First Drive: 2010 Hyundai Tucson
The immediate impression you get when you drive the all-new 2010 Hyundai Tucson crossover is that it is a quality vehicle. Its exterior, while still a bit derivative of upscale crossovers, is certainly handsome enough - a tribute to the fact it was the first design to emanate from the company's Frankfurt, Germany, design studio. And the interior is attractive, never giving the impression that by buying the Tucson you are settling for a cheap substitute. In fact, available equipment like the panoramic sunroof (a first for Hyundai), touch-screen navigation and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system give the Tucson a decidedly upscale feel, which is very nice in a vehicle that will retail for right around $20,000. The base Tucson, which is decently equipped, will retail for $18,995 excluding destination, and you would be hard-pressed to find one with a manufacturer's suggested list price of more than about $26,000 or so.
Of course, vehicles from upstart manufacturers have sometimes looked good on the specifications sheet only to stumble badly when road-tested, but the new Tucson passed that test with flying colors. Frankly we had our doubts going in because Hyundai has eliminated a six-cylinder option for the renewed model, so we were afraid power might be thin, but the Theta II four-cylinder engine delivers about the same amount of power and acceleration as the previous V6 with 20 percent better fuel economy than the old four-cylinder engine. That means the Tucson is expected to deliver 31 miles per gallon on the highway, which also means it is not only more fuel efficient than its predecessor, but also key competitors like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Behind the wheel of the Tucson you're not constantly reminded of its high fuel economy by sluggardly acceleration. Instead, the crossover is responsive to the accelerator and, at the same time, a better handling vehicle than you might expect. It is utterly predictable through corners without excessive understeer, and it is not plagued by excessive body lean either.
Both overall handling and interior comfort are enhanced by a body that is 3.3 inches longer and one inch wider than its predecessor, and the real measure of efficiency is the vehicle is 61 pounds lighter. Like the exterior, the interior is straightforward with a rich quality about it that belies the price. Functional additions include Downhill Brake Control and Hillstart Assist Control, which might seem to be a bit of technological overkill on a vehicle that's severest off-road test will likely be traversing a mud puddle. But we are certainly not going to turn up our noses at those additions, especially when the sticker price is as appealing as the 2010 Tucson's.