New & Used Hyundai Tucson: In Depth
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The Hyundai Tucson is a crossover utility vehicle that performs (and looks) more like a tall hatchback, which lands it at the small end of the compact class. Competitors include top-sellers like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester.
The Tucson is powered by a lineup of fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines, as well as an available but limited-release fuel-cell electric powertrain.
All-wheel drive is optional; and off-road ability isn't nearly as much its forté as simply being a versatile, maneuverable vehicle with a high seating point. A fully redesigned version of the Tucson is arriving for the 2016 model year.
MORE: Read our 2016 Hyundai Tucson review.
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson sizes up just a little bit, to be more of a direct competitor with the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape, among others—and more clearly related to the larger Santa Fe Sport, design-wise. It's powered by a choice between a 164-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged 1.6-liter four that makes 175 hp and a noteworthy 195 lb-ft of torque. The base engine uses a six-speed automatic transmission, while a seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox handles shifts for the turbo engine. Fuel efficiency is up significantly—as high was 26 mpg city, 33 highway.
Additionally, in this latest model, interior space is up, a suite of active-safety features has been introduced, and Hyundai is offering Apple Siri Eyes Free integration, compatibility with Android smart watches, and Blue Link subscription telematics services.
The first-generation Tucson hit the U.S. market in 2005, offering an affordable compact crossover for daily driving with a range of trim levels. The Tucson has carried that basic motif through to the new generation, though over time the engine options have changed.
That 2005 Tucson was available with a 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder engine rated at 140 horsepower, or a 173-hp, 2.7-liter V-6, with both mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The Tucson's three trim levels--GL, GLS, and Limited--divided the powertrains up as fit the model. The GL was available only with the four-cylinder engine, and a choice of the manual or automatic transmission. The GLS and Limited, on the other hand, were available with only the V-6 and only the automatic transmission. All models were available with all-wheel drive.
Safety ratings for the first Hyundai Tucson were a strong point, earning five stars in all categories in NHTSA testing from 2005 through the 2009 model year.
The current-generation Hyundai Tucson was introduced for the 2010 model year, with a much bolder new design and updated engines. The Tucson offers a choice between two four-cylinder engines, either a 2.0-liter four with 165 hp, or a 2.4-liter four that makes 176 hp. There's no longer a V-6 option for any Tucson. A choice of five-speed manual or six-speed automatic on the base engine becomes automatic-only with the bigger powerplant, but all-wheel drive is offered on either.
These Tucson models are more spacious than the ones that replaced, but they don't have quite as much interior room as competitors like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, but it can easily move four adults comfortably. The most space is found in the front row, while the rear seat offers decent head- and legroom even for taller adults.
Safety ratings have been solid for the current Tucson, with four stars overall from the NHTSA and mostly top 'good' scores from the IIHS; the only major demerit is a 'poor' score on the IIHS's newest test, the small frontal overlap crash test, which keeps it out of contention for the agency's Top Safety Pick status.
The current Tucson has changed relatively little since its 2010 launch. Starting with the 2013 model year, all versions have come with standard air conditioning; power windows, locks, and mirrors; remote keyless entry; cloth seats; and an AM/FM/XM/CD player with a USB port. Changes for 2015 were limited, with a new option package on the GLS adding items like a touchscreen radio and power driver's seat, while Limited models now get LED taillights as standard equipment. Hyundai has also launched a fuel-cell-powered electric version of the Tucson, which will be available for lease to customers in Southern California.
Today's Tucson is among those Hyundai vehicles included in a restatement of fuel-economy figures. From the 2011 to the 2013 model years, the EPA found that many Hyundai vehicles had overstated gas-mileage ratings that did not hold up to confirmation testing performed by the agency. For more info, see www.hyundaimpginfo.com.