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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
4-cylinder engine is fine for commuting, but it lacks the power...[for] confident highway merging and passing
the V6 engine has power, but isn't exactly peppy
doesn't feel particularly sporty in regular driving
Kelley Blue Book
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson sets a low hurdle for performance, though it has reasonable power in V-6 models and a mostly smooth ride.
Cars.com reports that the base Tucson Hyundai fits "a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing [that] delivers 140 horsepower." ConsumerGuide believes the “4-cylinder engine is fine for commuting, but it lacks the power to give Tucson and Sportage confident highway merging and passing ability.”
The 173-hp 2.7-liter V-6 installed in upper-level trims is optional in the base GLS model. There's not a big difference in power between the two engines--especially if you get the four-cylinder with the manual transmission--though the four can be noisy when accelerating hard, and it doesn't shift quite as smoothly with the automatic transmission.
For those who plan to haul a full load of people and cargo, the more expensive 2008 Hyundai Tucson V-6 model is the better, more refined choice, though it comes with a disagreeably aggressive throttle that's hard to finesse when parking. “The V6 is stronger, but it is still weaker than some rivals' 4-cylinder engines, with little power reserve for passing," ConsumerGuide says. According to Edmunds, the "V6 engine that generates 173 horses and 178 lb-ft of torque" will "accelerate to 60 mph in about 10.7 seconds, about a second or so off the quicker four-cylinders in the segment." They also advise that "power from the standard four-cylinder is barely adequate, so we recommend you opt for the V6"; however, Mother Proof reports that "the V6 engine has power, but isn't exactly peppy."
According to Cars.com, "either a Shiftronic four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual gearbox can be installed" in this year's Tucson; Hyundai offers both versions with “front-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive." Edmunds reports that "the four-speed automatic isn't quite as smooth as the five-speed units offered by competitors, but it's alert enough to usually keep the V6 right in its power band."
The optional all-wheel-drive system normally routes up to 99 percent of the power to the front wheels or up to 50 percent to the back as needed, or it can "lock" the center differential for a 50/50 split, good for deep snow or mud.
The Hyundai Tucson's fuel economy is a bit of a disappointment. In ConsumerGuide's testing, "AWD V6 Tucson and Sportage models averaged 20.8 mpg," while Edmunds reports EPA estimates as "17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, a bit below the class average." Figures for the four-cylinder model are "only a couple city mpg better."
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson rides quite smoothly, though it can get pitchy on rough surfaces, and a full load makes the ride somewhat harder. Handling isn't a strong point here; the Tucson lets you know right away that it's not at all sporty, exhibiting plenty of body lean and mushiness if you happen to push it hard. Cars.com considers the ride to be "pleasantly smooth on most surfaces," but adds "undulating pavement and even moderate bumps can transmit some roughness to occupants." However, ConsumerGuide says ride quality is a Tucson Hyundai “asset...composed and comfortable around town and absorbent over all but sharp bumps at highway speeds."
Edmunds says, "on the road, the 2008 Hyundai Tucson provides a carlike ride and relatively sporty handling that makes it a little more fun to drive than many other compact SUVs," but Kelley Blue Book responds that while it is "comfortable enough on the road with its soft and easy-riding suspension," they suggest that the "Tucson doesn't feel particularly sporty in regular driving."
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson offers adequate, if not superior, handling on the pavement, but fuel economy lags for its class, right along with acceleration.