- An extreme makeover that works
- Smoothed-over four-cylinder engine
- Still offers a manual transmission
- Spacious interior
- Fuel economy
- Sluggish performance
- Leather seat comfort
- Steering feel
- Braking feel
The 2010 Hyundai Tucson doesn't quite take the title of best small crossover, but it handily grabs "most improved" honors.
High Gear Media accepted travel expenses to attend the first drive of the 2010 Hyundai Tucson.
It's been a banner year for Hyundai. The Korean automaker has introduced its new Genesis sedan in the Genesis Coupe and has shown off a new Sonata sedan that's in the works for the 2011 model year. On top of all those new products, it also has a brand-new 2010 Hyundai Tucson ready to go on sale-and this time, it's aimed directly at the likes of the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. With a base price of less than $20,000, the new Tucson has gone on sale with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmission, as well as a sole four-cylinder engine powering both the GLS and Limited versions.
Looks aren't deceiving; the 2010 Hyundai Tucson smartly steps to the front of the compact-crossover class with a curved, crested, upscale design. The sheetmetal is nearly the reverse of the past Tucson's bland, upright style sheet. It no longer bears much visual resemblance to anything you might see in Tucson, Ariz., for good reason: The look comes from its European design studios, teamed with those in Korea and the United States, with perhaps more than a casual nod to the Nissan Rogue and the Euro-market Ford Kuga. Some versions have more chrome trim work around the grille and sides, while all editions have black trim that cuts the visual height of the doors on the side view. From its nose to its tail, the Tucson appears compact and edgy, while the rear end has visual mass that's cut somewhat by angular tail lamps. Inside, the 2010 Tucson steps into the thick of global interior design with a big LCD screen, flanked by chromed vents, and dashes of metallic-painted plastic breaking up plenty of tightly grained, hard black plastic. It's not quite in the same class as the Rogue or CR-V, but the Tucson's interior is at least as nicely executed as that in the Escape and on par with the Toyota RAV4.
The 2010 Tucson moves in a more economical, fuel-efficient direction for power. With either front- or all-wheel drive, all 2010 Tucsons come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 176 hp and 168 pound-feet of torque. Next year, Hyundai will offer a Tucson Blue model with a 2.0-liter four and slightly better fuel economy: a turbocharged four-cylinder. The available four-cylinder propels the Tucson quicker than, say, the Honda CR-V to 60 mph, but a rough reading of speed puts its 0-60 mph time in the 10-second range. It feels more sluggish from a standstill than at highway speeds, and the engine is at least smooth and relatively vibration-free. Either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox can be fitted; the manual transmission has a long throw but smooth action, while the six-speed automatic has a sport-shift mode but no paddles at fingertip reach, so it's a rare occasion you'll actually engage the sport mode. The automatic will account for almost 95 percent of all Tucson sales, Hyundai says, and it's fine for most urban duties, with reasonably quick responses to throttle changes.
TheCarConnection.com's editors find the Tucson's ride quality pleasant enough, especially in the backseat, but the feel of its engine-speed-sensitive electric power steering leaves editors unimpressed despite its tight 34.7-foot turning circle. Braking pedal feel is lacking, too, though the Tucson comes standard with anti-lock control. In general, the Tucson's road manners are significantly improved over the prior edition. Fuel economy is 23/31 mpg for front-drive versions, and 21/28 mpg for all-wheel-drive Tucsons-a good measure better than in the Honda CR-V or Escape.
At 173.2 inches long, 71.7 inches wide, and 66.3 inches tall, the 2010 Hyundai Tucson has a longer wheelbase and is wider than the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester. And while it offers more interior room than the Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape, the Tucson has slightly less interior and cargo room than the Honda CR-V, and it's significantly smaller inside than the Toyota RAV4-though Hyundai points out it offers more interior room than a BMW X3 or an Acura RDX. Editors at TheCarConnection.com find the Tucson's front seat space very good with plenty of legroom, but the leather seats fitted to some test cars have a sloping bottom cushion that grows uncomfortable quickly. In the back, plenty of room for adults is available, and though the seat cushions could be longer, it's clear the Tucson's cloth seats are better choices than the leather-clad ones, at least for now. Cargo room is large enough for medium-size pets, a significant amount of luggage, or enough groceries for a family of four for a week, though the Toyota RAV4 offers enough room for a third-row seat. Interior storage is well planned inside the Tucson, with cubbies and bottle holders in the console and door panels, and a deep glove box up front. The fit and finish of our prototype test vehicles was generally good-a vast improvement over the previous Tucson-though hard plastic is the rule of the cabin trim, not the exception.
In terms of safety, the 2010 Tucson has all the expected standard equipment. That list includes dual front side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and traction and stability control. Hyundai officials anticipate the Tucson will score very well in federal crash tests, but no official results are available as of yet--though the IIHS rates it a "Top Safety Pick." Hill descent control is also standard, along with brake assist, tire pressure monitors, and active headrests. Visibility is good, save for some dark corners at the rear quarters of the Tucson, where its dashing roofline meets the tailgate.
Hyundai is sparing few features from the Tucson's standard-equipment list. It's extremely well-fitted, particularly for its price class. Each Tucson comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; remote keyless entry; cloth seats; air conditioning; and an AM/FM/XM/CD player with USB connectivity. Options include Bluetooth; steering wheel audio controls; heated front seats; leather seating; a power driver's seat; automatic headlights; 17-inch wheels; and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Tucson can be ordered with Hyundai's first panoramic sunroof; telescoping steering, an engine cover, and premium audio are available, along with a touchscreen navigation system fitted in tandem with a rearview camera and Bluetooth stereo audio. Hyundai also continues to offer a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, which extends to 10 years/100,000 miles for some powertrain parts. Fully optioned, the 2010 Hyundai Tucson checks in at a believe-it-or-not $29,490, so take care with the order sheet.