Another adventurer took our Tucson to Colorado over a holiday weekend. He wrote that freeway ride quality was smooth, allowing passengers to easily doze off. As the road took him higher in elevation, it started to snow, and the Tucson really began to shine. In near-whiteout conditions with little traction on the road, it "was nothing short of phenomenal -- over icy, windy, snowy roads, the vehicle was perfect, never giving us any white-knuckle moments."

Additionally, our Tucson went to Mammoth Lakes, a popular summer and winter destination five hours north of Los Angeles, where it served as pack mule for an editor who embarked on a multi-day camping trip with friends and family. "I was impressed with the amount of gear the cargo area held -- the rear became downright cavernous with the second row folded," she logged.

More often than the occasional out-of-town excursion, the Tucson was enlisted to battle Los Angeles traffic. Not surprisingly, its compact size made it easy to maneuver around our busy, congested streets and a piece of cake to parallel park and fit into tight spaces. For that reason alone, it was always a popular choice among staffers, but there were a few discouraging details worth mentioning.

The 2.7-liter V-6 is small and offers a respectable amount of horsepower, but for such a small vehicle it still felt sluggish and didn't offer the fuel economy we would've expected. In fact, the Tucson only got one mpg better average fuel economy than the much bigger and heavier 3.5-liter Honda Ridgeline V-6. Of course, this small V-6 is one the Hyundai's had for a while, and we'd expect a newer generation engine soon. Likewise, the four-speed automatic seems to slip away much of the available power, and it sure would be nice not to buzz at near 3000 rpm at highway speeds.

Likewise, editors cited the lack of storage areas and cubbies in the doors and center console. As for overall ride and handling, comments were mixed: Some staffers felt the steering was comparable with that of other vehicles in its class, while others found themselves correcting halfway through most turns, usually having to dial in more input than expected. Some of that, we suspect, is in the suspension design, while some is probably inherent in what a compact SUV's design parameters will allow, especially at this price.

Our Tucson went through four standard service procedures, and not once did we have additional issues for the dealer to investigate. That says a lot for its reliability.

In summing up our experience with this Hyundai, one editor noted, "It's easy to say the Tucson is a good value -- it's got a V-6, airbags, stability control, good interior room, back-country capability, all for under $24,000. But there are a few other good vehicles also in that ballpark."

Maybe Hyundai isn't the first name that comes to mind for most shoppers, but this little SUV served us well for the 12 months and 23,000 miles we had it. Worth a look if you're ready buy in this segment.