It’s stylish. It’s safe. It’s quiet. It’s nimble. It’s efficient. It's an Audi? Nope, it’s a Hyundai Tucson, but the upmarket German design may fool many. It looks and performs like a more expensive SUV but it’s affordable enough for the average American household. There’s a lot to love about the Hyundai Tucson and few reasons why it shouldn’t be your next SUV.
Hyundai offers exceptional value by offering a well-equipped base model in a segment where many manufacturers strip their SUVs of convenience and comfort in an effort to provide a low price. When you drive or ride in the Tucson SE, you’ll be surprised you are in a base model. There’s a standard rearview camera, soft touch materials on the dash, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
We’re sure the Tucson will put pressure on Honda and Toyota to start equipping their base models better, though we do give them credit for adding advanced safety technology standard to many 2017 and 2018 models. However, neither can compete with the comfortable ride quality and quiet cabin found in the Tucson for a meager price, we think Hyundai may deserve your dollar as a result.
There are two available powertrain combinations available in the Tucson. A 2.0 Liter non-aspirated inline 4 cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and a turbocharged 1.6 Liter 4 cylinder paired with a dual clutch seven-speed transmission. The first makes 164 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, while the latter provides 175 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. The former is a little low on twist with just 151 lb-ft at a relatively high 4,000 rpm while the turbo produces 195 lb-ft of torque at just 1,500 rpm. The 2 Liter models do 0-60mph in about 8.5 seconds and the 1.6 Liter turbo does the same a second quicker at 7.5 seconds.
Neither is staggeringly quick, but they have enough power to handle most driving situations. The turbo has a more useable powerband but can shift roughly at times, especially when braking or accelerating from a stop. Handling is on the sporty side, with well-controlled body lean and adept cornering. The only thing that keeps it from classification at the top, with the CX-5 and Ford Escape, is its electrically assisted steering that’s often numb and vague. The Tucson handles competently but the lack of road feedback keeps it from being “fun to drive.” Fuel economy is average with the first powertrain at a combined 24 mpg and the second leads the class at a combined 26 mpg. The brakes are some of the best around and performed incredibly well in both wet and dry conditions. The Tucson delivers competent performance across all trims and easily accommodates most drivers’ needs.
Inside this Hyundai, you’ll feel soft touch plastic materials and refreshingly simple controls. You’ll see a simple, clean design with nothing out of place and nothing you don’t need. Despite its size, the cabin feels open and airy. There’s excellent vision from the high seating position, with only the rear restricted by the upward sloping design. Fortunately, a standard rearview camera mitigates the poor rear visibility when parking. The 5-inch infotainment system is a bit limited by small font and lack of advanced features. The larger, 8-inch infotainment system is much easier to navigate and includes NavTraffic, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay standard. You can connect to either system via Bluetooth, auxiliary input, or USB port. The latter will charge your device while integrating its use.
The available Infinity premium audio system features Harman Clari-Fi technology that restores compressed audio in real time. The result is impressive, it’s a difference you can hear immediately. Speaking of differences you can hear, road and wind noise is noticeably absent in the Tucson. It’s one of the quieter cabins in the compact crossover class. Fold down the rear seats and you’ll get 61.9 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty to carry even the most cumbersome items. Put the seats back up and you still have 30.7 cubes, enough for several suitcases. Lower trims have YES essentials treated cloth interior that resists stains, great for families with clumsy little ones. Upgrade to the leather trim for added comfort, as well as a driver seat with lumbar support. The rear seats recline and offer generous legroom for even the tallest adults. The Hyundai’s interior is sure to impress and provide everything you need without going over your budget.
The Tucson dons sharp, modern lines that belie its budget price tag. A large, hexagonal grille monopolizes the front fascia, bordered by sleek, contemporary projector beam headlamps. Below, the Tucson receives halogen or LED fog lamps that enhance the swanky skin. A black plastic molding forms a border below that wraps around the entire SUV, adding a rugged aesthetic. A single sharp line carries upward from the front headlight and fender to the rear headlamp, augmenting the athletic stance.
The rear bears chic tail lights that remind us of some German designs and a beveled chrome exhaust tip that looks as if it was borrowed from the Sonata sedan. A roof spoiler adds a Sporty touch, while the low profile roof rails bring utility to round out the SUV moniker. We think it’s a rather stylish compact crossover, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awards the Hyundai Tucson a 5-star overall rating, the highest possible. It received 5-star ratings in every category except rollover, common for SUVs because they have a higher center of gravity. The ratings for the previous generation are lower, with a 4-star overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Tucson top ratings of “Good” in every crash test category. The Tucson also receives the additional designation of “Top Safety Pick+,” a prestigious award that indicates a safety profile at the top of its class. Additionally, the advanced safety technology available in only the top trim is rated “Superior,” the best potential rating.
A weak point an otherwise perfect safety score is the headlights, rated “Poor” on lower trims and “Acceptable” on the highest trim. However, most vehicles receive “Poor” headlight ratings from the IIHS. The previous generation Tucson receives “Good” ratings in all but the infamous small overlap crash test, where it earned a “Poor” rating. The previous generation had side curtain airbags but they didn’t deploy, so the dummy’s head briefly makes contact with the front airbag before smacking into the instrument panel. The kinematic readings from the dummy did not indicate severe head trauma, but they did imply possible injuries to the lower left leg and knee from a crash of this severity. Despite high safety ratings, we wouldn’t recommend 7-speed transmission equipped Tucson SUVs as safe vehicles due to a transmission issue that causes sudden loss of power, detailed in the section below. We would, however, rate the SE and SE Plus trims as exceptionally safe SUVs. The previous generation is about as safe as most SUVs on the road.
