Due in showrooms later this fall, the 2014 Hyundai Tucson benefits from a bounty of significant upgrades aimed at making this compact crossover SUV even more of a factor in its intensely competitive market segment. Changes to the Tucson range from minor visual tweaks to improved dynamics to new direct-injected engines that offer even better performance and efficiency. While retaining a three-tier lineup, the hierarchy nomenclature also changes for the upcoming season moving from GL/GLS/Limited to GLS/SE/Limited.
Highlighting its exterior cosmetic revamps, the 2014 Tucson boasts new projector beam headlamps with LED running lights, restyled LED taillamps and redesigned 17-inch (standard) and 18-inch (optional) alloy wheels. Inside, the versatile 5-passenger cabin offers revised color/trim combinations and gains a standard multifunction steering wheel on a new column that both tilts and telescopes plus two-stage reclining backs on its 60/40 rear bench seat. Even the entry-level Tucson GLS now comes with three years of Hyundai's Blue Link telematics service as well as Bluetooth hands-free phone capability. The SE and Limited variants add a new 4.3-inch color touchscreen with rearview camera while Limited buyers can step up to a new and more-intuitive third-generation navigation system with a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen and HD radio.
Raising its underhood ante, the 2014 Tucson offers a pair of 4-cylinder engines that retain the same displacement as 2013 but now feature direct fuel injection that helps increase output and lower emissions. Making its first of what Hyundai says will be several appearances in upcoming U.S. models, the new 2.0-liter Nu used in the Tucson GLS makes 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Although one pony down to the current 2.0-liter Theta II engine, it does crank out an additional 5 lb-ft of twist and brings it on even lower in the rev range to help bolster acceleration. It also bumps the EPA city mark from 22 to 23 mpg when backed by the now-standard 6-speed automatic that features Shiftronic manual-style control as well as a new straight-through gate.
The 2.4-liter Theta II GDI engine in the 2014 SE and Limited is the same motivator already used by the Sonata and Santa Fe Sport. Also backed by a 6-speed Shiftronic automatic, it develops 182 horses and 177 lb-ft of torque compared to the 176/168 output figures of the port-injected engine in the 2013 Tucson. Both of the Tucson's powertains incorporate an Active ECO mode that modifies throttle response and shift programming to help increase overall real-world mpg by 5-7 percent. Tucson tow ratings remain the same with either engine - 1,000 pounds base/2,000 pounds with trailer brakes.
While the Tucson's basic chassis hardware carries forward, the premium Sachs Amplitude Selective Damping shocks have now migrated down to the entry-level model to improve its ride and handling. In another first, buyers of the most affordable Tucson also will be able to choose between front-drive and all-wheel drive configurations for 2014. The AWD setup is the same electronically controlled on-demand system available on the SE and Limited.
Pricing for the 2014 Hyundai Tucson GLS opens at $22,305, while the SE starts at $24,355 and the Tucson Limited commences at $27,055. Adding all-wheel drive will raise each of those figures by $1,500. Although the upgrading process - and the demise of a base variant with a manual transmission - has raised that entire matrix a bit, the 2014 Tucson continues to offer solid overall value compared to key rivals like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4.
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