As shoppers remain worried about the day-to-day economics of driving, Hyundai is looking like one of the best-prepared automakers.
The automaker has a new focus, for its new and upcoming products, of keeping weight and engine size down, and it shows both in the new 2010 Tucson introduced at the LA show today and the 2011 Sonata introduced yesterday. The new Tucson is 61 pounds lighter than the Tucson it replaces, and has greatly improved fuel economy ratings of 23 mpg city, 31 highway.
According to Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Krafcik, the automaker has been keeping a close watch over weight every step of the way, part of the weight savings can be attributed to not having to accommodate the larger engine structurally.
As with the 2011 Sonata, Hyundai will rely on the new Theta II direct-injection four-cylinder, which brings the Tucson a 20-percent fuel-economy improvement over the previous four-cylinder—along with more power than the 2.7-liter V-6 previously offered in the Tucson.
Krafcik said that in future products we’ll see Hyundai moving to a strategy that places the emphasis on direct-injection four-cylinder engines, turbocharged versions, and hybrid powertrains. The automaker won’t give up on V-6 engines for its larger models, but it’s looking at ways to optimize fuel-efficiency with small-displacement turbocharged engines. "We believe the V-6 will be a thing of the past in midsize sedans and compact crossovers in just a few years," Krafcik told Green Car Reports.
Curiously, Hyundai had made the commitment to four-cylinders and the decision to phase out the V-6 engines in mid-size offerings well before the recession. The decision might have seemed a little risky at that time, as four-cylinder models have been viewed as downmarket in the mid-size segment in the past, but it makes Hyundai especially prescient considering some automakers still are flustered, trying to manage new product mixes, more than a year later.