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."

After the aquatic activities, visual assets manager Brian Vance was next to try the Tucson, subjecting it to three snowstorms on the way to Lake Tahoe and Reno. Thanks in part to electronically controlled all-wheel drive and mud-and-snow-ready all-season tires, Vance never bogged down and scarcely spun a tire as he relished the warmth of the heated front leather seats. After his 1200-milejourney, he was even more mindful of the cabin's plastics, finding them "easily marred by shoes, luggage, and overall daily use."

Still more staff members had a go with the Tucson in the city. Praise was universal for the steering wheel design, which includes well-arranged sound system and cruise-control controls, but when editors were forced to tune the radio by hand they complained about the knob's distant positioning. Several staffers disliked the motor-driven power steering's gummy feel and a few found the ride harsh in comparison with other soft-roading CUVs, although most thought it was passable for its task.

With our team shuttling through the wilder parts of the Golden State, the Tucson required only a little R&R in its 21,345-mile tour of duty, accumulating a $120.92 tab for two oil changes, two tire rotations, and two inspections. For as much potential trouble as we put it through, the Tucson never seemed to mind.

Inevitably, some of the initial buzz did wear off. Minor, unidentified creaks became background noise, and we accepted other foibles like navigation screen glare because the Tucson offered so much for so little. Even if we weren't chasing the world's next epic adventure, we were glad the 'ute was always ready to go. And that's buzzworthy in itself.

But like a scrappy welterweight, the 3396-pound long-termer pushed on. Current editor-at-large Ron Kiino embarked on his annual fishing expedition in California's eastern Sierras and decided to pass on the larger utility vehicles in our fleet. After the Tucson's rear seats were folded down to bump cargo volume to 55.8 cubic feet, he packed two ice chests, four fishing rods, two duffel bags, two sets of waders and boots, and two deflated float tubes. His final judgment on the storage capacity? "Not too shabby, but there wasn't a lot of room to spare. On the bright side, the Tucson forces you to pack (and purchase) wisely." And when he wasn't on the water, the transmission was a plus. "The Tucson's tranny is smooth, and I especially like how fluidly the gearshift moves between the gates, as if the whole assembly is coated in Teflon."

From The Logbook

"The steering wheel controls are a great feature of the Tucson, which I'm finding an attractive, relatively capable little crossover, although I do have some minor niggles with it so far. Its smallish 14.5-gallon fuel tank limits range (you'd be hard-pressed to go more than 300 miles on a fill-up), and the seating position is too high for my tastes."
Mike Floyd

"From the large and 'angry' front grille to the cool row of LEDs that light up at night when you unlock the car, the Tucson does its best to make you feel good about what you're driving. As a bonus, the Tucson's unintimidating horn is amusing when you hear its chirp after pressing the lock button twice."
Zach Gale

"I wouldn't take it on a super-remote wilderness trail, but as an everyday driver for those who want a not-too-spendy SUV, it does the job nicely."
Emiliana Sandoval


Our Vehicle
Base Price $26,640
Options Premium Package ($2850: Panoramic sunroof, navigation system, rearview camera, premium audio);Carpeted Floor Mats ($100)
Price as tested $29,590
Total mileage 21,345 mi
Avg fuel economy 22.0 mpg
Problem areas None
Maintenance cost $120.92
Normal-wear cost $0
3-year residual value* $11,398
Recalls
*Automotive Lease Guide
None

2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
Drivetrain layout Front engine, AWD
Engine type I-4, alum block/head
Valvetrain DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 144.0 cu in/2360 cc
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Power (SAE net) 176 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Redline 6500 rpm
Weight to power 19.3 lb/hp
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Axle/final-drive ratios 3.20:1/2.47:1
Suspension, front; rear Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering ratio 15.9:1
Turns lock-to-lock 3
Brakes, f;r 11.8-in vented disc; 11.2-in disc, ABS
Wheels 6.5 x 18-in, cast aluminum
Tires 225/55R18 98H M+S
Kumho Solus KL21
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 103.9 in
Track, f/r 62.4/62.4 in
Length x width x height 173.2 x 71.7 x 65.2 in
Ground clearance 6.7 in
Approach/depart angle 28.1/26.9 deg
Turning circle 34.7 ft
Curb weight 3396 lb
Weight dist, f/r 57/43%
Towing capacity 2000 lb
Seating capacity 5
Headroom, f/r 39.4/39.1 in
Legroom, f/r 42.1/38.7 in
Shoulder room, f/r 57.1/55.1 in
Cargo vol behind, f/r 55.8/25.7 cu ft
TEST DATA
Acceleration to mph
0-30 2.9 sec
0-40 4.6
0-50 6.6
0-60 9
0-70 12.3
0-80 16.3
Passing, 45-65 mph 5.1
Quarter mile 16.9 sec @ 81.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 122 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.79 g (avg)
MT figure eight 28.5 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 1950 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
Stability/traction control Yes/yes
Airbags Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
Basic warranty 5 yrs/60,000 mi
Powertrain warranty 10 yrs/100,000 mi
Roadside assistance 5 yrs/unlimited
Fuel capacity 14.5 gal
EPA city/hwy econ 21/28 mpg
Energy cons, city/hwy 160/120 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 emissions 0.82 lb/mi
Recommended fuel Unleaded regular
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