The Hyundai Tucson received a 3 out of 5 predicted reliability rating from Consumer Reports. Trouble areas reported by owners include minor transmission issues and minor drive system issues for the 2016 model. For the previous generation, owners reported a rough shifting transmission, trouble with the infotainment system, minor suspension issues, and a blower fan motor that gets stuck on the “low” setting. JD Power is optimistic about the 2017 model and offers a 4 out of 5 predicted reliability rating, up from a rating of 3 in past year models. The 2016 model is subject to 4 NHTSA recalls.
Two are related to the trailer package that was either installed or purchased as an option at the dealer. The trailer brake lights may stay illuminated and the trailer turn signals may not function properly. Affected models can have the issue resolved by a Hyundai dealer at no cost to the owner. Another recall was issued for the secondary hood latch. If the primary hood latch is released inadvertently, the secondary hood latch may not secure the hood properly and fly open while driving. 81,000 units are potentially affected and Hyundai will resolve the issue free of charge. 41,000 2016 Tucson models with the 7-speed EcoShift dual clutch transmission may fail to accelerate from a stop in certain driving conditions and high temperature.
Hyundai dealers will update the transmission control module to resolve the problem without charging owners. There are a staggering 340 complaints filed with the NHTSA for the 2016 Tucson model, most of them for the 7 speed dual clutch automatic transmission equipped models. There’s 29 filed for the 2017, most of them for the same issue and the NHTSA has yet to recall this model. If the transmission control module software update really resolves the problem, then, theoretically, the 2017 models shouldn’t be suffering the same issues. We’d avoid 7-speed equipped models until this issue is resolved once and for all. We’d recommend the SE and SE Plus trims that have the traditional 6-speed automatic transmission. We’d recommend the previous generation Tucson as a more reliable alternative. It’s less refined but at least it won’t leave you stranded in the middle of an intersection without power.
The most obvious competitor to the Tucson is its corporate cousin, the Kia Sportage. The two SUVs share the same platform and some components though they receive different powertrains. The Kia’s styling is futuristic and a bit juvenile, while the Hyundai’s design is more conservative yet classy. You can tell the Hyundai was designed in Germany with its many Audi-like details.
The Kia Sportage SX turbo is one of the quickest SUVs in the compact crossover class, making the haul from 0-60mph in just under 7 seconds. You also get paddle shifters that create a more engaging driving experience and the ability to keep the revs where you want them.
The 2.4 Liter equipped models are nearly identical in performance to the 2.0 Liter Tucson despite their larger power output. The suspension and ride quality are nearly identical, as they share the same suspension components. Both feature quieter than average cabins for the class that has a premium vibe in even the base models, a stark contrast from the base CR-V and RAV4 that sport spartan interiors and steel wheels in an effort to cut costs. The Sportage offers a premium infotainment system standard that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which you have to pay extra for in the Tucson. The cargo capacity, legroom, and headroom are identical but the Kia’s rear seat reclines more than the Tucson. Due to the reported issues with the dual clutch 7-speed in some Tucson models, we have to give the safety and reliability edge to the Sportage, although both received identical ratings from the major players. Advanced safety technology is available on many of the Sportage trims and is only available on the Limited trimmed Tucson. If it we’re our money we’d have the choose the Sportage over the Tucson because it offers more features per dollar than the Tucson. We’ll admit the Tucson is better-looking but that’s not enough to justify choosing it over the Sportage.
The SE trim begins at $22,700 with a 2.0 Liter inline 4 cylinder engine, front wheel drive, 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic, 17 inch alloy wheels wearing all season rubber, driver’s blind spot mirror, rearview camera, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, side curtain airbags with rollover sensors, remote keyless entry system, alarm system, dual fold-away power body color side mirrors, LED center high-mount stop light, rear spoiler, solar control glass, privacy glass, variable intermittent windshield wipers with washer, halogen projector headlights, automatic headlights, YES essentials treated cloth seating surfaces, 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, rear reclining seatbacks, rear center armrest, tilt and telescopic steering column, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, USB input jack, auxiliary input jack, SiriusXM, 6 speaker audio system, and 5 inch touchscreen display. The SE Plus trim starts at $26,750 and equips drive mode select, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, roof rack side rails, premium metallic painted side sills, shark fin antenna, LED headlights, LED headlight accents, LED daytime running lights, proximity key entry, push button start, dual front automatic temperature control, floor console mounted rear vents, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, 8-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, Blue Link telematics system, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and compass, Infinity Premium Audio with Clari-Fi music restoration technology, HD Radio technology with multicasting, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and 8 inch touchscreen navigation.
The Eco trim does not build on the above, it instead installs a turbocharged 1.6 Liter inline 4 cylinder engine, 7-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch automatic transmission, driver’s blind spot mirror, premium front and rear fascias, Yes essentials treated cloth seating surfaces, SiriusXM satellite radio, 6 speaker audio system, and 5 inch touchscreen audio display for $24,150. The $25,900 Sport trim builds on the eco by adding 19 inch Sport alloy wheels with wide low profile tires, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, hands-free smart liftgate, proximity key entry with push button start, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather-wrapped shift knob. The Night trim runs $27,800 and provides 19inch black painted RAYS wheels with narrower tires, gloss black exterior mirrors, panoramic tilt and slide sunroof, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and aluminum alloy sport pedals. The top trim Limited has an MSRP $29,775 and provides 19 inch Sport alloy wheels with wider tires, chrome door handles, chrome front grille, premium metallic painted side sills, shark-fin antenna, LED headlights, LED taillights, dual front automatic temperature control, 8-way power passenger seat, leather seating surfaces, premium instrument panel and driver’s side panel, premium door sill plates, Blue Link telematics system, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and compass, Infinity Premium Audio with Clari-Fi music restoration technology, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and 8 inch touchscreen navigation.