The compact crossover space is among the most competitive for car-makers, with the segment stalwarts putting up better sales numbers in recent months than even the ever-popular Toyota Camry. If you want to dominate the auto market of the next five years, selling a good crossover is a necessity.
The Hyundai Tucson competes with the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue, but hasn’t managed to sell as well as those cars. I spent a week with one and I'm still not sure why, because I liked it. Here's what you should know.
Save for a few Mazdas, Jaguars and Volvos, most crossovers are still frumpy and bloated. While it’s still not as good looking as a Mazda CX-5, the Hyundai Tucson is handsome.
Most importantly, it’s not overwrought. Newer crossover designs are trending towards over-creasing and over-sharpening, a trend that will date them quickly. Now in is third year on sale, this generation Tucson looks smart and comes in attractive colors that help it stand out without being ostentatious.
Nobody sitting in your Tucson will be particularly blown away by the design, but Hyundai’s usability-first interior mantra is present in full force. Nice, tactile knobs and buttons are well-placed for core functions.
Anything that can’t be accomplished with those knobs is controlled through Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment system, one of my favorites. It’s smooth, easy to use and has convenient extras like the ability to rewind your favorite satellite radio stations.
My $34,430 Tucson Limited AWD came with heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, parking sensors, a premium audio system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a mega-panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking. That's a lot for the price.
The Tucson's 1.6-liter 175 horsepower turbocharged engine feels motivated off the line. Hyundai’s 7-speed dual-clutch handles shifting duty, although from the smoothness of the shifts you’d probably never know. Open up the taps, though, and it can bang off up-shifts in a blink.
That engine-transmission combo also does a good job of helping to make the already-quiet Tucson even more pleasant around town. Steering is unsurprisingly vague and the suspension is tuned far more for comfort than performance, but that’s to be expected for the class. The Tucson’s driving manners are perfectly suited to its segment and its customers.
The Tucson’s active safety system is a bit behind competitors. Some offerings in the segment offer full lane-centering lane keeping systems and full-speed adaptive cruise control, but the Tucson will simply brake for crashes and alert you to lane departures.
Most of the panels inside are also different grades of dull plastic. You can find nicer cabins elsewhere in the segment, if that’s your top priority.
That's a reoccurring theme with the Tucson: it isn’t the best in its class at any one thing. There are better looking, better driving and more comfortable options. But, at least it has a strong showing in each of those categories and isn't the worst in them, either.
How you should configure it
Start with a Tucson SEL Plus for $26,700, which gets you almost everything you need.
Skip all-wheel drive; you don’t need it as much as you think you do. Add in the destination charge and you end up at $27,680. You still have the upgraded infotainment, better audio system, blind-spot monitoring and passive entry, but you save nearly $7,000 by opting for a less-powerful engine and skipping all-wheel drive. At this price you won't find a panoramic sunroof, however.
Buyers who want an optioned-out, top-trim model of the newest crossover should probably look elsewhere, since the Tucson doesn’t deliver the near-premium experience you’re looking for when you spend $35,000.
But if you want a well-rounded crossover with nice convenience features, a mid-range Tucson is worth consideration. It’s nice to be in, comfortable, well-priced and comes with a great quality reputation and warranty that should make long-term ownership a joy.
Driving Experience: 4
Price as configured: $34,430