When Hyundai launched its all-new Hyundai Genesis coupe and sedan, both cars were in markets the South Korean automaker had never ventured before, but the true test of Hyundai's image renaissance is when it comes to redesigning vehicles in some of the more current, popular segments. No segment could be hotter right now than crossover SUVs, and this is exactly where Hyundai started with the all-new 2010 Hyundai Tucson to prove that it can build stylish, comfortable cars that are still affordable and reliable.
Competing against compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape, the 2010 Hyundai Tucson is available in two trim levels (GLS and Limited) with a starting MSRP of $18,995. When Hyundai dropped off an example of the new Tucson for me to review, it was the Tucson Limited which has a base price of $24,345 and an as-tested price of $28,090 with options. Even at this price, the new Hyundai Tucson provides plenty of value not to mention an upscale look and feel both inside and out.
2010 Hyundai Tucson Exterior
Most of the design cues for the 2010 Hyundai Tucson were introduced on the 2009 Hyundai ix-onic Concept. In person, the new Tucson has a very similar shape to the larger and more luxurious Buick Enclave with its pronounced body creases, upswept beltline and bubbly roofline which all help to make this stand out from other compact crossovers. While the original Tucson fit the bill as a bland, cookie-cutter crossover, the 2010 Tucson kicked off Hyundai's new 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language when it went on sale earlier in the year.
From every angle, the 2010 Tucson has styling and attitude unmatched in this segment, and this new demeanor starts up front with the angular headlights, sculpted wheel arches and the unique grille and fascia treatments. Horizontal taillights and stylish body lines help to give the rear an equally appealing design, while black cladding surrounds the lower edges of the Tucson finishing of the identifiable look. The 2010 Tucson Limited trim level is easily distinguishable from the base GLS by the body color side mirrors, standard fog lights, 18-inch, five split-spoke alloy wheels and the chrome trim on the door handles and front grille. Looking ahead, it is likely that the Tucson's stylish design elements could be carried over to both of the Hyundai's bigger crossovers, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Hyundai Veracruz.
2010 Hyundai Tucson Limited Interior
Inside the Tucson, Hyundai's design team continued to give the entry-level crossover a more upscale look, with a design and layout far better than any competitors. As should be expected from this price range, there is still plenty of hard plastic throughout the cabin, but the touch points and all the key styling areas are very well appointed. Hyundai claims that the center console and upper dash are covered in soft-touch paint on the Limited models, but the true highlights of this upgraded cabin were the saddle-brown leather seating surfaces and the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
While all Tucson Limited come with a slew of standard luxury features such as the leather seating, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and dual zone air conditioning, this test vehicle came equipped with the optional ($2,850) Premium Package. For those who desire top-end luxury at a bargain price, this package is ideal as it adds touch-screen navigation system with rearview camera display, a two-pane panoramic sunroof and the upgraded premium audio system.
The stylish exterior design may make the new Tucson more attractive on the market, but it significantly decreases interior space even compared to the previous model. While there was still plenty of room to fit five adult passengers in the Tucson during this review, it is hard to ignore how much bigger some of the competitors are. Passenger volume has decreased to 101.9 cubic feet and cargo volume has actually increased to 25.7 cu. ft. giving this new Tucson a total interior volume of 127.6 cubic feet, but this is noticeably smaller than the Rogue (155.3), RAV4 (144.6), CR-V (136.6) and Escape (130.8).
2010 Hyundai Tucson Performance & Handling
Unlike the previous Tucson, the second-generation crossover does not offer a V-6, but Hyundai's new 2.4-liter DOHC inline-four offers almost as much power and torque as the previous model's V-6 with better fuel economy than the old inline-four. This test vehicle was a partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV) model which means that the engine's output is limited to 170 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque (compared to 173 hp and 178 lb-ft for the previous 2.7-liter V-6). Although a six-speed manual is available on the base GLS, the limited is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission that offers a manual shift mode. With the standard front-wheel drive configuration, the 2010 Tucson gets EPA fuel economy estimates of 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway - improvements of 15 percent in the city and 24 percent on the highway. Hyundai has already announced that the 2011 model year, which could be available later this year, will see the addition of the Tucson Blue that will further improve fuel economy and likely reduce the starting MSRP similar to our recent Hyundai Elantra Blue test vehicle.
The new engine may have helped greatly to offer such an improvement in fuel economy, but standard low-rolling resistance tires and the new Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) system have also helped to reduce some of the strain on the engine. While the advantages of this electric power steering system are evident, the Tucson suffers from a rather numb steering response at times - although people won't be buying a Tucson for its handling capabilities anyway. Riding on a platform shared with the Hyundai Elantra, the Tucson also exhibited similar cabin noise issues as the compact sedan especially in high rpm ranges. Despite these two minor nitpicks, the Tucson performs quite well around town with a full load of passengers, and those looking to tow with the Tucson will be happy to learn that the loss of a V-6 hasn't resulted in a loss of towing capacity as it is still rated at a maximum of 2,000 pounds.
One major advantage the Hyundai Elantra does have over most of its competitors is the fact that it is covered by Hyundai's 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty in addition to a five-year/60,000 basic warranty.
2010 Hyundai Tucson Safety
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash tested the 2010 Hyundai Tucson, so there is no safety data at this time.
Standard safety features for all 2010 Tucson models include six airbags, active front head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, downhill brake control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control with traction control and brake assist.
The 2010 Hyundai Tucson is proof that Hyundai still understands its core consumers even while it continues to build cars like the Genesis and the upcoming Hyundai Equus that pushes it into price ranges unheard for an economy brand. With its all-new design and greatly improved fuel economy, the 2010 Hyundai Tucson should be a great vehicle for anybody shopping in the compact crossover SUV segment. On top of everything else, though, the key selling point for the new Tucson is the fact that it retains its affordable starting price.
Hyundai provided the vehicle this road test review.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross