First Drive: 2010 Hyundai Tucson
Leaving the Box Behind
It's only been five years since the Tucson first went on sale, but a lot has happened since then. The crossover segment has exploded, now with dozens of vehicles to choose from, while the traditional SUV segment is on the wane. The Tucson went on sale in the middle of this transition, as a crossover with boxy traditional SUV-like styling. It remained basically unchanged as competitors underwent major redesigns, such as the Toyota RAV4 (in 2006), Honda CR-V (2007), Ford Escape (2008), and Subaru Forester (2009), and the new Nissan Rogue came on the scene (2008). Now, the Tucson has shed its conservative exterior and comes to market with a sportier, more carlike attitude.
There's no mistaking the 2010 for the previous Tucson, as the styling has now gone far more curvaceous, as part of what Hyundai refers to as "fluidic sculpture design." Its angles and side profile are reminiscent of the Nissan Murano and Rogue, as well as the Subaru Tribeca, which is about as far as you can get from the first-gen. It comes on 17-inch wheels with 18s optional. The GLS and Limited we drove were shod with Kumho Solus KL21s, 225/60R17 (GLS) and 225/55R18 (Limited), both of which are mud and snow rated.
While it's based loosely on the new Elantra's platform, the Tucson's chassis is much stiffer. According to Hyundai, the Tucson's bending rigidity is 38 percent greater than that of the Rogue. Wheelbase is 0.4 inch longer than in 2009, and the crossover is 2.9 inches longer, an inch wider, and 0.9 inch lower. The fully independent suspension uses struts in front with coil springs, plus a 19 percent larger, hollow stabilizer bar (it's more lightweight). Rear suspension is a multilink design with a 29 percent larger stabilizer bar. Track is about two inches wider, and its turning circle is seven inches tighter.
Under the hood there's initially a single engine, a 2.4-liter inline-four backed by either a six-speed manual (GLS only) or six-speed automatic (optional on GLS, standard on Limited). The 16-valve engine is all aluminum and has continuously variable valve timing on both camshafts. A second engine, a 2.0-liter four, will become available starting next summer and will be the fuel-economy and price leader.
The four-speed automatic is (thankfully) gone, and so is the 2.7-liter V-6. That engine put out three less horsepower than the new Theta II four's 176 (170 in PZEV models). The switch to the four means a 10 pound-foot loss of torque (15 when compared to the PZEV). And, thanks to a 61-pound weight loss, the new Tucson has a weight/power ratio that's best in its class -- as long as you only look at four-cylinder models. It also has improved fuel economy, 23 city/31 highway, which is only topped by the Escape hybrid (34/31) in that category. Fuel economy improvements came with the switch to the new engine and transmissions, electric power steering, silica tires, and weight reduction.
The old V-6 was just that: old. Add to that the fact that it was sold with a four-speed automatic made the Tucson a vehicle that wasn't all that memorable on the road. With the new engine/trans combo, the vehicle feels quicker and spryer, and has no trouble getting to or staying at freeway speeds. The transmission also has a manual mode (no paddles) with tap up/down shifting. The transmission sometimes had to work a little on grades, but putting it in manual mode on twisty mountain roads eliminated any hunting. However, the new electric power steering does feel a bit artificial and the suspension doesn't absorb enough of the impact of hitting a pothole.
The interior looks more refined than before, and in addition to new leather and leatherette/fabric options, there are plenty of new standard features and upscale extras. There are two trim levels, base GLS and the cushier Limited. With front drive and the manual, the GLS starts at $19,790 and comes with iPod/USB interface, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/satellite radio, Eco mode indicator light, tire-pressure monitoring, stability control, traction control, ABS, hill-start assist, downhill brake control, six airbags, and power windows/doors/mirrors. Both can be had with front or all-wheel drive, and options include a panoramic sunroof, navigation system, telescoping steering wheel, upgraded audio system, and rearview camera.
There are still hard plastics on the dash and doors, but overall the cabin is more modern, with cool-blue lighting on the center stack and silver buttons there and on the steering wheel. It's also much quieter than before, but there is still some road noise. Cargo volume has improved to 25.7 cubic feet behind the second row (from 22.7) and is 55.8 cubic feet behind the second row, which is less than that of the CR-V, Escape, and Rogue. Most interior dimensions improved; the cabin is roomier and is now more in line with the space provided by its competition.
So far in 2009, Hyundai has sold about 2000 of the outgoing Tucsons each month, which works out to about two percent market share. With the new model, the company hopes to lure couples without kids -- both those who haven't started a family yet and empty nesters -- and take more of the market. The vehicle goes on sale next month with pricing lower than that of comparable CR-Vs and Rogues and has a lot of value to offer. And the new styling might be enough to get this vehicle noticed in a segment that seems to grow every year.
|2010 Hyundai Tucson|
|Base price range||$19,790-$25,140|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||2.4L/176-hp/168-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|Transmissions||6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic|
|Curb weight||3200-3500 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||173.2 x 71.7 x 65.2 in|
|0-60 mph||8.8 sec (est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||21-23/28-31 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.75-0.82 lb/mile|
|On sale in U.S.||January 2010|