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Much of the compact crossover class remains influenced by traditional SUV design; but increasingly, models like the 2014 Hyundai Tucson have bucked the rugged pretenses.
We think that's a good thing, as it really sets the Tucson apart from other rivals. To put it simply, the Tucson is unabashedly curvaceous. There might be an inch of straight line in its silhouette, the rest given up to surfacing that swells at the fenders and crests at the front and rear. For 2014, Hyundai hasn't made any major changes--which is fine, as the design still looks fresh. LED taillamps and new projector headlamps with LED accents should altogether bring the look a modern edge, even without actual sheetmetal changes, but a panoramic sunroof with roof side rails on some models should cast it in a different, more upscale light. The interior's just a shade less dramatic than the exterior, but it fits right in with the rest of the current Hyundai lineup.
The Tucson was well timed and well placed in 2010, when it emerged with a fresh look and fresh running gear; and it remains so for 2014. In fact, Hyundai has given it a pretty substantial mechanical upgrade, with new direct-injection engines as well as new Sachs dual-path dampers. The engines make just a little more torque than those of the same size (2.0-liter and 2.4-liter) last year, and fuel efficiency is up slightly, too. It's still probably wise to stick with the 2.4-liter versions; previous versions were just adequate with the 2.0-liter. In either case, there's no manual; a responsive six-speed automatic makes the shifts. Previous Tucsons tended to ride somewhat harshly, and the new dampers improve comfort without negatively affecting handling.
There's a good amount of head and leg room in front. But the seats themselves have good back support, but the bottom cushion is short and tilts down a bit too much; and that can make them uncomfortable on anything more than a short drive. For 2014, Hyundai has added a standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel, as well as steering-wheel audio controls on all, including the base GLS; and cupholder illumination is now included on all models. The rear seat has just enough headroom for taller adults, and good leg room. Given the choice, we'd steer clear of the optional leather seats: the front leather buckets have short bottom cushions that tilt down at their leading edge, leaving them less comfortable than they could be.
Safety is sweet and sour. While visibility is actually quite good, and the Tucson checks all the right safety boxes, crash-test results place it squarely mid-pack among compact crossovers. With top performers like the Subaru Forester, its four-star federal scores and 'poor' small overlap frontal results don't approach the top tier--but those are carryover 2013 results and we hope Hyundai can improve them.
The Hyundai Tucson made its mark many years ago for offering more features than most other vehicles in its class, for a lot less money. With the current-generation Tucson, it still crams in a lot of value for the money, but it's no longer the feature standout it was. Fortunately Hyundai has so many other positive points now--in styling, for example.
Standard features for the base Hyundai Tucson include air conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, keyless entry, a USB port, satellite radio, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. Automatic headlights, fog lights, and heated front seats are also included in the GLS. SE models also now add a rearview camera system and 4.3-inch touch screen. The top Tucson Limited adds leather seating, navigation (a new system with a larger seven-inch touch screen), as well as voice recognition, HD Radio, and the BlueLink suite of services.