2005 Hyundai Tucson
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
When you hear the word "Tucson," chances are you think of a desert city in Arizona.
But these days, Tucsons are popping up all over the country, not just in the desert southwest.
Tucson is the new, five-passenger sport-utility vehicle from Hyundai.
With a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of less than $18,000, the Tucson is the lowest-priced vehicle to come with an exceptional package of standard safety features, including stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags.
Indeed, the Tucson has safety features not available on some other SUVs with higher prices. This includes Hyundai's Santa Fe, which starts at more than $21,000.
The Santa Fe continues in the Hyundai lineup but as an older design, it doesn't have the curtain airbags and electronic stability control that the Tucson has.
Meantime the sales leader in the small, entry-level SUV segment, Ford's Escape, doesn't offer stability control, either. Curtain and front-seat side airbags are optional on the Escape, which starts at more than $19,000.
Another competitor, Honda's CR-V, has standard stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags, but has a higher starting price of around $20,000. The CR-V, which includes anti-whiplash front-seat head restraints, doesn't offer a V6, though.
Buyers of a Tucson with the 140-horsepower 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder can choose between a 5-speed manual transmission and a 4-speed automatic. This engine, with maximum torque of just 136 lb-ft at 4500 rpm, is in the base GL trim level of Tucson only and is the same engine used in Hyundai's Tiburon and Elantra cars.
Tucson buyers who move up to the 173-horsepower 2.7-liter double overhead cam V6 can't get a manual. Only the 4-speed automatic with a Shiftronic shift-it-yourself mechanism is offered in the GLS and LX trim levels. Maximum torque from this V6 is 178 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
A 4-cylinder Tucson wasn't available for testing. Hyundai officials expect the 4-cylinder to contribute to just 30 percent of all Tucsons sold.
But the V6 performed well in the test Tucsons. The vehicles didn't lag when I passed others on highways, and the engine worked well moving the more than mid-line, 3,500-pound Tucson GLS up hilly, two-lane roads.
Still, the 173 horses and 178 lb-ft of torque from this V6 are only 13 and 16 more, respectively, than the 160 horsepower and 162 lb-ft that the CR-V's 2.4-liter 4-cylinder powerplant puts out.
Others are more fuel thrifty
The top Tucson rating is 22 miles a gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway in a two-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder model with manual transmission.
Also note that the Escape's uplevel engine, a 3.0-liter V6, has more power than the Tucson's V6: 200 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque at 4850 rpm.
The independent, four-wheel suspension damps many road bumps, but the test vehicles bobbed gently up and down on some road undulations, and there's noticeable body lean when the Tucson drives through curves.
The Tucson has the typical tall SUV profile, and its approximate 5.5-foot height is similar to the CR-V's and Escape's.
Odds and ends
I noticed, though, that pant legs tend to get dirty as people depart the Tucson because they seem to rub against the mud and dirt that collects on the outer door sills.
The Tucson's power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering has a mainstream feel, and the interior conveys a well-put-together look with easy-to-read gauges and pleasing fabrics.
On the test vehicles, all seams and gaps were lined up properly. Hyundai has moved up impressively in recent J.D. Power and Associates quality surveys and has received considerable favorable publicity as a result.
The leather on the Tucson seats isn't real soft and supple, though, and I had mixed feelings about the "metallic grain" trim around the GLS gearshifter and center stack in the dashboard. The fine lines in this matte silver trim didn't do much for me.
At least the exterior styling of the Tucson doesn't have the same awkward look that the Santa Fe has. It's more conventional, so much so that I didn't notice a single person craning to look over the new Tucsons. They sort of blend in with other SUVs.
Rear-seat riders get decent room in the Tucson, including 37.2 inches of legroom. This tops the 35.6 inches in the Escape and is less than the 39.4 inches in the CR-V.
But the Tucson has more cargo room — 22.7 cubic feet behind the back seats and 65.6 cubic feet if these seats are folded down — than the CR-V's 15.7 and 35.7 cubic feet, respectively. The Escape's cargo room totals 29.3 cubic feet aft of the back seats and 66.3 with the seats folded.
Can do some off-roading, too
Four-wheel-drive Tucsons come with a Borg Warner torque management system that monitors wheel traction, among other things.
Normally, 99 percent of the engine power goes to the front wheels, but if slippage is detected, up to 50 percent of the power can be sent automatically to the back. This 50-50 arrangement can be locked into place with the push of a button on the dashboard, too.
The test Tucson's four-wheel drive kept me going on muddy, off-road trails deep in an Oregon forest. The dirt road was wet, with squishy mud here and there, and the trail had a washboard surface in places. But my companion and I felt mostly slight vibrations — nothing more — as we ventured deeper into the woods. The vehicle never had to stress itself to get through.
Nicely equipped vehicle
Every Tucson comes with power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, floor mats, CD player, a washable cargo floor and heated outside mirrors.
I just wish a sunroof was available on the base GL. As it stands, a sunroof can only be had if a shopper moves up to the Tucson GLS, where a V6 is standard. But in a test Tucson with sunroof, I noticed that wind noise inside the vehicle was louder whenever I opened the sunroof shade, even if the sunroof, itself, was closed.
About the Santa Fe
The 4-cylinder offered in the Santa Fe is gone. This SUV now is available only with a choice of two V6s, one of which is the 2.7-liter V6 that's in the Tucson.
On the outside, the Santa Fe is just a few inches larger, here and there, than the Tucson, and the Santa Fe previously had been marketed as Hyundai's entry SUV.
Now, company officials say the Santa Fe will be moving upscale in the Hyundai lineup, especially after its next generation model comes out early in 2006.