In 2005, Hyundai introduced the first Tucson. At the time, the carmaker described the small 'ute as "a value-packed sport/utility vehicle that meshes with our buyers' active lifestyles." A half-decade later, and currently in its second generation after undergoing Fluidic Sculpture cosmetic surgery, the Tucson's original purpose remains unchanged.

Delivering on the active lifestyle promise was our swoopy, $29,590-as-tested 2010 Tucson Limited AWD. Editors deemed the Tucson buzzworthy after early impressions. The compact crossover segment isn't exactly regarded for its aesthetically smashing contributions, yet along came this looker to rouse our curiosity. But how would we feel after 12 months?

Let's begin with former editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine, who embarked on a weekend road trip with wife and daughter to Death Valley. There, in parched land reminiscent of our Tucson's Chai Bronze paint color, he found the 176-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four peppy and the throttle tip-in abrupt.

The Tucson seemed stymied, however, when it was time to climb. St. Antoine: "The four is smooth enough, but it won't cruise at 80 mph without the six-speed auto occasionally downshifting on moderate grades. On the steep inclines into and out of Death Valley, I sometimes had to change all the way down into third to keep the steam rolling. And that was with just three of us and light luggage aboard. Have to wonder how the Tucson would handle four adults and full luggage-especially on hilly terrain."