- Roomy backseat with space for two
- Good value overall
- Center diff lock in all-wheel-drive system
- Powertrains are underwhelming
- Handling feels imprecise
- Ride quality is pitchy
- Tired styling
As time has passed, the 2009 Hyundai Tucson has been matched or bettered by other vehicles in its class in terms of performance and safety—but it remains a good value.
The 2009 Hyundai Tucson is the latest version of Hyundai's carlike crossover SUV, which was introduced in 2005 as a smaller-scale alternative to the Santa Fe. It hasn't changed significantly since its debut.
The 2009 Hyundai Tucson starts with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant that delivers 140 horsepower. Transmission options include a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic (which has manual capabilities), and drivers can choose between front- and all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive system is designed to route up to 99 percent of the power to the front wheels or up to 50 percent to the back wheels as needed. "Locking" in the center provides a 50/50 split, which is good for deep snow or mud. Higher-end SE and Limited models take things up a notch, offering a 173-hp 2.7-liter V-6 engine. It is available only with the automatic transmission.
Both engine options are fairly comparable in real-world perkiness, especially when the four-cylinder is paired with the manual transmission. The four-cylinder engine can be noisier than the V-6, and shifts are a bit clunky with the automatic transmission. The V-6 model is better for anyone who plans to haul a lot of people or cargo, though it does have an overwhelmingly aggressive throttle that makes parking somewhat difficult and might trick buyers into thinking it's stronger.
The Tucson has a fairly smooth ride—though the 2009 Hyundai Tucson can get pitchy or bouncy on rough surfaces. A fully loaded vehicle leads to a rougher ride overall. Nothing about the 2009 Hyundai Tucson is sporty, and you'll discover some mushiness and body lean if you push it too hard.
On the interior, the 2009 Hyundai Tucson is well built, but the quality doesn't seem to match that found in other newer Hyundais like the Genesis, Veracruz, or refreshed Sonata. The driving position is comfortable, though narrow footwells can be troublesome and tall drivers might find their knees meeting the center console. The instrument panel is rounded and smooth, with audio controls mounted fairly high and a prominent center stack. In the back, two adults fit comfortably, but three across is best left to the kids. Legroom isn't the problem—it's the shoulder room.
The 2009 Hyundai Tucson rates well in safety tests, though it is not at the top of the ranks. The list of features includes front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. The Tucson performs well in government crash tests, earning five stars in frontal and side crashes, but it only garners a rating of "acceptable" from the IIHS.
In terms of features, the Tucson does fairly well. The 2009 Hyundai Tucson comes in three trim levels: the GLS, the SE, and the Limited. In the base GS model, drivers will find standard power accessories and an 80-watt AM/FM/CD audio system. Stepping up to the sportier SE adds some more touches, and the top-notch Limited includes leather upholstery, automatic climate control, and heated front seats. Options include a sunroof.