2007 Hyundai Tucson

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2005 Hyundai Tucson

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 6

Bottom Line:

This new small sport-utility is practical, well-equipped and nicely priced, with a long warranty.
Pros:
  • Sporty appearance
  • Roomy
  • Nice ride
Cons:
  • Average highway performance
  • Average handling
  • Cheap inside door handles

It's a little amusing that South Korea's Hyundai, which also sells the Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle, has named its new small Tucson sport ute after another city in the American Southwest. After all, how much do South Korea and the Southwest have in common?

It could be argued that the Tucson looks sporty and that dude ranches in the Southwest partially exist for sports such as horseback riding, but that's a stretch. Aggressive Hyundai probably just wants to put an All-American athletic face on the Tucson, which expands its line with this vehicle.

No Ground Broken
While it breaks no new ground, the Tucson offers good utility and is well equipped for attractive prices. It comes in entry GL, midrange GLS and top-line LX trim levels. List prices run from $17,499 to $22,749, with front-wheel-drive versions costing the least and 4-wheel-drive versions costing the most.

The Tucson is 170.3 inches long and is based on Hyundai's small Elantra sedan. It has the same 103-inch wheelbase, but is nearly 7 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower than Hyundai's Santa Fe sport ute, which is based on the larger Hyundai Sonata sedan and is scheduled to become larger for 2007.

The 4-wheel-drive system routes up to 99 percent of power to the front wheels, but automatically diverts up to half of the power to the rear ones if road conditions change. Power is automatically sent to the wheels with the best traction, and the driver can lock the driveline into 4-wheel drive for a 50-50 torque split for snow, sand and off-road trips.

Reasonably Priced
Major rivals are the well-known Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but entry prices of those vehicles are approximately $1,000 higher to start with. Other prime rivals—the Ford Escape and similar Mazda Tribute—begin at about $2,000 more. And price is a strong consideration with small sport utes because many are bought by young motorists without lots to spend.

What does the Tucson offer for the money? For starters, a good amount of standard equipment and Hyundai's well-publicized 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Not that the warranty doesn't help, but Hyundai's improved quality no longer makes it necessary to attract lots of buyers to showrooms.

Sound Budget Alternatives
That wasn't the case even six years ago, but Hyundai has become generally accepted as offering sound budget alternatives to costlier vehicles, although their resale value still doesn't match those of most rivals.

Even the GL has standard air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD audio system and power windows, locks and heated outside mirrors. It also has heated windshield wiper rests.

Major mechanical extras include anti-lock all-disc brakes and traction and electronic stability control systems. Hyundai didn't give the Tucson skinny wheels or tires to save a few bucks; there are at least fairly large 16-inch wheels and 60- 65-series tires.

Safety Features
Safety items include no less than six airbags, including front-seat side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags for outboard seat occupants.

Extras include a power sunroof, and upgraded sound systems are offered for the GLS and LX. The Tucson also offers heated front seats and leather upholstery, although such items seem a little out of place in a small, bargain sport-utility vehicle. However, Hyundai doesn't want the Tucson to have a low-rent image.

Roomy
The Tucson's interior is roomy and well configured, with a 60-40 split-folding rear seat and a folding front passenger seatback. Four occupants comfortably fit and sit high. The middle of the back seat is soft enough for a third rear passenger on short trips.

The 2.7-liter 173-horsepower V6 in the GLS and LX gives the Tucson a leg up on the RAV 4 and CR-V, which only offer lower-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engines.

However, the Tucson GL's 2.0-liter 140-horsepower 4-cylinder is outpowered by the 160-161 horsepower engines in the CR-V and RAV4. And those two competitors are generally lighter than the 3,240 to 3,548-pound Tucson, which means their acceleration is a little better.

The Tucson 4-cylinder comes with a standard 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic, while the V6 is offered only with the automatic.

Not a Highway Champ
The 4-cylinder does best with the manual transmission. It provides decent pep in town, but is lazy on highways. The V6 provides stronger, smoother acceleration, but delivers just average performance above 65 mph, even with only a driver aboard.

The V6 registers nearly 3000 rpm on the tachometer during 70 mph cruising, partly because of the Tucson's high final drive ratio, which helps acceleration at lower speeds at the expense of more relaxed highway driving and fuel economy.

The Tucson should deliver about 21 mpg in the city and 26 on highways.

The manual gearbox is OK and the automatic transmission is fairly responsive. Steering is fast enough, but handling is average.

Don't Push
The Tucson isn't as much fun to drive as the CR-V, RAV4, Escape or Tribute. On the other hand, it has a nice ride and good braking, with a reassuring pedal feel. It just doesn't want to be pushed hard, that's all.

A low floor makes it easy to get in and out of the quiet interior. Large outside door handles are easily gripped, but the small, cheap plastic inside handles reminded me of Hyundai's bad old days. If Hyundai wanted to cut costs, it should have done so with components that won't be constantly used, such as inside door handles.

It's easy to reach and use major controls. The speedometer is large, but other gauges are small—as are radio controls. Climate controls are moderately large. Doors have storage pockets, and the glove compartment is large. Front cupholders are nicely positioned in the console.

Decent Cargo Space
Cargo room is decent with the rear seatbacks in their normal position; they're easy to flip forward and sit flat to considerably enlarge the cargo area, which is accessed by a hatch that opens smoothly to reveal a low load floor.

The Tucson is nicely built and painted. It's generally pleasant and practical—and should enhance Hyundai's reputation.

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BB03 - 7/25/2014 2:28:58 PM