Wow, another great Hyundai interior! And another reminder of how Hyundai is breathing heavily down Toyota’s neck. Why? I just drove a Toyota RAV4, and it was priced at $28,761, slightly more than this Tucson at $28,090. Both were front-wheel-drive four-cylinder models, but the Toyota is saddled with a four-speed automatic, whereas the Tucson has a much more modern six-speed automatic, which helps the Hyundai achieve 2 mpg better on the highway, according to the EPA. This from an engine that is nearly identical to the RAV4’s in size and output. Interestingly, Hyundai has two different horsepower and torque ratings for its Theta II engine: the standard 176 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque, or 170 hp and 163 lb-ft in the so-called “green states”; with that state of tune, the Tucson qualifies as a PZEV, or Partial Zero Emission Vehicle.
Back to the Tucson’s interior: it rivals the Chevy Equinox’s as the best in this segment. Rich materials and excellent panel fits in this modern, fresh, well-designed, high-quality cabin with great ergonomics. The RAV4’s interior, by comparison, is pretty ho-hum. Our test Tucson had a $2800 premium package that includes Hyundai’s superb navigation-system interface, a sunroof, and a rearview camera, along with premium audio.
I also liked our tester’s brown exterior paint, which Hyundai calls “chai bronze.” And the two-tone leather is very upmarket, as well; our tester had baseball-mitt brown with black trim.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Finally Hyundai has a competent entry in a very competitive class. Sure, everything about the 2011 Sonata sounds great, but I haven’t driven one yet so I’m not passing judgment there. The Tucson is now a serious competitor to the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, and that’s exactly what Hyundai needs from this little crossover.
Joe DeMatio has already done a great job explaining the Tucson’s interior, so I’ll skip that and focus on the driving dynamics. First off, you’ll notice the suspension on this small crossover seems to be tuned to actually negotiate turns! It’s still far from that of a decent sedan, but the Tucson is quite nimble when you want to hustle through a few turns. Steering response is very good for a crossover and the electric assist feels natural. Even the dampers, a traditional difficulty for the Korean manufacturers to get right, are well tuned, at least with this front-wheel-drive example.
Combine the comfortable ride, great interior, and still-favorable pricing, and Toyota has even more to worry about this year.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Now that I’ve seen the 2010 Tucson on the street and in my driveway, I really like the look of Hyundai’s new cute-ute. The interior is quite sharp, too, as Joe and Phil have already noted.
Phil seemed to like the Tucson’s handling, but I was put off by the car’s steering. I’m no Ken Block as far as steering sensitivity is concerned, but I felt that the Tucson’s rack had a big dead spot on-center before quickly getting incredibly heavy yet numb as you turn the wheel. Very peculiar and somewhat distracting.
Our test vehicle offered a lot of equipment for its $28K sticker price. Still, I’d be very tempted to skip most of the fancy stuff and spring for a base, stick-shift Tucson for $19,790 — or perhaps spend another $2700 on the so-called popular equipment package and get aluminum wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control, nicer seats, and some other subtle improvements.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The Hyundai Tucson is yet another example of the new vehicles coming out of Korea that are giving Japanese (and American, and European) manufacturers some stiff competition in the value-for-money equation. While the Tucson we drove came in at $28,000 as tested, you can, as Rusty pointed out, get a pretty well-equipped base model for around $20,000, undercutting both the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 base models by a couple thousand dollars.
The interior of the Tucson is indeed quite nice – you definitely don’t feel as if you’ve sacrificed much, if anything, in refinement compared with its competitors. The same goes for the driving experience. While not as enthusiast friendly as, for example, a BMW X3, the Tucson is quite user-friendly. The steering, braking, and handling are about what you’d expect from a crossover/SUV – it’s not a corner carver but is a perfectly competent everyday vehicle that can carry your family and your belongings in relative comfort.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The spec sheet suggests that the new Hyundai Tucson is a solid competitor in the compact crossover segment with great fuel economy, good equipment offerings, and a fair price. Approaching the Tucson increases your expectations, as both the interior and exterior styling stand up to comparisons with leaders like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4.
Having driven it, the Tucson largely lives up to expectations. It’s not the sure-bet segment winner, but there are plenty of reasons to buy this Hyundai. The interior is comfortable and the controls are accessible. The steering, while not particularly sporty, felt on par with what’s expected in this segment. In most conditions, the Tucson’s engine is unobtrusive and sufficiently powerful, but I have to wonder why this compact SUV doesn’t use the same four-cylinder engine as the new Sonata mid-size sedan. Both engines displace 2.4 liters, but the Sonata offers direct injection and 198 hp to the Tucson’s 170 hp and port injection. While the Tucson’s powerplant didn’t really evoke emotions either positive or negative, I thought the Sonata’s power delivery was exceptionally strong, linear, and smooth. I’d also wager that the direct-injection engine could give the Tucson a fuel economy bump over its already-excellent numbers.
I do have two concerns with the new Hyundai Tucson. The ride seems harsher than necessary. It’s better than in past Hyundai vehicles but still doesn’t have quite the long-distance comfort that it should. The other issue is a front axle that doesn’t manage turning under power very well. Tight, 90-degree right-handers from a side street onto a main road led to sharp traction control intervention on multiple occasions. The ideal solution would be a limited-slip differential, but even revised tuning of the traction control could make the Tucson a better driver.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I only used the Tucson for a short, damp commute home, but I can agree with most of my colleagues in promoting it as another very credible offering from Hyundai. I was slightly unimpressed with the driving experience as, like Rusty, I thought the steering was numb and unnatural, but let’s face it, “steering feel” probably occupies about the same spot on the compact crossover buyer’s priority list as “does it fly?” Otherwise, the Tucson now competes toe-to-toe with the likes of the Honda CR-V in terms of interior quality and refinement while still maintaining a price advantage and a better warranty.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2010 Hyundai Tucson Limited FWD
Base price (with destination): $25,140
Price as tested: $28,090
2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Electronic stability control
Traction control system
Active front head restraints
Tire pressure monitor system
Electric power steering
Dual zone automatic climate control
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system
iPod/USB/Aux input jacks
XM satellite radio
Steering wheel audio and cruise controls
Heated front seats
Heated power mirrors
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $2850
Navigation system with 6.5-inch screen
Premium audio with external amp and subwoofer
Carpeted floor mats — $100
Key options not on vehicle:
All-wheel-drive — $1500
Rearview mirror with Homelink & compass — $250
23 / 31 / 26 mpg
Size: 2.4L Inline 4-cylinder 16 valve
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 163 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
6-speed automatic with Shiftronic shift function
Curb weight: 3331 lb
18 x 6.5-inch aluminum wheels
225/55HR18 Kumho Solus KL21 all-season tires