2010 Hyundai Tucson: Curves Ahead, Behind and Inside

February 25, 2010

2010 Hyundai Tucson: Shaped to Please

For 2010, Hyundai's Tucson compact crossover has returned from finishing school with aesthetic, electrical and mechanical upgrades. The exterior and interior feature arcs that Hyundai calls fluid design. Body panels look like a pumped up Elantra with sharp creases. On my early production tester, minor flaws like puckered seat stitching detracted from the effect.

Body styling apes the Nissan Rouge's up-swept hockey stick greenhouse. Thick, sloped rear pillars make backing the maneuverable Tucson a shot in the dark.

Inside, Hyundai's nicely finished and textured soft-touch plastics lend an upscale ambiance. Armrests, however, are small and thinly padded. Nonetheless, front legroom is generous and the low rear seat offers two adult-size perches. Unlike some crossovers, the rear seats neither slide nor recline. Drivers with big feet take note: a swan-shaped brake pedal arm wraps over the gas pedal. Keep your right foot to the right.

Step on the throttle and engine thrash and steering fight are evident. Light application produces acceptably quiet highway progress . The six-speed automatic, which sometimes exuberantly downshifts,  has manual override.  Like Hyundai's Elantra Blue, it's a drum major--it upshifts into a top gear causing modest engine lugging at 40-mph. Pick fifth; droning ceases.

Steering has a strong on center feel. It's motor assisted and sometimes forcefully snaps toward home. Feedback is low; stability control kicks in early. The 17-inch tires, which might glide on Arizona highways, thump on Wisconsin's pockmarked roads. It easily holds its intended course, however.

Motorcycle like gauges are difficult to read in low-angle sunlight. The cruise control, eco, and headlamp indicators are bright nightlights. Some switches are tightly spaced but most are handy.

Stowage: a shoulder belt hangs overhead; space behind the rear seat is tight.

Hyundai claims the Tuscan gets great gas mileage. I metered 24 mpg with the two-wheel-drive tester. EPA numbers: 23 city and 31 highway, combined 26. The trip computer said 22.

Extra, Extras: Hyundai's optional perks include leather-trimmed seating, panoramic roof and all-wheel-drive. Downhill brake control and Hillstart Assist are standard. Neither seemed intrusive. Brake pedal override worked well.

From driveline to cutlines, the new Tucson is appealing. A GLS front-wheel-drive with six-speed automatic lists for $22,600. You can get it with a useful six-speed manual gearbox for less.

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