down driver's power window is one of those conveniences that once you've gotten used to it, you'll never be satisfied with less. Back seat room is lavish for two, adequate for three. If you're looking for a third row, forget it. This is a compact crossover.
The first thing that strikes you climbing into the Tucson is its reassuring feeling of harmony and simplicity. This car's chief designers and stylists may have been German, but in the Tucson there is no hint of the German tendency towards self-indulgent complexity, of making you learn all over again how to do something you already know perfectly well how to do. Decidedly to the contrary, the Tucson offers excellent ergonomics, that all but lost discipline of making a car's controls self-explanatory and intuitive. This Hyundai gets an A-plus in the avoiding annoyances category.
The dashboard's black pebble-grain covering is handsome and anything but econo class. The dashboard instruments are straightforward and dignified, with a water temperature and fuel gauge delivered in electronic readouts. To the left of the steering column are controls for hill assist, a stability-control off switch and the differential locker control. Cruise control and audio switches are provided on the steering wheel, with phone controls partially hidden inside the wheel rim.
The center console is simply laid out, offering audio controls, a navigation system and Bluetooth MP3 capability. Here we encountered one weakness in the Tucson, its forward-slanting navigation screen was all but blinded by glare on sunny days. On the other hand, it is blessedly straightforward to use, with a proper radial knob provided for tuning the audio. Defrost front and rear and individual seat-heater controls are easily selected, while XM is the satellite server of choice, and it should be. Life should always be this easy. But in too many other cars, it isn't. The Tucson interior deserves an A.
The Hyundai Tucson is reasonably agile and responsive, competitive with the other small utilities in its class, such as the CR-V and Escape.
Hyundai's 2.4-liter engine is smooth and quiet in normal driving, but accelerating hard onto a freeway to join the flow of traffic, its thrust is only adequate and the yowl it makes reminds you that it has a small, four-cylinder engine. The 2.4-liter engine is rated 176 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 168 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It's comparable to the other four-cylinder engines in this class, which do not offer the thrust of a more powerful but more expensive V6. Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter Tucson engine is 22/31 mpg with front-wheel drive.
The Hyundai-designed 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth-shifting and excellent, giving the Tucson a big advantage in efficiency over other vehicles in its class. Additionally, its manual shifting capability is particularly good. In all but the most dramatically ill-advised shift requests, it gives you the gear you command.
The Tucson GL 2.0-liter engine features dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable valve timing and a variable intake system. The 2.0-liter produces 165 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 146 pound-feet at 4600. We haven't driven the Tucson GL with the 2.0-liter engine. As the GL is not significantly lighter than the GLS, we have to suspect that performance suffers accordingly. The automatic 2.0-liter is the fuel-economy champion of the line, albeit only by a whisker, with an EPA rating of 23/31 mpg City/Highway. EPA mileage estimates for the 2.0-liter with manual transmission are only 20/27 mpg.
In states that follow California regulations, the GLS and Limited are Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV), with horsepower reduced to 170 hp and torque to 163 pound-feet. Pricing and equipment remain the same, so you can satisfy your environmental good intentions with little or no sacrifice.
The motor-driven electric power steering is one of the Tucson's greatest strengths. We found it perfectly calibrated, giving firm steering response and flawless road, leaving us no excuse to become uninterested in the driving experience. Absolutely first class. For 2011, Hyundai says it's even better integrated into the vehicle's Electronic Stability Control.
Ride and handling are good. In corners, the chassis had only mild roll, as would be expected of a vehicle engineered and tuned in Germany.
However, we noted a significant difference between the front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. Ride quality with the all-wheel-drive models was noticeably harsher than that of the front-drive versions. This proved particularly true when driving the top-of-the-line Limited AWD with 18-inch wheels and therefore tires with shorter sidewalls. This is not to say that the AWD chassis is terrible, and if your planned use for your vehicle dictates all-wheel drive for climatic reasons, then the AWD Tucson will serve your purpose admirably. But if you have no particular need of all-wheel drive, save some money, and get a gentler front-wheel-drive package.
We found the brakes felt good with firm pedal feel and exemplary modulation, meaning nice, smooth, precise stops. All in all as utilities go, a satisfying driving package.
The Hyundai Tucson is a compelling choice among compact SUVs. Tucson offers a lavishly equipped package, with all the engineering, comfort, and over-the-road advantages demanded of a contemporary crossover utility. Far from being just Korean, this vehicle is nothing less than world class, at a price slightly below world class.
Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Tucson upstate New York.
Hyundai Tucson GL 2WD ($18,745), automatic 2WD ($19,745); GLS 2WD ($21,845), AWD ($23,495); Limited 2WD ($24,695), AWD ($26,195).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($2,850) includes panoramic sunroof, navigation system, rearview camera, premium audio w external amp and subwoofer; PZEV (no charge).
Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD PZEV ($26,195).
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