Late last year, we spent some time in the revised 2014 Hyundai Tucson. Although it proved to be a competent little crossover utility vehicle (CUV), it faces serious competition in the highly competitive compact CUV segment.
|Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 182 hp, 177 lb-ft. Transmission: Six-speed automatic. Fuel economy: 20 MPG city, 25 MPG highway. Observed average of 21.4 MPG. Price: Starts at $22,325 after destination charges, as tested the Limited AWD with Tech package costs $31,225.|
There are so many strong products on the market that the Tucson is having trouble finding customers. Aside from its corporate cousin, the Kia Sportage, the only competitors the Tucson currently outsells are the awkward Mitsubishi Outlander and the out-of-date Volkswagen Tiguan.
Is this small Hyundai really that bad, or has the marketplace forgotten about it? To find out we gave one to our everyday consumer turned road-tester, my wife Amanda. In the market for a sensible family vehicle sometime in the future, the Tucson ought to satisfy most of her requirements, at least on paper.
Loaded Up on Features and Price
She tested a 2014 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD with the Tech package. Although the Tucson starts as low as $22,325 after destination charges, the as-tested price of Amanda’s vehicle rang in at a hefty $31,225. For that price, the Limited equips the Tucson with windshield wiper de-icers, leather seats, dual-zone climate control and push button start, while the Tech package adds some niceties like a panoramic sunroof, navigation, a 360-watt premium radio and LED taillights.
Amanda found the interior to be pleasing and that the dashboard is laid out in a logical, easy-to-understand format. She was able to find a comfortable driving position quickly thanks in part to the power seat. There is a rather generous 38.7 inches of legroom for back seat passengers. For example, adults just over six feet tall will fit without feeling cramped.
That comes as a surprise in a vehicle that’s only 173.2 inches long, which for reference is shorter than a Subaru XV Crosstrek, but longer than a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. The sacrifice made for the optimal rear seat space comes from the cargo area. With the rear seats up, there is only 25.7 cubic feet of space and with the seats folded down it only grows to 55.8 cubic feet. Although that is only slightly more cargo room than the Hyundai Elantra GT, it does trump both the aforementioned Subaru and Mitsubishi products.
Amanda likes the straightforward GPS system partially because of how quickly it re-calculates the route after a missed turn. The rear view camera is helpful, but it seems incomplete without rear parking sensors. While on the topic of special awareness, the fact the Tucson isn’t available with blind spot detectors frustrates her because the rear three-quarter sightlines are poor from her preferred seat position.
Heavy Door, High Climb
The driver’s side door is also heavier than she expected it to be, which makes it difficult to hold it open when trying to get in and out of a tight parking spot. As well, the combination of a heavy door, semi-steep step-in height and high heel shoes makes getting in and out with grace a challenge.
Once firmly situated behind the wheel, Amanda finds the Tucson is easy to drive. Even on an unfamiliar road her first time piloting the vehicle, she did not feel uncomfortable at all. She found the 2.4-liter four-cylinder – with 182 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque – is adequate although it feels taxed with a full passenger load. Hyundai says the Tucson can tow up to 2,000 lbs, but it doesn’t seem driving the car would feel very good while doing so.
Not Efficient, But Pleasant to Drive
A six-speed automatic sends power to either the front wheels or all four. With all-wheel drive, the Tucson Limited is officially rated at 20 MPG in the city and 25 MPG on the highway. After a week of driving, Amanda returned an average of 21.4 MPG. That is right in line with the official 22 MPG combined rating, yet disappointing for such a small crossover.
Even if fuel economy isn’t particularly impressive, the ride and handling of the Tucson are. Amanda feels that the Tucson drives like a small hatchback without any high-up tippy crossover feel. It is smooth on long highway drives and easy to change lanes in and its small size also makes parking easy.
She really likes the updated look of the 2014 model and says red paint combined with the dark grey lower plastic trim cladding added a bit of class to the Tucson’s overall appearance. Her test vehicle came with the upgrade 18-inch wheels wearing 225/55R18 tires that are the “right size” and although the design isn’t amazing, it’s also not offensive.
And that is the best way to sum up the Tucson. It is by no means a class leader, but it’s still competitive. Poor sales should not reflect on the Tucson as being a poor vehicle. It offers a smaller package for drivers that don’t need the space of a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V without giving up anything in terms of power, refinement or amenities. At over $31,000, the Tucson starts to make less sense and Amanda’s advice for prospective customers is to decide which options are the most important to them before settling on a lower trim level that offers better value.