A new fuel-miser Tucson joins the lineup for 2011, but we're not sure it's a much better prospect than the crossover's larger 2.4-liter four.
The new 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 165 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy in this version improves over the bigger-displacement Tucson by just a mile per gallon in the automatic-transmission models, and then only on the city cycle. Given that the 2.4-liter four-cylinder feels just adequate at 176 hp and 168 pound-feet of torque, the smaller engine doesn't seem to be worth the trade-off for small fuel-economy improvements.
The larger engine is smooth and relatively vibration-free, even if it keeps the same pace as the Honda CR-V, which is among the slower entries in the class. At launch, the Tucson came with a promise of a turbocharged version; we'll update this review if it's made available for the 2011 model year.
The Tucson comes with a five-speed manual gearbox with a long throw but smooth action. A six-speed automatic is an option on the base version and standard on upper trims. It has a sport-shift mode, but lacks paddles for shifting, so it's likely to be manually shifted only on occasion. It's a good thing it responds reasonably quickly to throttle changes.
The Tucson rides better than it steers. Even in the backseat, there's not as much bounding or bobbling as you might expect in a small crossover. The engine-speed-sensitive electric power steering is the Tucson's trouble spot. It has a tight 34.7-foot turning circle, but it's more artificial in feel than it needs to be, with less direct road feel than we like. The brake pedal has the same sensation. In all, the Tucson's road manners are much improved from the prior generation, but the steering feel in particular could use some more sophistication.