Hyundai’s smallest sport-ute has often been overshadowed in the marketplace, but its maker is continually improving the Tucson in hopes of turning it into a segment leader. Lots of subtle tweaks were made to the vehicle for 2012 to further improve real-world fuel mileage, although only the front-wheel-drive, 2.4-liter, automatic-transmission Tucson sees a change to its EPA fuel-mileage rating (up 1 mpg on the highway, to 32 mpg). Not so long ago — 2010 — the Tucson dropped its V-6 engine and was completely redesigned as a slightly larger but lighter vehicle. The 2.4-liter engine is powerful enough for most tasks, and the Tucson’s impressive fuel-economy numbers are worth the extra beats it might take to reach highway speeds. The interior has lots of hard plastic, but it’s nicely finished and the switchgear is well laid out. The base GL — the only Tucson available with the relatively powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder or the five-speed manual transmission — has cheap-feeling upholstery, but the GLS comes with a nice leatherette and cloth upgrade. The top-of-the-line Limited’s standard leather is better than what’s usually found at this price point, and that model also comes with heated front seats and automatic climate control and offers a sunroof and navigation. Hyundai has been on a quest to shed the soggy chassis tuning that has characterized Korean cars, and it has succeeded with the Tucson, which has merged into the small-crossover mainstream.

Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim Levels: GL, GLS, Limited
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L I-4, 165 hp, 146 lb-ft
2.4L I-4, 176 hp, 168 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 101.9 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 1000-2000 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 25.7/55.8 cu ft

The Ridgeline receives some minor front styling changes and other tweaks to improve highway fuel economy, including a new grille design. There’s also a new model, the Ridgeline Sport, which slots above the RT and gets black eighteen-inch aluminum wheels, a blacked-out grille, foglights, black head- and taillight housings, and black mirrors and door handles.

Dual-stage front air bags, front side air bags, side curtain air bags with rollover sensors, and active front head restraints are standard equipment on all Tucsons. Antilock brakes are standard, as are traction and stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, hill-start assist, downhill brake control, and tire-pressure monitors.

All: 20-23 mpg city/27-32 mpg highway

  • Good fuel mileage
  • Dynamic, attractive styling
  • A decent handler
  • Hyundai’s direct-injected 2.4-liter is unavailable
  • Steering feels strange

Underrated frugality.

  • Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Kia Sportage
  • Toyota RAV4

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