Hyundai Tucson does everything well and won’t break the bank

By Jim Prueter

(November 10, 2019) Last year, for 2019, Hyundai completed a much-needed refresh of its compact Tucson crossover utility vehicle. It received a wide range of updates, including an exterior facelift with a more modern look, a new dash design, extensive changes under the hood, new options and features list, and additional active safety technology. The Tucson slots above the subcompact Kona and the midsize Santa Fe.

Changes for the top-grade 2020 Tucson Ultimate trim level tested here are modest, including new exterior color choices, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob on the Sport trim levels and above.

The changes over the previous two model years definitely boosted Tucson’s appeal, to better compete with completely new generations of competitors like Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Volkswagen Tiguan and others. Yes, the updated Tucson is a very good SUV, with enough power to move the vehicle well. It has a smooth, quiet ride, good handling, a relatively spacious interior, and easy-to-use operating controls. Yet, there are drawbacks such that you might find competitor SUVs in its class to have better bang for the buck.

While compact utility vehicles offer three rows of seats, Hyundai didn’t change the basic structure with its refresh and remains a five-passenger model.

The 2020 Tucson offers two different four-cylinder engines: a 164-horsepower 2.0-liter and the larger 181-horsepower 2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder that’s standard in our Ultimate test vehicle. Both are teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission that provides ample power for day-to-day driving, and helps the Tucson deliver quick acceleration. It delivered a decent overall 26.2-mpg during our weeklong testing. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive a $1,400 up charge.

Handling is competent, but don’t expect sporty handling. Bumps and road imperfections are well controlled, and the suspension soaks up all but the most violent potholes. S
teering is well weighted and brakes felt strong. Most shoppers will find the overall driving and handling appealing.

Standard driver assistance features on our Ultimate include forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist with driver attention warning, blind spot-collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, hill start assist control, 360 degree surround view camera, smart cruise control with stop and go function, and electronic stability control with traction control.

Advanced driver and convenience features like Ford Escape’s MyKey and GM’s Teen Driver technology are unavailable. Ditto for head-up display, rear passenger safety alert, evasive steering and park assist and perpendicular park assist.

The interior is on the plain side, with its all-black leather color scheme with an abundance of hard plastics. Beige leather with certain exterior color choices helps break up the somewhat staid look, and a faux carbon-fiber like strip of trim across the dash adds some needed contrast.

An 8.0-inch tablet-like infotainment screen sits atop the center of the dash. It looks good, and is easy to use because it’s well organized and intuitive. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.

The Ultimate trim level Tucson we drove came with numerous additional niceties like a panoramic sunroof with roof side rails, a hands-free rear liftgate, 8-way power heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, dual automatic temperature control with a clean air ionizer, Infiniti Premium audio with Clari-Fi music restoration technology, SiriusXM radio, automatic on/off headlights with high beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators and 18-inch alloy wheels.

While overall, the 2020 Tucson is a mostly satisfying, easy to drive and comfortable vehicle, there’s still room for improvement, especially given superb competitors in its segment like the highly rated and popular Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and others who are competing for the same buyers.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $31,700
Price as Tested: $32,980
Powertrain: 2.4-liter 181-hp four cylinder with a 6-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 22-mpg city – 28-mpg highway – 25-mpg combined city-highway
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the highest possible 2019 Top Safety pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Where Built: Ulsan, Korea

Competes With:
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Jeep Compass
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4

Fab Features:
Smooth ride – agile handling
Numerous standard driver assistance features
Above-average predicted reliability ratings
Long warranty