With the Santa Fe already in its lineup, Hyundai introduced a second, smaller sport utility vehicle for the 2005 model year. Hyundai developed the Tucson to compete against the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
Either a four-cylinder or V-6 engine can be installed, and a manual transmission is available for four-cylinder models. Both versions can be equipped with front-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are standard, giving the Tucson a total of six airbags.
Tucsons come in three trim levels: GL, GLS and a new Limited trim level, which replaces the LX for 2006.
The South Korean automaker says the Tucson has a masculine, athletic appearance. GLS and Limited models feature bodyside cladding. Wraparound headlights and an LED-type center brake light are installed. A single-bar grille contains the Hyundai logo.
Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires. Fog lamps are installed on the GLS and Limited, and a moonroof is optional. Riding a 103.5-inch wheelbase, the Tucson is 170.3 inches long overall and 66.1 inches tall (not counting the roof rack).
The Tucson's five-passenger interior includes a 60/40-split, flat-folding rear seat. The fully reclining front passenger seat can be folded forward. The plastic cargo floor has multiple tie-down locations. Cargo space is 22.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 65.5 cubic feet with the seat down.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and locks, heated mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry with an alarm, an intermittent rear wiper and a six-speaker CD stereo. The GLS adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a stereo with CD and MP3 capabilities. The Limited model has leather seating surfaces. Tucsons have an easy-to-clean composite cargo floor.
Under the Hood
In the GL, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing delivers an estimated 140 horsepower. Either a Shiftronic four-speed-automatic transmission or a five-speed-manual gearbox can be installed. In GLS and Limited models, a 2.7-liter V-6 engine — offered only with the automatic — generates 173 hp.
The available BorgWarner Electronic InterActive Torque Management four-wheel-drive system can divert up to 50 percent of available power to the rear wheels in response to changing road conditions or torque demand. A button lets the driver lock the driveline into a 50/50 torque split.
Side curtain-type airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, Electronic Stability Control and all-disc antilock brakes with traction control are standard.
Tucsons lean toward the cushiony end of the ride and handling spectrum rather than the sporty side. The ride is pleasantly smooth on most surfaces, but undulating pavement and even moderate bumps can transmit some roughness to occupants. The Tucson is easy to drive and requires little correction on straightaways, but handling is relatively humdrum compared to the Ford Escape.
Tire noise is noticeable on some surfaces, and some engine buzz is apparent in lower gears in models with the manual transmission. Otherwise, the Tucson is impressively quiet.
The seats are quite supportive and reasonably comfortable. Cargo space falls short of the Santa Fe's, but the area is easy to access. Thick D-pillars block over-the-shoulder views a bit, but visibility is otherwise satisfying because of the long glass in the rear doors.