By Keith Buglewicz
Third generation is charmed for the Hyundai Tucson, as this version of the compact-crossover SUV gets just about everything right. Previous versions were competent, but not quite competitive with the class-leading Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. This third generation gets it right, though, with Hyundai reinventing its 5-passenger compact SUV with an eye-catching exterior design, the latest technology and safety aids like automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and an available 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that gets up to 32 mpg. A lease-only hydrogen-powered fuel-cell version based on the last-gen platform remains available, but only in California. With a starting price of under $24,000 and improvements upon its former self in almost every category, the Tucson takes on the segment's best.
Consider the 2017 Hyundai Tucson if your small-SUV needs include style, sophisticated technology and great fuel economy. On top of it all is Hyundai's excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
After a thorough revamp last year, the 2017 Hyundai Tucson gets a handful of "and now this" additions. Among the changes: Limited models offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, there are rear air-conditioning vents in Eco and Sport models, and all cloth interiors now get YES Essentials stain-resistant fabric.
The first thing you'll notice about the 2017 Tucson is Hyundai's efforts to keep things quiet and comfortable. A well-insulated cabin keeps outside sounds at bay, the suspension setup yields...
... a more composed ride even on gravel, and the steering feels less artificial than in past models. The 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, standard in Eco, Sport and Limited models, offered adequate power, but we wished for more when we needed to pass slower traffic. The drive-mode selector's Sport setting at least gives you the illusion of more power, by making the Tucson's throttle, engine and shifting more responsive. As for shifting, in the 1.6-liter models it's done by a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission, making the Tucson the only compact SUV in its class to use that type of transmission. It's smooth, kicks into lower gears quickly, and helps fuel economy to the tune of up to 32 mpg in Eco trim. The California-only Tucson Fuel Cell drinks hydrogen, but its electric powertrain gives this zero-emission SUV the quiet ride and instant power of a traditional EV.
SMART POWER TAILGATE
Hyundai's hands-free tailgate lets you stand on your own two feet. While Ford makes you wave a foot around under the bumper, the Hyundai uses the proximity of the key fob to sense your intentions, opening the tailgate after standing behind the Tucson for a few seconds.
YES ESSENTIALS STAIN PROTECTION
The compact SUV is the de facto family car these days, so stain-resistant fabric should be a no-brainer. Not only does YES Essentials fabric technology resist stains, it helps repel foul odors and even reduces static electricity.
The base Hyundai Tucson SE offers a 6-way-manual seat, but skip that and move up to the Sport or Eco, which comes with an 8-way-power seat with lumbar. The sensible dash offers big vents, simple instrumentation, and buttons and knobs for climate and audio controls, even if you opt for a higher-end model and its touch-screen interface. Simplicity extends to the digital display between the gauges, which doesn't overload the driver with info. Even if it's not best-in-class roomy, the comfortable rear seat works just fine, and the cargo area's adjustable floor also includes storage for the cargo cover.
There's no question the 2017 Tucson is a sharp-looking compact SUV. The big grille, flowing lines and LED-accented headlights bring it into the same fold as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport -- very good company. The front end's styling centers on that trapezoidal grille, with lines flowing over the hood and across the fenders to the rear, blending into the taillights. Under the pretty styling is a chassis that uses more than 50-percent high-strength steel, providing a strength that makes the Hyundai Tucson safe and stable. If the hydrogen-powered Hyundai Tucson's design looks older, it's not your eyes. The fuel-cell Tucson remains based on the last-gen platform.
The 2017 Hyundai Tucson SE is the least expensive, and offers what we consider the basics on a modern vehicle: rearview camera, Bluetooth- and USB-equipped audio system, 17-inch alloy wheels, and an automatic transmission for the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. But it's better to step up to the Eco model, where you'll get rear air-conditioning vents, an 8-way-power driver's seat, and the more powerful AND fuel-efficient 1.6-liter turbo engine along with its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. A half-step up from that is the Sport, which adds blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, push-button start, and a power liftgate with the proximity-open feature. Fuel cell models are nicely equipped for being based on the old platform, but one of their best features is unlimited complimentary hydrogen refueling.
All-wheel drive is available on every trim level, but if you really want to load up, head straight for the Tucson Limited. It includes leather seating, LED headlights and taillights, a chrome grille and door handles, a power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. There's also an upgraded infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with its 8-inch touch-screen, 405-watt/8-speaker audio system, and Hyundai's Blue Link 2.0 smartphone interface. An Ultimate package adds ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, lane-departure warning, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Base Tucson SE models get a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic transmission, which is a bit of a dog. Choose Eco, Sport or Limited to get the much better 1.6-liter turbo-4 and 7-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available with either engine in lieu of the standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) setup. AWD Tucson models offer a "lock" feature, ensuring up to a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels for better grip in low-traction situations. And don't equate "turbo" with "speed"; instead, the upgrade engine successfully concentrates on fuel economy, getting up to 32 mpg in Eco models, on regular unleaded gas. Hydrogen models use an advanced system that turns the element into electricity to power a motor. The 37-gallon tank can be filled in less than 10 minutes.
164 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (FWD), 21/26 mpg (AWD)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
175 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/30 mpg (FWD), 24/28 mpg (AWD), 26/32 mpg (Eco, FWD), 25/30 mpg (Eco, AWD)
Induction electric motor (hydrogen fuel cell)
134 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000 rpm
EPA-estimated driving range: 265 miles
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
You can get a 2017 Hyundai Tucson SE with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $23,600, but we suggest skipping that and heading to the better-equipped Eco model, which starts at a bit more than $25,000. Sport models kick off at about $26,800, while the top-line Limited will run about $30,600. All-wheel drive adds $1,400 to any Tucson's starting price. If you opt for the Ultimate package on the 2017 Tucson Limited, you'll be looking at about $35,000 worth of compact SUV. That's pretty favorable next to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, and is nearly identical to the Ford Escape. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is limited to select California buyers and is offered only as a lease for $499/month for 36 months with $2,999 down. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Tucson. Residual values for the Tucson are about on par with the rest of the compact-SUV class.