The all-new Tucson is further proof that Hyundai is becoming a major competitor throughout its vehicle lineup. Out is the generic and the boxy. In is the sculpted and the sinuous. And this Tucson is even a bit larger than the previous model, but also has shed about 60 pounds. Clearly, Hyundai is engineering a new standard.
Appearance: The Tucson may be compact, but it has grown up in its design. It is now sleek and curvaceous. A previous-generation Tucson — boxy with lots of body cladding — pulled up next to Peter at a stoplight and the differences were striking. (The new Tucson still has some cladding along the lower doors, but it's kept to a minimum.) Hyundai calls its new design concept "fluidic sculpture," which plays with contour and dimension. Lyra even thought the grille looked like it was "puckering up for a kiss." When parked next to an upscale small SUV such as the Lexus RX or Acura RDX, the Tucson doesn't suffer by comparison. That's an accomplishment.
Performance: This may be an entry-level SUV, but it certainly doesn't feel like one. The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly in automatic and Shiftronic modes. The 2.4-liter engine had enough power to make both of us think we had six cylinders instead of four. Lyra thought the "motor-driven power steering" was a bit stiff. There are plenty of standard electronic helpers such as stability and traction controls. We both noticed that there was little body lean — even on tight turns — or torque steer.
Interior: It's not as quiet as the luxury SUVs it resembles, as we noticed moderate road noise. But despite its lighter-weight materials, the Tucson's build is solid. The doors close with a thud, and they open wide so it's easy to get in and out. Overall, the cockpit is a pleasant mix of plastic and leather, with only a few items that say "entry level." There is plenty of headroom, and the leather seats are comfortable and supportive. The gauges (white on black with blue accents) are easy to read. The controls are simple and easy to use. There is a nook in the console to store your phone or MP3 player, and the deep armrest bin can hold a purse or a small bag. Some nits: There is no pull tab for the rear armrest, and the large cup holders need rubber inserts to hold smaller cups more securely. And the horn! Peter compared it to a child's squeeze toy. Blind-spot alert: The pillar in the rear is hefty.
Our 3 favorites
Rear views: A backup camera is among the many features.
Cargo area: A retractable cover and room to hold a week's worth of groceries without folding down the seats.
MPG mode: An ECO light comes on when you're driving smartly.
Fluid design: The exterior is a sculpture on wheels.
Let there be light: Panoramic sunroof made the cabin bright and airy.
Pep: Hard to believe this is a 4-cylinder.
The bottom line: This is one of the most stylish small crossovers on the market at any price. The Hyundai Tucson now can beckon buyers who wouldn't have looked beyond the CR-V or the RAV4 in the past.