Hyundai Tucson:  Good First Try

By The Car Family

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Hyundai’s Tucson is an exceptionally fine compact sized SUV that is well priced, well mannered, and sure to generate interest with a more refined exterior and well-done interior. Available with either four or six cylinder engines, the Tucson is built on a sedan car platform for a svelte ride and adequate acceleration that makes this of interest to the more gentle SUV driver but not to those who like to duel the snow plow driver for first rights on winter roads.We tested a $30,000 model and were very impressed with the Tucson’s ability to handle both family transportation issues and its ease of driving. Of course, we would much prefer if Hyundai put the 3.5 engine in the Tucson, but than why would anyone consider their other SUV, the
Santa Fe. Indeed, Hyundai knows this and is extensively redesigning the more upscale
Santa Fe to help keep the separation clear between the two. The problem is going to be in the pricing where both SUVs are certain to tread on each other’s MSRP listings.
You can get the Tucson with either front or all-wheel-drive and in Base, Elite and Elite S configurations. The base comes standard with the 140 horsepower four-cylinder engine and a five speed manual transmission. We recommend you buy the slightly more expensive six cylinder powered Elite and Elite S that have a 173-hp V6 and an automatic transmission if you intend to do anything more than drive this Tucson on paved roads with light loads.

Mom’s view: Close your eyes and you feel like you are in a Toyota RAV 4. When you look at the outside it has Honda CR-V lines. In other words, the Tucson looks like a mating of the two most powerful sellers in the compact SUV field.Nevertheless, the family lineage stops there because the pricing of the
Tucson is significantly less than the Japanese brands and the warranty is significantly more. Hyundai has done a fine job of putting together this product to a price point of about A$30,000. The standard features, as usual with this company, are quite generous and include full-length side curtain airbags, front air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction control, stability control, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, cruise control, heated outside mirrors, roof rack side rails, a rear intermittent wiper and a CD stereo system. Now that is a well-equipped vehicle at any price, but when you are talking about the A$30,000 range and they throw in a limited 10-year/100,000-mile warranty you are talking serious bargain.
Driving the
Tucson is very sedanish. The suspension is soft, the ride compliant, and the effect is quite Toyotish. When you need to fold the rear seats down you can do so quickly and that creates a level cargo floor. You don’t even have to take the rear seat headrests off to do this. Inside, the Tucson offers nearly 23 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seat up, and about 66 with the seat folded. That is quite decent and the rear hatch isn’t too difficult to reach, open, or close. The best exterior feature is the fact the Tucson does not have one of those dangerous and difficult to handle rear hatch mounted spare tires.
We did not test the four wheel drive model, but it does have an Electronic InterActive Torque Management system that routes up to 99 percent of the available power to the front wheels under ideal traction conditions for the sake of fuel economy. When the going gets rough all you need to do is relax. The system automatically sends up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. If you wish, you can use the dash-mounted lock button to lock the driveline into a 50/50-split when driving in snow or heavy rain.
Overall, I would rate the Tucson as the best compact SUV value for the money, but note that we have not yet evaluated the new Kia Sportage SUV that has many similar traits to the Tucson and is priced competitively. I would tend to believe that the Hyundai’s resale might be stronger than the Sportage.Dad’s view: Not my favorite compact SUV, the Subaru Forester is, but this is my favorite Hyundai and perhaps the best bargain in the niche. Unless you only use the Tucson for commuting stay away from the 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine that even with continuously variable valve timing, only makes 140 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. Order the optional 2.7-liter V6 engine that produces 173 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. I really enjoyed the larger engine in combination with the automatic transmission. It wasn’t fast, but it wasn’t a snail either. We got about 22 mpg with this combination and on regular fuel. If you are into comparison shopping I would guess that the V6 engine is comparable to the four cylinder powered units in the RAV4 and CV The larger fuel tank on the V6 Tucson enables you to make 350-mile highway trips.The main selling point, outside of the pricing, was the
Tucson’s ride quality. It was quite composed even on mildly rain-gutted roads and only bottom-less potholes disturbed its nature. On the other hand, I did not like the feel of the brakes. They were too mushy feeling and you need a while to get accustomed to its slow stopping when fully loaded.
There is little doubt the Hyundai has become an acceptable manufacture in the SUV field. Hyundai’s Santa Fe is an exceptionally priced vehicle and the Tucson is even better. It does make you wonder if the next model is going to be named for a trendy city in Texas or California.

Young working woman’s view: Very tempting indeed is my pronouncement about the
Tucson. It clearly fits with my life style, does not have that overbearing look of large SUVs, is much more environmentally friendly, and is neat and proper looking both inside and out. Very tempting just as it sits, but when you toss in that warranty on the drive train, you have a compact SUV that is going to be difficult to ignore by smart shoppers not caught up in the brand name game.
There were some need for improvement areas such as the lack of storage space in the cabin, brakes that reacted too slowly for me, and the amount of cold air seeping through the large window insulation moldings. In addition, you need to watch your head when opening the rear hatch if you are tall, and although the rear hatch window opens for easy access, it is difficult to tell when it is closed. Finally, when you ask for more out of the V6 engine it lets you know with a painful growl. Of course, I wouldn’t worry with that powertrain warranty covering me well into my mid-30’s when my financial security would be assured by frugal purchases such as this
The long and short of it are that the Tucson is on my short list of vehicles to seriously consider buying. I can haul what I need, get that raised seating position I like, and can enter and exit without any problems regardless of what I am wearing. My only caveat would be to wait until the government crash scores are published, but the Tucson’s big sister, the Santa Fe, fared well and I expect the
Tucson to continue that family tradition.

Young college going male’s view: Not too bad, but certainly not as athletic as it could be with firmer styling and larger than 16-inch rims. Although my CD continues to sell well on Tower Records (Simple Thoughts), I still have not reached the level of financial security where a bargain priced vehicle does not draw my attention. What I most liked about the Tucson was how not like a Hyundai it looked. Gone was the guppy grill of the
Santa Fe and the let’s use every thing on our French curve template side panels. The removable mat in the cargo area was said to be washable, which is a nice touch. The spare tire is where it belongs and not clinging to the reach hatch like a pimple, and the tool kit is nicely fitted into a tray.
There was a lot of first-rate, and some bad for the
Tucson’s report card. The gauges were easy to read and reach. The steering wheel had a nice feel to it and it even tilted. However, the seats weren’t all that comfortable for me. They needed more lumbar padding and I was also not enamored with the reduced visibility to the sides because of the size of the rear pillars. The interior looked light and airy, but I would have preferred a darker selection due to the inevitability of dirt and stains. The interior is not that quiet and the radio reception was only adequate.
Would I buy a
Tucson? Yes, and no. I like a more rigorous handling vehicle and the
Tucson is not. I like pep and it isn’t here. Consequently I would say no. As for the yes part of my brain, I would say warranty, value, cargo capacity, looks, and ride height.

Family conference: The Tucson is only a few percentage points away from being a top rung vehicle. Unfortunately, bringing those few demerits up to snuff would require more money added to the bottom line. This Hyundai rests in the good enough column with the Honda CR-V, and the Toyota RAV4 and a notch below the segment leading Subaru Forester. Regardless, we could have never imagined a Hyundai being so successful with SUVs this rapidly when their sedans have struggled so long. Drive it and the Kia Sportage, which is a little sportier, obviously. For a list of all vehicle websites go to and click on business.