By Jim Bray
Hyundai has upped its SUV ante with the new compact ute Tucson.
Why, when it already sells plenty of its Santa
Profitability probability, undoubtedly. The Tucson is smaller than the Santa
Fe, as well as being a little more entry level, so it allows the
Korean automaker an opportunity to introduce a handsome new vehicle and give
itself the potential to move the Santa Fe upmarket.
The four door Tucson continues Hyundais penchant for naming SUVs
after cities in the warm Southern US States, which certainly seemed like a
slap in the face when I took possession of a Tucson during a particularly cold
and snowy afternoon.
Ah, but that turned out to be the perfect occasion to try out this new beast,
and it acquitted itself admirably. For you see, like its big brother
from New Mexico, this Arizona-monikered motor vehicle is just as
at home in the north as it is in warmer climes.
That explains such amenities in my test unit as seat heaters up front and
an HVAC system that warmed the vehicle up and defrosted its windows about as
quickly as one could expect during minus temperatures. And of course the Tucson
has a lot more crammed onto its list of features than just heat
em up things.
The Tucson is a handsome vehicle, not as curvy as the Santa Fe yet athletic
looking without being in your face. Its a conventional four door ute
with top hinged tailgate and among its thoughtful features are rear seats that
fold flat in a rather nifty manner and a cargo area floor cover thats
carpeted on one side and rubberized on the other.
The Tucson is meant to compete with the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4
and Nissan X-Trail. Of those competitors, Ive only driven the CR-V, but
the Tucson seems well-equipped to take it on head to head. While you may lose
some of Hondas legendary refinement, you can add to the equation such
available Tucson features as real four wheel drive and V6 power that can help
tilt the scale in Hyundais direction.
The base Tucson comes with a 2.0 litre DOHC 4-cylinder engine with Continuously
Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) and you can mate it to either a five speed manual
or four speed automatic. My tester was the top end GLS AWD, which comes with
Hyundais 2.7-litre V6 engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission with pretend
manual Shiftronic mode. I thought the Shiftronic mode felt rather muddy
and stiff, but it sure came in handy when the roads got slick.
The V6 engine is fitted with a variable length, tuned intake system that Hyundai
says gives smoother delivery of power across the entire rev band. In use, I
found the engine nice and torquey and the Tucson moved along quite nicely.
The 173 horses are reached at 6000 rpm, but the 178 lb. ft. of torque are maximized
at a more reasonable 4000 rpm so, while these may not be the biggest numbers
on the market, they prove more than adequate for the task at hand.
The all wheel/four wheel drive system worked well, too, and the all wheel
drive mode proved excellent when we sallied forth along a secondary highway
that, in places, was snow covered and a little hairier than we would have liked.
You can access the AWD on the fly via a dashboard-mounted button
and the difference it made in the Tucsons demeanour on the snowy twisty
bits was obvious.
Tucson uses a Borg-Warner Electronic InterActive Torque Management all-wheel-drive
system that, according to Hyundai, routes up to 99 percent of the available
power to the front wheels. As road conditions or torque demand changes, the
system automatically diverts up to 50 percent of the available power to the
rear wheels. The system apparently monitors the position of the throttle,
the angle of the front wheels as well as their slippage. And when you manually
lock the driveline into AWD the torque is split 50/50 between the front and
Stopping the Tucsons 16 inch wheels are disc brakes (the front are ventilated)
with ABS and traction control with an electronic stability program. Brake feel
is good and the ABS doesnt beat you over the head with its presence unless
you really jam down the pedal or the traction is really lousy.
The steering wheel tilts, though it doesnt telescope, and the steering
is power assisted rack and pinion. It feels fine, though the suspensions
softness means this vehicle definitely handles like an SUV and not like a sports
car. That suspension consists of Independent MacPherson struts with gas shocks
up front, independent multi-link with trailing arms in rear and both ends get
Inside, the Tucson is a pleasant enough place to spend some time, though our
road trip only lasted about ninety minutes at a sitting and by that time the
small of my back was feeling a tad tired. Otherwise the leather covered seats
(with aforementioned bun warmers) were comfortable and supportive. They adjust
manually, and I must admit I never quite found a perfect driving position,
but it wasnt a big deal.
The front passenger seat folds down to add even more storage room or become
a desk for those times when the driver just has to turn the vehicle into a
The Tucson also includes such amenities as power windows, power heated outside
mirrors and power door locks with keyless entry. The AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system
has six speakers, a micro antenna on the roof, and reasonable sound. Ergonomically
its a huge step up from some of Hyundais stereos of only a couple
of years back, which featured buttons so small I had to put on my reading glasses
to discover what they did.
The CD player is of the single disc variety, but thats okay.
Hyundai has even put attention to detail into such things as the outside door
handles, which are body coloured and have a feel of quality. I could have done
without the two tone body cladding (which isnt unique to this vehicle
or manufacturer, alas). On the other hand, you get dual exhausts, cruise control,
front fog lights, and a power sunroof that we only got a chance to try very
quickly since it was so damn cold outside.
My week with the Tucson left me liking the vehicle quite a bit. This wasnt
surprising, since I also like the Santa Fe (especially its newer iterations
such as the one with the 3.5 liter V6 and five speed automatic).
Hyundai is barking seriously at the heels of the big guys and
while there are a few touches they still need to work on, such as tactile feel
of buttons and knobs and the like, theyre definitely on the right track
in offering vehicles of good quality that offer even better value.
The Hyundai Tucson GLS equipped like my fully featured tester sells for about
$29000 Canadian/$22000 US.