Test Drive: Hyundai Tucson

There are many reasons Hyundai is thriving, when most of the other carmakers have been floundering, and the new Tucson crossover adds one more reason.

We?ve been testing Hyundai models since the Excel first came into the U.S. in 1986.? After a shaky start the first few years Hyundai begin to refine and grow, and over the last decade we?ve been amazed by the advancements in quality, innovation and value.? Each new model or new generation has shown a significant leap forward.

Progress started to show even more in 2006 when Hyundai advanced to third place in the J.D. Power and Associated Quality ratings, just behind Lexus and Porsche.? In 2009, the Hyundai Genesis was picked as the North American Car of the Year and for 2010 and Consumer Reports ranked Hyundai (and Kia) as the fourth best automaker in the U.S.

For 2010, the second-generation Tucson debuts with a new fluid European design from Hyundai?s Frankfurt-based design and technical center.

Inside the Tucson has a spacious and stylish interior.? The controls and gauges positioned high on the center stack and the attractive three-spoke steering wheel have a positive high-quality feel.? We thought the extra little visor over the high-mounted navigation system looked like an afterthought in an otherwise well-designed dash.? We did like the ice blue dash lighting that added a sophisticated touch at night.

To keep the interior air clean, the Tucson Limited has a CleanAir Ionizer that automatically cleans the air when the heater or air conditioner is running.

Powered by Hyundai?s efficient Theta II 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, the Tucson earns an EPA rating of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for the four-wheel drive model with a six-speed automatic transmission (or up to 31 mpg for the 2WD version with manual transmission).? The 176-hp engine drives this smallest of the Hyundai crossovers from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds.

To increase fuel economy, the 4WD system automatically activates when needed, distributing the power equally between the front and rear wheels.? The system includes a driver-selectable AWD lock allowing for a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels for off-road and very slippery conditions.

The Tucson is available in two trim levels, GLS and Limited.? GLS pricing starts at $19,790 for the front wheel drive version with six-speed manual transmission, including the destination charge.? The six-speed automatic transmission is $1,000 extra.? The very well equipped Limited is $25,140 for the FWD and $1,500 more for the 4WD version.

The Hyundai 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty has added an extra level of buyer confidence for the last few years, and it continues on the Tucson.

The Tucson has a solid stable feeling even on the winding mountain roads.? It?s much more quiet and comfortable on the highway than we expected it to be.

We especially liked the tight 34.7-foot turning radius, the six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual shifting and nicely designed interior.? We found nothing we didn?t like.

[Rating:8.5/10]

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