The Tuscon is Hyundai’s smallest crossover/SUV, and has undergone a complete redesign for 2010. While the last generation Tucson could best be described as average, the new car advances to the head of the pack in this tightly contested market, competing head-on with the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The rapid ascension in the quality and driveability of contemporary Hyundais has been impressive, and The Garage was eager to see how the cute ‘ute acquits itself in the real world.
The last generation Tucson was utterly forgettable in appearance, but the new car more than makes up for past mistakes. Hyundai has finally embraced a cohesive design language, and the Tucson is a shining example of how a little risk and excitement pays dividends. It is unfortunate that our Cotton White test car fails to show off the fluid lines that make it such a handsome piece. For that, darker colors are the way to go if you want to flaunt those curves. Still, the Tucson is possibly one of the smartest, and modern looking small crossovers available today.
Climbing into the Tucson, it is clear Hyundai allowed their interior designers the same freedom to build something different. Pleasing shapes and contrasting colors make for a cabin that is both eye-catching and easy to live with. The leatherette/cloth seats were comfortable around town and on longer trips, and finding an acceptable seating position was easy. Clear gauges and very simple controls make the Tucson an easy car to just get in and go. The high-style interior looks expensive, but the hard plastics remind you of what price bracket you are in. Even so, nothing here screams ‘low rent’.
The Tucson is offered with one engine only, a new 2.4L four cylinder rated at 176hp. Although the last Tucson was offered with a V-6, the new engine offers more power and better economy, so it’s hard to see any loss here. A six-speed manual is available on the GLS with front-wheel drive. All other Tucsons are equipped with six-speed automatics. Buyers also have the choice of front or all-wheel drive. I would describe acceleration as average, but then again buyers here aren’t looking for performance. Fuel economy figures of 21/28 mpg city/highway are very good.
Where the Tucson surprises you slightly is the sporty ride. For a crossover, the Tucson offers a tight handling package, not the soft sprung, sloppy handling you might expect. In exchange for the confident handling, I saw little trade off in ride quality. As for steering and braking, I would rate the Tucson in line with its peers, with no noticeable drawbacks. At some speeds I noticed a little more tire noise than I may have expected, but not to the point it was a distraction.
Hyundai offers the Tucson in two trim levels, base GLS and loaded Limited. Our test car was a GLS with all-wheel drive. With a base price of $21,495USD, the Tuscon manages to continue Hyundai’s practice of an easy price of entry without leaving you a stripper of a car. I would recommend the Popular Equipment Package. Priced at $1,700, you get a telescoping steering wheel, 17″ alloys, Bluetooth, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio/cruise controls, and privacy glass. Our tester also added the Navigation Package, with a 6.5″ screen, rearview camera, premium audio and automatic headlights, bringing the grand total to a still reasonable $26,090 (including delivery).
To sum, the new Tucson is tough to fault, and is a rolling testament of Hyundai’s demand to be taken seriously as a top-tier car company. For anyone shopping for a small crossover, the Tucson deserves a stop on the top of the list. That Hyundai is able to offer the Tucson with a level of style and sportiness Honda and Toyota cannot match-and at a lower price too, is a considerable feat. Well done.