Like most of Hyundai’s newest products, the compact Tucson crossover utility vehicle is on-the-road proof of how far Hyundai’s come in just the past few years. The new Tucson is screamingly better-looking, more-refined and more competitive than the frumpy and fairly crude crossover that carried the name before.
The previous Tucson was blocky and dull, but the new one is taut, with almost European-like lines and a lithe shape that brings a welcome freshness to a vehicle class that’s become too loaded with copycats. Everybody’s got a compact crossover, but even from a distance, you won’t mistake the Tucson for anything else.
We particularly appreciate the complex curves of the rear, where this breed’s ubiquitous hatchback usually is the recipe for “blah.” But instead, the Tucson’s almost cheeky hind quarters match the assured lines of its grille and hood, creating an overall impression of a vehicle that’s more expensive than it is. Pricing for the Tucson starts at $18,745 with the all-new for 2011 entry-level GL trim. Hyundai also offers GLS and Limited trims on 2011 Tucson.
On the inside, there’s nothing unconventional about the two-gauge instrument cluster or the center console layout, but the nice 6.5-inch navigation screen that commands the center stack seems almost like a luxury at the Tucson’s price point. There’s a certain elegance to the design and everything fits beautifully; the switches and dials mostly work with ease and the “deluxe” seat cloth is a convincing leather substitute.
We didn’t like the abundance of hard surfaces, though, where you’re likely to toss coins, pens, and larger things, only to have them slide and scrape and grind annoyingly with every turn of a corner. Nowhere — not the door pockets, not the cupholders, or big center box, or even the tray ahead of the shifter — is there a square inch of soft material to lend traction and squelch the noise.
Spray down the interior with that wonderful rubbery stuff the enlightened car-company accountants permit and customer-satisfaction scores would immediately soar.
If there’s one letdown from Hyundai’s mostly satisfying compact crossover, it’s the general impression that they left out a few pounds of sound insulation from the Tucson’s interior. There’s a tad too much road hiss. The hard-working engine is never far from your thoughts and there’s enough wind rush at higher speeds to remind you that all these compact crossovers, with their high roofs and slightly jacked-up ground clearance, are not the serenest of interstate cruisers.
We do like the deportment of the Tucson’s standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, as it revs cleanly and pulls you away from a stop well enough. But the 4-cylinder tires quickly if you try to accelerate at higher speeds and it feels burdened by the optional all-wheel-drive system and the extra weight it brings. However, one of the Tucson’s niceties is six speeds for the automatic transmission, which lets the engine run with less stress during cruising speeds and helps pump up the highway fuel economy figure to a healthy 28 miles per gallon.
The new Tucson is miles better than the original. Like all the latest models from Hyundai, the 2011 Tucson has intriguing, expensive-looking styling, competitive refinement, loads of equipment and the rarest feature of all these days: after drinking all this in, it’s likely to make you smile when you see the price. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters
Next Bonus Wheels: 2011 Honda Accord
HYUNDAI TUCSON GLS
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD compact CUV
BASE PRICE___________________ $21,495 (as tested: $26,090)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 176 at 6000 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 168 at 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 103.9 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 173.2 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 34.7 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 14.5 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010