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