2021 Hyundai Tucson

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 8, 2020

Buying tip

Stick with the Tucson Value or SEL for the best bang for the buck—and know there’s a new model coming for 2022.

features & specs

Limited AWD
Limited FWD
21 city / 26 hwy
22 city / 28 hwy
22 city / 25 hwy

The 2021 Hyundai Tucson soldiers into a sixth model year with excellent safety and value.

The 2021 Hyundai Tucson doesn’t strive to break records and set trends. It’s a refreshingly pedestrian crossover SUV that’s now in its sixth model year, unchanged for 2021 save for some new colors.

With the Tucson, Hyundai gives drivers what they need: a long warranty, lots of features, decent fuel economy, and good space for people and cargo. It’s offered in SE, Value, SEL, Sport, Limited, and Ultimate trims.

We give it a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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The 2021 Tucson lets its unassuming nature hang out. It’s styled with all its lines perfectly in place, neatly combed and curved, but without much misadventure or drama—though it’s a hair-metal band’s lead singer compared to a VW Tiguan. With a conservatively drawn cockpit, the Tucson’s eager to please, but more eager not to offend.

That holds true in performance, where a choice between two moderately powerful inline-4 engines yields moderate acceleration and fuel economy. None of the turbo-4 power applied to rivals has made its way here yet. The Tucson’s saving grace ends up being a well-controlled ride, and an across-the-board option for all-wheel drive—something we’d skip almost everywhere in favor of a set of winter tires and a slightly lower payment.

The Tucson’s been in its current form since 2016, and its prime competition has grown up and out. It’s somewhat smaller than those vehicles as a result, but it’s still suited well for four adults, and cargo space brings with it no complaints, at 61.9 cubic feet behind the front seats.

The Tucson excels in safety—both the NHTSA and the IIHS give it top marks—and in standard features, which include touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. High-priced versions add cooled front seats and leather upholstery, but we’d pull up at the Tucson SEL, which comes with the bigger engine, more USB ports, and 18-inch wheels.


2021 Hyundai Tucson


The Tucson’s soap-opera good looks are a curse.

The Tucson has handsome lines and a pleasant cabin, but they’re familiar and somewhat anonymous—especially compared to Hyundai’s own Santa Fe and Palisade. It could star in some long-canceled soap opera: “The Prosaic and the Pragmatic,” perhaps?

Fine, we’ll stop. The Tucson earns a 5 for styling.

In its niche, the Tucson has to fend off truly inspired designs like the one worn by the Toyota RAV4—maybe not for everyone, but distinctive nonetheless—and even those worn by the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, both pretty in their own ways. The Tucson’s less inspired, or maybe it’s just grown quite normal over the years. It still wears its six-sided grille and LED running lights proudly, has a nice dip to its roofline, and doesn’t really have a hair out of place.

The cabin’s even more uncontroversial, even boring. It’s softly contoured around the driver, with a touchscreen canted their way and big controls aimed where they’re easily found. It all wears a suit of gray and black trim that renders it a design by default, one that doesn’t have much intrigue left in its bank after six model years on the road. Functional and intuitive, the Tucson’s simply ready for a reshoot.


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2021 Hyundai Tucson


Looking for a raucous ride? Look past the Hyundai Tucson.

Hyundai gives a pass to performance in the 2021 Tucson. Though it comes with a choice of engines and with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, these choices range from pragmatic to prosaic. It’s a 5 for performance, strictly average.

A 2.0-liter inline-4 comes on lower Tucson trims, but with just 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, acceleration is paltry and fuel economy is average. Its 6-speed automatic works well enough to extract available power, but the Tucson’s just big enough to damp down any enthusiasm from under the hood.

A 2.4-liter inline-4 with the same 6-speed automatic slots into upper Tucson trims. It’s rated at 181 hp and 175 lb-ft, but the power boost doesn’t translate in driving. It’s not much more quick than the base model.

