The Tucson is Hyundai’s entry in today’s generation of right-sized crossover SUVs – big and burly enough for most weather conditions, quite fuel-efficient and easy to drive, but unsuitable for hard off-road use. Like the Honda Pilot we reviewed last week, it’s the beneficiary of a top-to-bottom redesign that yielded a much more desirable car than the one that preceded it.
Clad in Caribbean Blue, our Tucson was a top-of-the-line Limited AWD and had a sticker price of $32,320. That’s not excessive for a car as lavishly equipped as this Tucson was. The front-wheel-drive Tucson SE starts at $22,700.
Overall, the Tucson is an exceptionally well-designed CUV, or crossover utility vehicle. Slightly bigger than the 2015 model, it’s roomy enough for very tall drivers, and the easily accessible back seat accommodates tall adult passengers with ample head room and knee room. There are plenty of small trays, cup holders and compartments in front, and the split back seat folds down effortlessly to create a nearly flat space capable of holding 61.9 cubic feet of cargo. The Tucson also handles more crisply than other Korean CUVs and SUVs we’ve driven and is quite maneuverable; Hyundai engineers resisted the impulse to bulk up this compact model.
Visibility out the rear quarters is limited by the roof configuration and very small rear side windows. But all Tucsons have rear-view cameras, and our Limited model was equipped with blind-spot detection system and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Tucson Limited’s standard-features list goes on and on, as is often the case with high-end Korean models. The list includes 19-inch alloy wheels, hands-free power liftgate, leather upholstery, power heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio, cruise and phone controls, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, Sirius satellite radio, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to pick and choose the Tucson Limited’s most desirable features and add them to lower-level models.
The Tucson’s ride is firm, but composed and fairly quiet. The engine is peppy with no discernible turbo lag.
Hyundai has acquired a reputation for daring styling, but the design team stopped short at “bold.” Aside from the Caribbean Blue and Sedona Sunset, the color choices are fairly conservative.
Unlike competitors like the smaller Buick Encore, which has just one engine/transmission alternative, Hyundai provides two – a 2.0-liter normally aspirated Four with conventional 6-speed automatic, and 1.6-liter Four with turbo and 7-speed automated manual gearbox. While some automated-manuals are awkward and frustrating to operate, Hyundai’s has a fairly conventional feel – and it improves fuel economy markedly. Our Tucson was rated at 24 mpg city, 28 highway, about the same as the Encore.
Other competing models include the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape.
The 2015 Tucson was designated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Data on the redesigned 2016 model are unavailable.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline Four, 175 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 7-speed automated manual
Weight: 3,499 lb.
Ground clearance: 6.4 in.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P245/45R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 31 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 61.9 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 1,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 16.4 gallons
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline