Hyundai Tucson — Meaningful upgrades

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

As Hyundai revamps its SUV lineup with the introduction of the award-winning subcompact Kona and a complete redesign of the mid-sized Santa Fe, we are happy to report that the likable — and extremely useable — Tucson compact hasn't been left out of the company's upgrade picture.

The Tucson had a complete makeover in 2016, and now a refreshed 2019 has made meaningful improvements with updated styling, a new engine lineup, and the addition of standard safety and infotainment technology.

Exterior modifications have modernized the Tucson’s styling with revised headlights and taillights, a restyled grille, tweaked fascia’s front and rear, and new wheel designs in sizes ranging from 17 to 19 inches. Interior revisions are also prevalent. The center stack has been redone to incorporate a new tablet-style 7.0-inch touchscreen display. The screen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, is now standard on all trim levels.

All Tucson SUV’s have active safety features including forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. This is a notable upgrade for a vehicle is this price segment, and considering that these features were previously only available on the fully loaded Tucson Limited with the Ultimate package.

A disappointment for us is Hyundai's decision to drop the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It's one of our favorite Hyundai engine/transmission combinations, which is used in several applications. We found it a very responsive engine in the Tucson making 175 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque at just 1,500 rpm.

Remaining are a base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 164 horsepower that we found just adequate, and a new 2.4-liter engine making 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Both are paired with a six-speed automatic. We had no problems with the performance of the 2.4-liter engine, which was smooth and efficient, but lacking the excitement found in some competitors. Gas mileage is average, EPA-rated at 22 mpg city, 28 highway and 25 overall in front-wheel drive, and 21/26/23 with all-wheel drive.

Fit and finish is excellent, near the top of the current class of small crossovers, and it’s possible to carry four average-size adults without anyone threatening mutiny. The interior is also impressively quiet. Luggage space is adequate measured at 31 cubic feet and cargo space with seatback folded measures 61.9 cubic feet. But maximum cargo capacity is around 10 cubic feet less than the class leaders. It seems the Tucson puts an emphasis on passenger space over cargo space. And for many people that works just fine.

Occupants will find an attractive dashboard display with easy-to-use controls. While our Limited test car came with such necessities as padded dashboard and door insets with accent stitching, the other trim levels have a lot of hard plastic surfaces. Front seating is comfortable and rear seat passengers sit up high. The rear seats can be reclined for long-distance comfort, but unfortunately cannot be moved fore or aft eliminating the ability to create additional legroom if needed.

Hyundai’s hands-free liftgate is available as an option, and automatically opens the hatch when the key fob is behind the hatch and within three feet for three or more seconds.

The Tucson is available in six trim levels — SE, Value, SEL, Sport, Limited and Ultimate starting at $24,245 for front-wheel drive and the smaller 2.0-liter engine. All-wheel drive is a $1,400 option on all models. Although both the base SE and Value trims offer a nice selection of standard equipment they both come with the base engine. We recommend moving up to the SEL to take advantage of the 2.4-liter at a starting price of $26,645 including a $1,045 destination charge. Car shopping guide Edmunds says there is $1,000 worth of rebates and incentives now on that model making the market value price $24,030.

Standard features on the SEL include 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, upgraded exterior trim, and a second-row USB port.

The Tucson tops out at $33,995 for the Ultimate with all-wheel drive, which comes with virtually every feature available on the crossover including a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, leather seating surfaces, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats.

Tucson carries Hyundai's very competitive warranty coverage consisting of a 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty and a 5-years/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Unlike some other segment vehicles, however, Hyundai's warranties are not transferrable to the next owner.

Since its 2016 total makeover, we have considered the Tucson one of the best compacts on the market, and the upgrades Hyundai has added to the 2019 model reinforces our opinion.

Base price: $24,245; as driven, $33,995
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 181 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 175 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 176.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,627 pounds
Turning circle: 34.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 31 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 61.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.4 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 21 city, 26 highway, 23 combined
0-60: 8 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Mazda CX-3, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape

The Good
• Advanced safety equipment standard
• Comfortable ride
• Updated styling inside and out

The Bad
• Slow acceleration with base engine

The Ugly
• Turbocharged engine dropped from lineup