South Korean automaker Hyundai has been on a major roll. Since 1998, when many thought it might turn out the lights and go home — with a modest range of five cars and one SUV and an industry-best 10 year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty — its U.S. sales have ballooned 344 percent to where it stands fourth among U.S. imports and seventh globally. Its product quality has improved from dismal to the darling of the 2004 J. D. Power IQS. Aided by a new, state-of-the-art Alabama assembly plant being readied for a March, 2005, SOP, its goal is global top five by 2010. And that doesn’t even count its fast-growing partner, Kia.
Now comes Tucson, the brand’s second SUV. Slightly smaller than its similarly city-named Santa Fe, it will take on the likes of Toyota’s RAV4, Honda’s CR-V and Ford’s segment-leading Escape.
The compact Tucson offers a lot of utility for its size. Interior materials and fits are good (at the price), and there’s more than adequate room and comfort for four (five in a pinch) and an impressive amount of cargo. The versatile cargo area has fold-flat rear seats, a removable rear mat over a durable, easy-to-clean plastic floor and multiple cargo hooks and tie downs. The front passenger seat can be fully reclined or folded forward to provide room for long objects or a workspace for the driver.
Tucson comes with a total of six airbags: driver and passenger front, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side-impact and roof-mounted side curtain bags for both front and rear outboard seat occupants.
Standard on mid-range GLS and top-line LX models is Hyundai’s 2.7L DOHC V-6, with a variable length, tuned intake system, which powers the front wheels through a manually selectable Shiftronic automatic transmission. The base GL makes do with a 2.0L DOHC VVT four coupled to a choice of standard 5-speed manual or optional Shiftronic automatic. Available with either engine is a state-of-the-art Borg Warner Electronic InterActive Torque Management 4wd system. It monitors throttle position, front wheel angle and slippage and, under normal conditions, routes up to 99 percent of available torque to the front wheels. As surface conditions or power demand change, it automatically diverts torque to the wheels with the best traction, up to 50 percent to the rear. A dash-mounted button allows the driver to manually lock the driveline into 4wd for a 50/50 torque split.
Features and Options
Tucson’s long list of standard features includes ESP (Electronic Stability Program, 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-channel ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and traction control, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry with alarm, heated outside mirrors, heated windshield wiper rests, tinted glass, roof rack side rails, rear intermittent wiper and AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers.
Options include leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, a power tilt sunroof, fog lights, roof rack cross rails, rear privacy glass and (standard on LX; available on GLS) a sixspeaker AM/FM/Cassette/6-CD changer.
Hyundai Tucson At a Glance
|What it is:
|Compact Sport Utility Vehicle
|Who it’s for:
|Compact SUV buyers seeking a viable alternative to U.S. and domestic models
|Where it’s built:
|Ulsan, South Korea
|Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4
|2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder; 2.7LDOHC V-6
|140 hp at 6,000 rpm; 173 hp at 6,000 rpm
|136 lb.ft. at 4,500 rpm; 178 lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm
|5-speed manual (standard with 4-cylinder);
4-speed Shiftronic automatic
(standard with V-6, optional with 4-cylinder)
|4-cyl. fwd 22 city/27 hwy;
4wd 21/26; V-6 fwd 20/26; 4wd 19/24
|$17,499 GL, $19,999 GLS, $21,249 LX
|What we think:
|Excellent small SUV value, safety and warranty with competitive quality, versatility and dynamics from fast-rising Korean maker
|Driver and Passenger Airbag Module:
|Seat and Side-Curtain Airbag:
|Door Trim Panel:
|Han ll E-Wha
|Han ll E-Wha