- All-wheel-drive system has a center diff lock
- Roomy back-seat for two
- Base model is a very strong value
- Styling is starting to look dated
- Neither engine is especially frisky or frugal
- Mushy handling doesn’t inspire confidence
- Ride can be pitchy
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson no longer stands out in its class for performance or safety, but it’s still a great value.
The compact Tucson, a carlike crossover SUV, was introduced as a smaller-scale alternative to the Santa Fe in 2005, and hasn't changed significantly since.
A 140-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant is standard in the 2008 Hyundai Tucson GLS and can drive either the front or all four wheels via a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability. The SE and Limited models levels include a 173-horsepower 2.7-liter V-6 that's available only with the automatic gearbox. The optional all-wheel-drive system normally routes up to 99 percent of the power to the front wheels, or up to 50 percent to the back as needed, or it can "lock" the center differential for a 50/50 split, good for deep snow or mud.
There's not a big difference in power between the two engines--especially if you get the four-cylinder with the manual transmission--though the four can be noisy when accelerating hard, and it doesn't shift quite as smoothly with the automatic transmission. For those who plan to haul a full load of people and cargo, the more expensive 2008 Hyundai Tucson V-6 model is the better, more refined choice, though it comes with a disagreeably aggressive throttle that's hard to finesse when parking.
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson rides smoothly, though it can get pitchy on rough surfaces, and a full load makes the ride somewhat harder. Handling isn't a strong point here; the Tucson lets you know right away that it's not at all sporty, exhibiting plenty of body lean and mushiness if you happen to push it hard.
Inside, the 2008 Hyundai Tucson has impressive materials, and the instrument panel follows a rounded, organic style, with a prominent center stack and audio controls mounted high up. Most will find the driving position about right, although the footwells are narrow and taller drivers will notice their knees resting against the center console. The backseat is fine for two adults but only good for three small kids--because of shoulder room, not legroom. The Tucson is now one of the oldest designs in Hyundai's lineup, but it doesn't quite meet the interior/assembly quality of its other models.
The five-passenger 2008 Hyundai Tucson comes in three trim levels: GLS, SE, and Limited. Base GS models come standard with power accessories and an 80-watt AM/FM/CD audio system. Above the sporty SE, the top-of-the-line Limited adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, and automatic climate control, among many other items. The only options are all-wheel drive, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface, and a 200-watt CD changer with subwoofer. And all audio systems now have XM Satellite Radio compatibility and an auxiliary jack.
Active head restraints have been added to the Tucson's long safety-equipment list, which already includes front-seat side airbags, side curtain bags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes. The 2008 Hyundai Tucson is a shining star in the federal government's crash tests, with top five-star results in all frontal and side tests, but it's judged only Acceptable in the insurance-industry-funded IIHS tests.