The Tucson fares better in ride quality. Even in base form, it’s tuned well to overcome its relatively short wheelbase, and doesn’t need large wheels and tires to deliver practical grip. It’s not built for handling, either, with steering that doesn’t feel as precise or eager as that in a Toyota RAV4, for example. The Tucson simply excels at long road trips, when its drive-mode selector is set to Normal, when its engine and transmission relax, when no one’s asking it to do too much.

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2021 Hyundai Tucson

Comfort & Quality

The Tucson fits four fine, with impressive quality for the price.

The Tucson sits on the small end of its competitive set, but while interior space isn’t vast, the cockpit is well-finished. We give it a 7 for comfort and utility.

Front seat passengers get six-way adjustable chairs inside the Tucson, with reasonably supportive cushions and backrests. Higher trim levels add power adjustment and helpful lumbar support, while the most expensive versions get leather-trimmed seats, and front-seat heating and cooling. Knee and head room are fine for taller passengers, and Hyundai molds in plenty of small-item storage in the door panels and console.

The back seat suits two adults, so long as taller passengers recline the seatback slightly. Head room isn’t as copious as in Hyundai’s larger SUVs, of course, and shoulder space is lean too, but knee room is good for most larger bodies. The rear seats fold down to expand cargo space from 30.1 cubic feet to 61.9 cubic feet, enough for a week’s worth of camping gear or a couple of big flat-screen TVs.

Though it’s nearly due for replacement, the Tucson still impresses with its fit and finish. The hard plastics it wears have a pleasant sheen, where other trim comes with a soft-touch finish. Bright and clear displays round out a cabin that looks richer than its price tag.

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2021 Hyundai Tucson


Good crash-test scores lift the Tucson’s safety ratings.

The Tucson continues to rack up strong safety scores, though it doesn’t offer many safety options. We give it an 8 here.

The Tucson earns a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, and the IIHS gives it a Top Safety Pick award. 

All Tucsons come with automatic emergency braking and active lane control. All Tucsons save for the SE have blind-spot monitors. The Tucson Sport and Ultimate add pedestrian detection; Limited Tucsons get adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. A surround-view camera system can be fitted to the Limited and Ultimate. The Tucson doesn’t have great rearward vision, but that’s common to small SUVs.

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2021 Hyundai Tucson


Stick with the middle-level trims for the best Tucson value.

Hyundai offers the 2021 six different ways, but smart buyers will stay tuned to the middle versions. Based on those models, we give the Tucson a 9 for features, with points for its value, warranty, infotainment, and standard features.

The $24,840 Tucson SE offers the lower-output engine, cloth upholstery, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and automatic emergency braking. The $26,290 Tucson Value adds on blind-spot monitors, keyless start, heated front seats, and HD and satellite radio.

We’d select the $27,240 Tucson SEL, which gains the bigger engine along with more USB ports, 18-inch wheels, and automatic climate control. 

The $29,390 Sport model adds on LED headlights, 8-speaker Infinity audio, wireless and smartphone charging, while the $30,540 Limited gets leather upholstery, power front seats, and a heated steering wheel. For $33,190, the 2021 Tucson Ultimate factors in heated rear seats, cooled front seats, an upgraded 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, and adaptive cruise control. In the words of the perennial “The Price Is Right” game, that’s too much.

All-wheel drive costs $1,400 on any Tucson. All carry Hyundai’s excellent 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, which includes 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. All 2021 Hyundais come with free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles. 

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2021 Hyundai Tucson

Fuel Economy

Front-drive Tucsons get better fuel economy.

If you don’t really need all-wheel drive, the Tucson’s standard front-drive configuration nets better gas mileage. Based on that layout, we give the 2021 Tucson a 5 for fuel economy.

Hyundai’s base 2.0-liter inline-4 gets EPA ratings of 23 mpg city, 28 highway, 25 combined with front-wheel drive. It dips to 22/25/23 mpg when all-wheel drive is fitted. 

With the larger-displacement 2.4-liter inline-4, the front-drive Tucson gets EPA-rated at 22/28/25 mpg, and 21/26/23 mpg with all-wheel drive.

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MSRP based on SE FWD
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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 5
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 8
Features 9
Fuel Economy 5
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