The Hyundai Tucson is the smallest of the brand’s compact crossovers. Last redesigned for the 2016 model year, Tucson is in its third generation.
Some equipment groups have been adjusted for the 2018 model year. What had been the SE Popular Equipment Package has been renamed SEL, adding a 7.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. SE Plus, introduced during 2017, is now SEL Plus. During 2017, Sport trim was replaced by Value trim. SiriusXM radio is now included with SEL trim, rather than SE. HD radio now is standard in SEL trim and up. Only the SE edition now gets a CD player. Limited AWD models include a heated steering wheel.
Focusing on utility rather than passion, the South Korean automaker maintains a relatively simple, yet engaging design theme. Blending refined ride quality with quiet dependability, the Tucson doesn’t necessarily excel in any specific attribute. Passenger space and performance might trail some rivals, but a Tucson can be counted on to simply accomplish its mission effectively.
Hyundai offers five Tucson trim levels: SE, SEL, Value, Eco, and Limited. In base Tucsons, a 164-horsepower four-cylinder engine mates with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Also available is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, producing 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission couples with the turbo. Front-drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option.
Tucson Eco is rated by EPA at 26/32/28 mpg City/Highway/Combined.
Every Tucson has a rearview camera, but advanced safety technology is largely restricted to the Limited trim level, at best.
Crash-test scores have been good, though ratings are not yet available for 2018 models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Tucson a five-star overall rating, with five stars for both frontal and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave Tucson a Top Safety Pick award. A weaker score for headlights kept the Tucson from earning Top Safety Pick+ status.
Only the most costly model includes forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Both Value and Limited editions feature blind-spot monitoring, and the Limited adds lane-departure warning and parking sensors.
Rather than offer option packages, Hyundai bundles a number of features into specific trim levels. They include leather upholstery, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Tucson SE ($22,700) comes with the 164-hp 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic, plus air conditioning, cruise control, a rearview camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming, a 5.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, CD player, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Tucson Eco ($24,150) gets the turbo-four engine, dual-clutch transmission, special wheels and tires.
Tucson Value Edition ($26,550) upgrades to the turbocharged engine and adds rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, a hands-free power liftgate, panoramic sunroof, and 19-inch wheels.
Tucson Limited ($29,775) features leather seating surfaces, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free liftgate, 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, and 19-inch wheels. The Ultimate option package includes active-safety features. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
No awkward body lines or tacky flaws mar the skillfully crafted sheetmetal of the Tucson. It’s a model of simplicity and clean design, highlighted by short window area.
The Tucson’s six-edged grille isn’t far removed from other Hyundai crossover front ends. Neither are the geometrically derived headlights. Viewed from the side, in fact, the Tucson looks like a downsized duplicate of the large three-row Santa Fe. Inspiration probably came from the midlevel Santa Fe Sport, too.
The Hyundai Tucson is a little smaller than the Honda CR-V.
For a more majestic look, the 19-inch wheels on upper trim levels might be worth considering.
Tucson’s conservatively designed cabin is scrupulously arranged. The base Tucson SE suffers from hard plastic trim, but upper-level models have less of the tawdry plastic marring the view of interior surfaces. Leather-upholstered Limited editions feature soft-touch plastics, plus stitching atop the gauges.
Also laid out carefully, the dashboard conveys a look of elegant simplicity. Positioning of instruments and controls is excellent, and no nonessential graphics clutter the dials. Some functions are controlled by console buttons; others belong to the touchscreen. One caution: many knobs and buttons are similarly shaped, thus demanding a quick glance before adjusting.
Front and rear seats are carefully-shaped for four adults. Front occupants enjoy amply-bolstered, comfortable seats, regardless of trim level.
Rear seatbacks are rather upright, but can be reclined. Tall riders can expect abundant space, with good clearance for heads and knees. A fifth passenger, however, is likely to feel squeezed.
Cargo space trails that of some competitors, including the Honda CR-V. Volume totals 30.1 cubic feet, growing to 61.9 cubic feet when seatbacks are folded. In addition, the cargo floor can be lowered.
Despite being smaller than some rivals, the Tucson’s suspension and tires yield a well-damped, controlled ride. Only with 19-inch wheels does the ride turn firm. Still, some jarring can occur, at least for an instant, when crossing expansion joints or tackling harsh pavement.
Sportiness is minimal, as the Tucson focuses on predictable handling. That’s typical in the small-crossover category, as is largely lifeless electric power steering.
Not only is the SE’s base engine short on power, it’s not more frugal with fuel than the more satisfying turbo four used in the other models.
Smooth-running and more than sufficiently powered for typical usage, even the turbo can feel limited when filled with people and luggage. Shifts from the turbo’s dual-clutch automatic transmission occur smoothly, without notable delay. Even in Sport mode, though, takeoffs can feel somewhat sluggish. When starting off, the non-turbo engine actually feels a tad more responsive.
On slippery surfaces with optional all-wheel drive, a switch can lock the torque split between front and rear wheels, for best low-speed traction. All-wheel drive also includes torque vectoring, which enhances cornering performance.
Fuel economy is decent, especially with turbo power. The 2017 model with 2.0-liter engine and front-drive was EPA-rated at 23/30 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined. All-wheel-drive lowered the estimate to 21/26/23 mpg.
With the 1.6-liter turbo, front-drive Tucsons were EPA-rated at 25/30 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined. All-wheel dropped that estimate to 24/28/25 mpg. Tucson Eco with front-drive was EPA-rated at 26/32 mpg City/Highway, or 28 mpg Combined, dipping to 25/30/27 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Every Tucson trim level is reasonably well-equipped., though not many options are available for personalization. Midlevel models tend to be the most satisfying compromise in value, and turbo engines are the most rewarding to drive. Hyundai’s excellent warranty raises the desirability quotient.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.