When the Hyundai Tuscon first came out in 2009 as a 2010 model, small SUVs were practical but not very attractive. Many were boxy and functional but not something that you could call “pretty” to look at.
Hyundai changed all of that by adding some spice to the small SUV segment. These days most of the small SUVs have become more shapely, more attractive, and arguably we have Hyundai to thank for that.
In this increasingly competitive small SUV market, can look-at-me styling and newfound efficiency still keep Hyundai’s trucklet as a contender? Keep on reading and find out.
Gone is the love/hate puppy dog styling of the previous generation Tuscon. The current model features swoopy styling with its stylish taper from the A-pillar to the D pillar.
Personally though, I didn’t find it to be too much of a problem when merging or checking blindspots. With its large windshield, visibility out front is excellent. Just be careful when parking as the nose tapers off significantly. Fortunately, the Tuscon’s snout is not too long so judging where the front end is will not be too difficult.
Inside you’ll find a basic but well organized interior. Step-in height is reasonable with its low floor and seat height. No need for any running boards or side steps here.
The dash is organized in a no nonsense fashion with large and easy-to-use (and find) buttons. The controls are at a nice height with not too much reach from the driver’s seat.
There was plenty of legroom and headroom for myself at 5’9”. The seat has a wide range of adjustments and can be lifted quite high for shorter drivers. The steering wheel also tilts and telescopes for maximum adjustment.
One small complaint is that the plastic trim on the steering wheel extends all around the lower inside circumference of the wheel. I thought that it was a tad hard and uncomfortable over longer drives but your mileage may vary.
The front cloth/leatherette seats in my Tuscon GLS were surprisingly sculpted for a small SUV. There is an above average amount of lateral and thigh support but no lumbar support. A small demerit there.
While the lateral support is great for driving enthusiasts such as myself, my passengers were divided into two camps. Half found the front seats really comfortable and supportive, the other half flat and a bit firm for longer hauls. I should note that the leather seats in the Tuscon Limited do feel more cushy than in my GLS tester, so be sure to try them out in that trim level when shopping around.
Happily, the rear floor is nearly flat with minimal driveshaft intrusion, thereby resulting in no rear centre floor “hump”. This contributes to more rear leg and foot room especially for the centre rear passenger.
Despite the niggles, all passengers unanimously enjoyed the trucklet’s expansive glass moonroof. It really brightened up the interior significantly.
Cargo space in the Tuscon is much improved over the previous generation vehicle but it still has less cargo space (25.7 cu ft with seats up) than some competing vehicles in its class. The steeply raked tailgate window eats up some room here.
The Mazda CX-5 for example, has 34.1 cu ft with the rear seats up. For the most part, I don’t think this is too much of an issue unless you need to move a lot of stuff in one trip.
Notable mention: While my Tuscon GLS did not come with a navigation system, Hyundai cleverly integrated a trick rearview camera display into the rearview mirror.
It was much appreciated as the Tuscon’s view out back is a limited due to its smallish rear window.
SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Handling-wise, the Tuscon feels quite agile and nimble. There is an acceptable amount of body roll unless you really push it hard in the twisties. Because the Tuscon is one of Hyundai’s older designs, it has an honest to goodness hydraulic power steering rack. It has a decent amount of road feel, much better than electric systems. My only complaint is that it is a bit numb off-centre and that the steering ratio could be a bit quicker.
The Tuscon’s good handling helped it through any slippery conditions and emergency manoeuvres I had to put it through. The stability control seemed to be well calibrated enough to step in only when needed and the intelligent all wheel drive system seemed to work quite well. Drivers can also lock the torque split 50/50 between front and rear wheels for deep sand or snow.
What isn’t as impressive about the Tuscon is its ride on rough roads and the road noise. Small SUVs as a class are a bit noisy and the Tuscon is no exception. Wind noise is acceptable at low speeds but as you make it up to highway speeds it gets a bit loud inside.
On well paved surfaces the ride is perfectly acceptable. However on poor roads, the ride is a bit too stiff and the suspension lets even minor surfaces undulations ripple through more than I liked.
Power comes from Hyundai’s 2.4L 4-cylinder direct injection engine with 182hp and 177 ft-lbs/torque. It has adequate power around town and is competitive with other vehicles in its class. It won’t blow your socks off, but it’s responsive and delivers decent fuel economy.
Like some other Hyundais, there is an “Active ECO” function that can be activated to save fuel. Essentially, it modifies engine operation so you get more gradual acceleration. Transmission behaviour is also altered so that it tends to shift to higher gears sooner and isn’t as quick to downshift for passing. Active ECO also cuts off the fuel supply during deceleration. Hyundai says all this electronic management can increase fuel economy as much as 7%.
Normally a vehicle’s warranty coverage is not worth of being mentioned in a review. However Hyundai is so confident in the quality of its products that it provides an absolute standout in the industry.
Whereas other vehicles in its class only include a 3 year/80,000 kms warranty, the Tuscon, like other Hyundais, comes with a 5 year/100,000 kms comprehensive limited warranty (that includes powertrain and emissions). It also includes a 3 year unlimited mileage roadside assistance program.
It’s really quite amazing how much progress the South Korean auto manufacturers have made over a few short years.
My Tuscon GLS came in at an MSRP of $28,899. This is over $3,000 cheaper than a comparably equipped Mazda CX-5!
Overall, the Hyundai Tuscon is a pleasant small SUV. While the platform is starting to show its age a little, the Tuscon is still worth considering particularly due to its outstanding warranty and unbeatable value.