Overall: The Tucson is poised to go from contender to leader in the compact tall-wagon class.
Drivetrain: A choice of non-turbo or turbo engines; AWD available with either one.
In a field dominated by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4, buyers aren’t lacking for choice. With each successive effort, the Tucson closes the gap with its pack peers to a point where it would be foolish not to include it on your long list. The Tucson’s design mimics that of the larger Santa Fe, especially when it comes to the trapezoidal grille. The Hyundai gains three inches in overall length while the front and rear wheels are set one inch farther apart. Interior volume with the split-folding rear seat in place also increases by an impressive 20 percent, but falls short of the league-leading Honda CR-V. The rear seat now reclines 37 degrees and the dashboard/control panel is now cleaner and more business-like. The base SE gets a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. Eco, Sport and Limited versions feature a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that delivers 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It replaces the previously optional non-turbo 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 182/177. A six-speed automatic transmission connects to the 2.0, while a segment-exclusive seven-speed automated manual transmission is hooked to the turbo 1.6. All-wheel-drive is optional with either engine. The unit has an AWD lock control switch that lets you “hold” the torque split equally between the front and rear wheels for maximum traction on rough terrain. AWD can also direct extra torque to the outside rear wheel when the Tucson is turning, while at the same time applying light braking to the inside rear wheel. This “torque vectoring” makes for more stable cornering. For improved ride comfort and control, Hyundai has stiffened the front and rear suspension attachment points, upgraded the engine mounts and bushings and increased the amount of sound insulation. All Tucsons come with the usual power-operated features plus air conditioning. Along with the turbo engine, the Eco adds exterior roof rails plus an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support. Sport buyers get heated front seats, pushbutton start, the latest collision-mitigating/avoidance tech and 19-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard). The top-end Limited includes dual-zone climate control, leather-covered seats, LED headlights and taillights and a combination premium sound/navigation system. Among the few available options is a panoramic sunroof and ventilated front seats.