With record sales month after month, Hyundai has been kicking butt and taking names lately in the North American market, thanks in large part to its all-new Elantra and Sonata. As phenomenal as both sedans are, it wouldn’t be fair for them to take all the credit — spend a week behind the wheel of the slightly older but similarly-redone Hyundai Tucson compact crossover and one could have foreseen the rise of Korean automaker months before either model launched.
It has been several years since the latest Tucson went on sale; even so, the 2012 Tucson Limited AWD we had at our disposal painted a good picture of why Hyundai has been doing so well. It features attractive styling inside and out, a very competent powertrain and unprecedented value. At a Canadian price of $32,349 (priced at $27,320 in the U.S.), it was loaded with many features, including power heated outside mirrors, panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, steering wheel audio controls, front heated Seats, leather seating surfaces, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3/Aux/USB Stereo with 6 speakers and, suggestively, an all-wheel drive setup. The complete list of features can be found after the jump.
Let’s begin with the exterior. Those fluid lines, contours and curvatures you see on the latest Elantra and Sonata, all part of Hyundai’s evolved “fluidic sculpture” design language? The Tucson adopted them first. Just imagine a crossover version of the attractive Elantra and the Tucson is what you will likely get. But as attractive as the small crossover is, it’s not perfect. Up close, its looks top notch with its sweeping coupe-like lines; from afar, it looks a tad bit too short and pinched from the side.
Fortunately, the pinched look is only an illusion. Step inside the Tucson and you are greeted with a roomy interior. Compared to a compact sedan like the Chevrolet Cruze, it almost seems cavernous. Push the front seats back enough for 6′ 2″ passengers and there is enough leg room in the back for 5’10” passengers. Open the cargo hatch and you are immediately reminded why crossovers are so popular. Luggage space behind the second row seats is 25.7 cubic feet, while folding the seats down increases that figure to 55.8 cubic feet. Not the roomiest in the class—the CRV probably takes the cake in that regard—but very respectable, nonetheless.
The rest of the interior does a good job at mimicking the exterior, styling-wise. A nicely-designed dashboard and centre console, in addition to aluminum accents on the steering wheel and air vents add some flair to an aesthetically-pleasing, functional and cohesive cockpit. The plastics could be hard to the touch, but why would you want to touch them, at least on a regular basis? What really matters is that soft-touch materials can be found in the areas that you interact with the most, while the lower-quality materials in the other areas do a very good job at, well, not looking low-quality. The overall build quality is good—there are no noticeable panel gaps or other examples of poor build quality.
The Tucson is attractive and spacious, but does it go? Our Limited AWD model was powered by Hyundai’s optional 2.4L I4 DOHC Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) engine, good for 176 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, acceleration was better than adequate; the ride was fairly smooth; and gear changes were seamless, both on the highway and in stop-and-go city driving. The engine never seemed to struggle, unless pushing really hard, and (as it should be with a crossover) steering was very mainstream car-like. While far from being a sports car, it did offer a bit of steering feedback, at least when compared to a certain compact sedan — the Toyota Corolla — but that’s not saying much.
On the fuel-economy front, the automatic-equipped Tucson Limited AWD promised 10.0L/100km in city driving and 7.1L/100km on the highway, for a combined 8.7L/100km. That’s right up there with the segment’s best. In mostly city driving, we achieved 9.5L/100km, which is very close to estimates.
With the 2012 Tucson, Hyundai is aiming squarely at the compact crossover segment’s big players — the Ford Escape, Honda CRV and Chevrolet Equinox. After speeding a week in one, we believe that the Korean automaker has delivered a compelling product. While the Limited AWD model we had wasn’t exactly budget-oriented, it is priced competitively once you consider the slew of added features. If you can do without the extra features, the base Tucson L model, which offers one of the best value propositions in the segment, is always there for the picking. Either way, with attractive styling inside and out, great on-road manners and class-competitive practicality, all trim levels provide the essentials that have made Hyundai the success it is today. Prospects of a compact crossover will be doing themselves a disfavor by not giving the latest Tucson a look.
[expand title="Specs & Features "]
TUCSON Limited AWD
City (AT) 10.0L/100km, Highway (AT) 7.1L/100km, Combined (AT) 8.7L/100km
4-Wheel Disc Brakes
2.4L I4 DOHC with Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) Engine
6-Speed Automatic Transmission with SHIFTRONIC®
On Demand All-Wheel Drive
Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Traction Control System (TCS)
Dual Front, Side and Curtain Airbags w/ Rollover Sensor
Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Hillstart Assist Control (HAC)
Keyless Entry/Security Alarm System
AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3/Aux/USB Stereo with 6 speakers
Power Windows and Door Locks
Bluetooth® Hands-Free Phone System
Steering Wheel Audio Controls
Leather Seating Surfaces
Front Heated Seats
Power Heated Outside Mirrors
18” Aluminum Alloy Wheels with 225/55R18 Tires
Rear Wiper and Washer