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Some compact crossovers channel tougher SUVs in their design and equipment, but not the Hyundai Tucson. Like rivals from Ford and Kia and Honda, it puts all its effort into smoothing out the road ahead, and coddling as many as five passengers--on the street, not in the dirt.
It starts with the design. Sharp lines up front flow into curvaceous forms along the sides and rear that say sedan more than they do SUV. The profile view is all curves, with subtle rises for the fenders. LED taillamps and projector headlamps with LED accents are modern touches available on some models, while an available panoramic sunroof helps cast it in a 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.
Last year, Hyundai gave the Tucson 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) fitted previously, and fuel efficiency is up slightly, too. It's still probably wise to stick with the 2.4-liter versions; the 2.0-liter is only adequate. 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. The seats themselves have good back support, although 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. 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 mid-pack among compact crossovers. Its four-star federal scores and 'poor' small overlap frontal results don't approach the top tier, which includes vehicles like the Subaru Forester.
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.
Changes for 2015 are limited. There's a new Popular Equipment Package available on the base GLS model, adding items like a touchscreen radio and power driver's seat, while Limited models now get LED taillights as standard equipment.
Fuel-economy figures range from a low of 20 mpg city and 25 highway for an AWD 2.4-liter model to a high of 23 mpg city and 29 highway on the front-drive 2.0-liter model. These aren't stellar numbers, but they're within range of most of the others in the segment.