The 2019 Hyundai Tucson slips into the crossover-SUV mainstream with good looks and features. It once was Hyundai’s smallest SUV, but those duties have since fallen to the Kona, and next year to the new Venue.
Moderately redesigned and upgraded this year, the 2019 Tucson boasts some appearance changes both inside and out, including a new grille, a new dash and a new electronic parking brake. The base touchscreen is now 7.0 inches on the diagonal, and wireless smartphone charging is available.
A new optional 2.4-liter engine with stop/start supplants the previous turbo-4. Hyundai also has added new safety technology, led by automatic emergency braking.
The 2019 Tucson comes in seven trims: SE, Value, SEL, Sport, Night, Limited, and Ultimate. Base SE and Value trim levels continue to use a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Mating with a 6-speed automatic, the base engine is rated at 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Front-drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option.
For other Tucson models, Hyundai has replaced the former turbo-4 with a normally-aspirated 2.4-liter engine, also found in sedans. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic rather than the previous dual-clutch transmission, the bigger engine makes 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet. Both outputs arrive at significantly higher engine speeds.
Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking now are standard, along with active lane control and a driver-attention warning. Sport and Ultimate models get a more sophisticated version of emergency braking, with pedestrian detection.
Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go operation is installed in Night trim level and up, while the Limited adds a surround-view camera system. Blind-spot monitors are standard on all except SE.
Both crash-test agencies give the 2019 Tucson good scores. The NHTSA issued a five-star overall rating, with five stars for frontal and side impact. The IIHS gave the Tucson “Good” scores in all tests, deeming it a Top Safety Pick.
Prices do not include $1,045 destination charge.
SE ($23,200 with front-wheel drive, $24,600 with all-wheel drive) holds the 2.0-liter engine and comes with air conditioning, cloth upholstery, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Active-safety features include automatic emergency braking and driver-attention warnings.
Value ($24,650 with FWD, $26,050 with AWD) adds an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, keyless start, satellite and HD radio, and blind-spot monitors.
SEL ($25,600 with FWD, $27,000 with AWD) upgrades to the 2.4-liter engine, adding automatic climate control, hands-free liftgate, and 18-inch wheels.
Sport ($27,700 with FWD, $29,100 with AWD) adds 8-speaker Infinity audio, LED headlights and taillights, wireless smartphone charging, 19-inch wheels, foglights, and distinct styling details.
Night ($30,650 with FWD, $32,050 with AWD) has 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, gloss black grille, alloy pedals, and adaptive cruise control.
Limited ($28,900 with FWD, $30,300 with AWD) gains leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, 18-inch wheels, and a heated steering wheel.
Ultimate ($31,550 with FWD, $32,950 with AWD) includes cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation.
As before, Hyundai’s Tucson is a bit smaller than some rivals. The reshaped front end is handsome and smooth; it’s now a departure from the more angular styling themes newer Hyundais wear.
Up front, the grille and headlights reflect themes that were initiated on the larger Santa Fe model. Those new shapes manage to set the Tucson at least slightly apart from competitors.
Passenger space in the Tucson remains ample for four adults. The base car’s front seats adjust six ways. Most versions provide decent support, on seats upholstered with grippy fabric. Upgrading to leather, the seat cushions become flatter, while adding lumbar support. They deliver fine long-distance comfort.
To accommodate even two adults in back, those seatbacks need to be reclined slightly from their usual upright position. Knee clearance and headroom are ample. Shoulder space is less so. The Tucson’s back seats fold down to expand cargo space.
Shaped like the one in Konas, the horizontally-focused dashboard holds a big touchscreen that rises up. Handsome in appearance, the setup works well. Gimmick-free controls are clearly arranged. Base models contain some hard plastic trim, but overall fit and finish are fine.
Cargo space measures 30.1 cubic feet available behind the rear seat, and 61.9 cubic feet behind the front seats, when rear seatbacks are down.
A refined, quiet ride heads the list of positive attributes, though Tucsons with 19-inch tires are a tad firm. In most driving, especially steady cruising, the Tucson has a settled feel that cushions trouble spots well. The Tucson bests many small crossovers in coping with harsh surfaces.
Each Tucson version handles well, reacting predictably, without significant surprises. Use of softer tires with tall sidewall impedes on-center tracking a bit. A drive-mode selector can add weight to the steering and quicken downshifts.
Performance is best described as average, now that the turbo is gone, with relatively modest power reaching the road. The high-powered 2.4-liter engine yields a bit more oomph, accelerating more smoothly but not much stronger. The automatic transmission delivers clean shifts.
Any Tucson can have all-wheel drive. A switch that locks torque split can improve low-speed traction on slippery terrain.
Fuel economy is average. With front-drive, the 2.0-liter Tucson is EPA-rated at 23/30 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate to 22/25/23 mpg.
The new 2.4-liter version is EPA-rated at 22/28 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops that rating to 21/26/23 mpg.
Any 2019 Hyundai Tucson offers good value, but logically enough, the Value edition is best at bang for the buck; the SEL trim is another worthy choice. All get Hyundai’s extensive warranty coverage, but only Limited models get the top technology.
Driving impressions by Martin Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.