KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
With the expansion of the Santa Fe into seven-passenger territory, the Tuscon becomes Hyundai's sole competitor in the compact SUV market. Like its big brother, the 2009 Hyundai Tucson is available with either front-wheel or four-wheel drive, making it a capable commuter in snow and rain and an off-road champ in mud or sand. More affordable than a comparably-equipped Honda CR-V or Jeep Compass, the Tucson successfully blends edgy and fun styling with a feature-packed equipment list that includes standard side-curtain airbags and an optional V6 engine. The Tucson's sticker price also includes Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty at no extra cost. And, while the Tucson can't match the Honda CR-V for fit, finish and high resale, it isn't too far off the mark.
You'll Like This Car If...
You'll like the Tucson if you appreciate a space-efficient design wrapped in a stylish package. Designers have emphasized cargo-carrying convenience, including an easy-to-clean composite cargo floor, tie-downs, grocery hooks and under-the-floor storage. Fuel economy is a big benefit, especially with the 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Like other small SUVs, the 2009 Hyundai Tucson isn't really a contender for serious off-road treks, despite its 7.8-inch ground clearance when equipped with four-wheel drive. Comfortable enough on the road with its soft and easy-riding suspension, the Tucson doesn't feel particularly sporty in regular driving.
What's New for 2009
Cosmetic improvements include a bolder grille design and new 16-inch alloy wheels, while a new 200-watt Kenwood navigation/audio unit is made available. The SE 4WD model receives standard heated seats and windshield wiper de-icer, while the Limited V6 models receive a standard power glass sunroof.
As long as you don't expect an invigorating experience, the easy-to-drive 2009 Hyundai Tucson delivers satisfying levels of ride, comfort and performance. Pavement transitions and larger bumps or holes might toss the passengers around somewhat, but, on the whole, the ride is smooth, even on roads not fully paved. Handling is similar to any small-size SUV, if perhaps less sporty-feeling than, say, a Ford Escape or Mazda Tribute. Visibility is generally good, helped by lengthy rear-door glass, though wide rear pillars impair the view slightly. Tire noise occurs on some surfaces, but overall the Tucson is impressively quiet.
Always a sensible choice in the snowbelt, the Tuscon's Electronic InterActive Torque Management four-wheel-drive system normally sends 99 percent of engine torque to the front wheels, but can transmit what's needed to the wheels that have the most traction. A dashboard lock button provides a 50/50 torque split when needed for specific terrain, such as off-road use or extremely slippery situations.
Hyundai Warranty and Roadside Assistance
As if Hyundai's comprehensive five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty coverage isn't impressive enough, throw in 24-hour roadside assistance for five years at no extra charge.
Geared toward single folks more than families, the 2009 Hyundai Tucson has plenty of head and elbow space up front, as well as supportive and reasonably comfortable seats. Rear space is a bit smaller than average for this class, but helpful features make up for some of the loss. The rear seat folds flat in a single motion, without having to remove the cushion, backrest or headrests. A folding front passenger seat provides extra space as well. On the distinctive dashboard, a large hood sits above the gauge cluster. The automatic transmission's shift lever is on the lower dashboard, and the sizable glovebox is within easy reach.
Built on a heavily-modified Elantra sedan platform, the Tucson features a fully-independent suspension that helps yield a satisfying ride. Unlike the original Santa Fe, which tended to produce a love-it or hate-it reaction, the Tucson is more conventional in appearance, styled largely like other small-scale SUVs. The Tucson also features a number of standard safety features, including Electronic Stability Control and traction control. Despite a kinship to the Kia Sportage, the two models don't look all that much alike.
Notable Standard Equipment
The GLS trim version includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, remote keyless entry, power locks, windows and mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, Electronic Stability Control, tilt steering column, heated mirrors, XM Satellite Radio, auxiliary input jack and alloy wheels. The Tucson SE adds a V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, body-side cladding, fog lamps, cruise control and air conditioning. Heated leather front seats, a power sunroof, a six-disc CD changer and automatic climate control go into the Limited model. The V6 is available with a four-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission only, but on GLS two-wheel drive models, the four-cylinder can be matched with either a five-speed manual or an automatic.
Notable Optional Equipment
Because of its abundant standard equipment, options are few on the Tucson. The GLS offers air conditioning, an automatic transmission, cruise control and an upgraded Kenwood navigation/audio unit with an MP3-compatible CD player. The SE and Limited offer four-wheel drive, heated front seats, a power sunroof (Limited) and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.
Under the Hood
The base four-cylinder engine offers economy of purchase and of operation. It's certainly not fast, but it has plenty of performance to deal with traffic and can get up to highway cruising speed at a nimble rate, and for many people that's fast enough. The V6 engine has slightly less fuel economy but doesn't seem to deliver an exceptionally higher level of performance in the bargain. And there is no five-speed manual available with the V6, either.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 (2WD, manual), 20/25 (2WD, automatic)
173 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
178 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (2WD), 18/23 (4WD)
The front-wheel-drive Tucson GLS with a five-speed manual transmission has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $18,500, while the SE with four-wheel drive and automatic transmission is about $24,000 and a loaded four-wheel-drive Limited tops out around $28,000. A look at the Fair Purchase Price page will show what others in your area are paying for the Tucson, so be sure to check it often before you buy. Kelley Blue Book expects the Tucson to retain good long-term resale values, better than the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Kia Sportage, on par with the Saturn VUE and Chevrolet Equinox, but below the Jeep Compass, Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.