The Hyundai Tucson is a compact crossover SUV that delivers responsive performance and good fuel economy. It's roomy, comfortable cabin makes it easy to live with. A choice of two four-cylinder engines is available. Tucson is a bit smaller than the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
Tucson was last redesigned for the 2010 model year. For 2012, Hyundai's smallest crossover benefitted from bigger brakes, improved air conditioning, a smoother ride, and other improvements.
For 2014, Hyundai has dropped the entry-level Tucson GL model. New 2.0- and 2.4-liter engines replace the prior multi-port injection units, featuring new GDI (gasoline direct-injection) systems. (The GDI 2.4-liter has gained 6 horsepower and 9 pound-feet of torque.)
All 2014 Tucson models are available with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. For the first time, the entry-level (now GLS) model can be equipped with AWD. Manual shift is no longer offered, as all versions have a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Hyundai's Blue Link safety/service/telematics system is now standard on the Tucson Limited. A larger (7-inch) touch-screen is used for the optional navigation system, which includes HD radio. A Bluetooth hands-free phone system is standard on all 2014 Tucsons, which also gain two-stage reclining 60/40 split rear seats and a standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel with integrated audio and cruise controls. Blue-light cupholder illumination is new for 2014.
New projector headlights with LED accents are installed on 2014 Tucsons, along with LED taillights. Models with a panoramic sunroof now include roof rails. All versions have standard SACHS amplitude-selective shock absorbers. Standard 17-inch and optional 18-inch alloy wheels have been redesigned for 2014. Roof side rails now are included with the available panoramic sunroof. Tucson Limited models get a shark-fin antenna.
The 2014 Hyundai Tucson lineup begins with the GLS. Powered by a 164-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Tucson GLS rates an EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg City/Highway with its 6-speed automatic transmission. (Pre-2014 Tucsons were rated as high as 21/30 mpg City/Highway, but Hyundai revised some fuel-economy estimates in late 2012.)
Tucson SE and Tucson Limited models hold a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. Hyundai's superb 6-speed automatic comes with a driver-selectable Active Eco mode, which modifies the response of the engine and transmission to changes in throttle position. Hyundai says this can yield a 5- to 7-percent gain in real-world fuel economy. EPA ratings for the 2.4-liter Tucson with Active Eco are 21/28 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive (20/25 mpg with all-wheel drive).
A PZEV version of the 2.4-liter engine, for buyers in California and other regions, has slightly reduced ratings: 180 horsepower and 176 pound-feet.
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, too. Tucson seats are supportive and comfortable. There's plenty of room in both the front and rear seats, with comfortable seating for four and capability for five.
Though manufactured in South Korea, the Tucson design is decidedly European in flavor: sporty and aggressive, capturing the crisp, agile look for which German styling studios are famous. 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 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 2014 Hyundai Tucson is a well-calculated vehicle that delivers roomy interior space, crisp performance and very good fuel-efficiency.
Hyundai's 2014 Tucson competes with the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and other compact SUVs.
The Hyundai Tucson takes advantage of the current European taste for dynamic thrusting forms and aggressive angularities. Swoopy lines dart 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.
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.
There will be those who find the Tucson's exterior a little “busy” looking. Others may feel that when 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.
Inside, the Hyundai Tucson is roomy and comfortable. The front seats are excellent both in terms of firm support and quality leather (in Limited models). The one-touch up/down driver's power window is one of those conveniences that might change your mind: once you've gotten used to it, you may 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. 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. Instruments are straightforward and dignified, with water temperature and fuel gauges delivering electronic readouts. To the left of the steering column are controls for hill assist, a stability-control on/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, the navigation system (if so equipped) 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/rear and individual seat-heater controls are easily selected. 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's a small four-cylinder. For 2014, the newly direct-injected 2.4-liter engine is rated 182 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Tucson's larger engine is comparable to the other four-cylinders in this class, which do not offer the thrust of a more powerful but more expensive V6. Although Hyundai claims large real-world gains for the Active Eco function, EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2014 2.4-liter Tucson engine is a modest 21/28 mpg City/Highway, 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 GLS 2.0-liter engine features dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable valve timing and a variable intake system. Now featuring direct injection, the 2.0-liter produces 164 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 151 pound-feet at 4000. We haven't driven a Tucson with the 2.0-liter engine. As the GLS is not significantly lighter than the SE or Limited, we have to suspect that performance suffers accordingly. The 2.0-liter is also equipped with the Active Eco system, but its EPA ratings are 23/29 mpg City/Highway with front-drive (21/25 mpg with all-wheel drive).
In states that follow California regulations, the S Eand Limited are Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV), with horsepower reduced to 180 hp and torque to 176 pound-feet. Pricing and equipment remain the same, so you can satisfy your environmental good intentions with little or no sacrifice.
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 feel, leaving us no excuse to become uninterested in the driving experience. Absolutely first class. And of course, it's 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 in ride quality 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 Tucsons. 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 a Tucson AWD will serve your purpose admirably. But if you have no particular need for all-wheel drive, save some money, and get a gentler front-wheel-drive package. There are a lot of rough roads out there, and spilling your cappuccino is no way to live.
We found the brakes felt good with firm pedal feel and exemplary modulation, meaning nice, smooth, precise stops. All in all, as utilities go, the Hyundai Tucson is 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 others in that league.
Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Tucson in upstate New York. John F. Katz contributed to this report from Pennsylvania.