• Apr 6th 2010 at 11:57AM
  • 59
2010 Hyundai Tucson - Click above for high-res image gallery

Like it or not, the small crossover segment is booming. Not only are budget-minded automakers all putting forth their best efforts to create new-and-improved vehicles for the class, even higher-end manufacturers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are getting into the act hoping to win over customers looking for a more premium experience. Why? These vehicles offer an excellent coupling of both utility and economy – two of the most important must-haves for the vast majority of new car shoppers.

We recently invited the latest small CUV offering from Hyundai, the 2010 Tucson, into the Autoblog Garage for a week, and found it to be a stylish, useful workhorse for everyday tasks that doesn't sacrifice too much in the way of driving enjoyment. What's more, with a sticker starting at $19,995, it's quite a bargain. But just because the Tucson carries a wallet-friendly price doesn't mean it lacks refinement or quality. Hit the jump to find out why.

Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Perhaps the biggest win for the new Tucson is its exterior styling. After years of lookalike product, Hyundai has finally begun to find its design muscles, and we're pleased with the way the automaker's "Fluidic Sculpture" styling sets its latest small CUV apart from the generic stalwarts of the class. We still affectionately refer to these crossovers as "cute utes" every now and then, and it's pretty safe to say that the Tucson is among the cutest of them all. No, the styling isn't a huge leap forward in crossover sex appeal, and that's okay. These types of vehicles are designed to appeal to the masses, but being able to do so fashionably will definitely earn you bonus points.

Our GLS tester benefited from Hyundai's $1,700 popular equipment package, which adds styling upgrades like handsome 17-inch alloy wheels (wrapped in 225/60 Kumho Eco Solus rubber), body-colored mirrors and door handles, a set of roof rails and tinted rear windows. If we're honest, we actually prefer the styling of our less-costly GLS model to that of the high-zoot Limited – mostly due to the dismissal of chrome trim around the front grille. This gives the Tucson a more streamlined schnoz while allowing the front fascia's design language to do the talking without being overshadowed by shiny lipstick. The sloping lines up front carry over well across the sides and around the back, but we're still scratching our heads over Hyundai's decision to add black plastic molding to the bottom of the doors. Our test car's Ash Black paint does camouflage this quite a bit, but it's still a rather large wrinkle in an otherwise sleek design.

Moving inside, Hyundai has clearly tried to mimic the exterior's chiseled good looks within the cabin. Notice the curves of the dashboard, the sloping line on the right side of the gearshift surround and the aluminum accents on the steering wheel and air vents – these all work together to give the Tucson's insides a much more upscale appearance. It's a tease, though – especially since the majority of the dash plastics can be unpleasant to the touch. The knobs and buttons found within the center stack don't feel cheap or clunky, but it's the surrounding sea of colored dash (brown, in this case) that isn't particularly pleasing. Still, the overall levels of refinement are better than what you'd get in a comparable Nissan Rogue, though they aren't nearly as good as what the Volkswagen Tiguan has to offer (at a significantly higher price point, it has to be said). And though some of the interior materials leave a bit to be desired, the Tucson's overall build quality is solid, with no noticeable rattles or unacceptable panel gaps.

Nitpicky stuff aside, the Tucson's cabin is actually a rather pleasant place to spend time. We liked the darker tan and brown color palette of our test car's interior, and as we mentioned before, the whole package looks more costly than the crossover's budget price would lead others to believe. Furthermore, it's quite comfortable and spacious. The standard cloth buckets up front provide ample amounts of support for both your back and thighs, though we wish the seat bottoms were a bit longer to provide better comfort just above the knees. What's more, little amenities like a height-adjustable driver's seat and a steering wheel that's adjustable for both rake and reach make it easy to find a comfortable driving position no matter your height. Rear seat passengers won't complain, either – there's an ample amount of both head- and legroom, and the rear bench is surprisingly comfortable as well.

The only engine available for 2010 is Hyundai's new 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which produces 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the last-generation Tucson, a V6 is not available, though the new inline-four is actually more powerful than the outgoing six-pot. Plus, when coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, it allows the Tucson to post some very respectable fuel economy numbers – 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway for our front-wheel drive tester. With a mix of spirited driving on the freeway and various jaunts through the city, we managed 25 mpg.

Obviously, the vast majority of consumers shopping the Tucson won't give two hoots about driver involvement and outright performance, but we're happy to report that from an enthusiast's perspective, the little Hyundai is certainly better than the majority of its CUV stablemates. It's not quick, but it doesn't have to be, and its 176 ponies and respectable twist are more than enough to get the stylish crossover up to cruising speed without feeling overly sluggish. The six-speed automatic is generally smooth, though the transmission did suffer from bouts of shuffling between fifth and sixth gear on the highway – even during relatively low-grade climbs. Thankfully, autobox-equipped Tucsons come standard with a manu-matic shift mode, which allowed us to override these moments of indecisiveness. Yes, the engine is quite buzzy, but it's only noticeable above the 4,000 rpm mark, so unless you're really wringing it out the racket shouldn't prove to be too obtrusive, and that sort of behavior is par for the class.

The big quirk in the Tucson's dynamics portfolio comes from the electronic power steering, a feature that is slowly cropping up on more and more new vehicles, mostly for its minor improvements to overall fuel economy. In the Hyundai, this system definitely takes some getting used to. The steering can feel somewhat heavy on center, and while it does lighten up as you turn the wheel, you'll notice that it takes more effort to make slight turns than you'd think. This extra energy is mainly noticeable around town at lower speeds, and Hyundai is still working on improving its operation. To be fair, though, the vast majority of automakers employing this type of steering aren't exactly getting it just right either, but we're warming up to the technology as the systems are being fine-tuned.

That foible aside, the Tucson's overall driving experience is better than what you'd expect out of a base-grade small CUV. There's little body roll even during moderately spirited driving, and the suspension isn't wafty, though pavement irregularities are nicely softened. The outgoing Tucson wasn't nearly as good in this regard, and we equate the 2010 model's good dynamics to its better proportions. At 103.9 inches, the new Tucson's wheelbase is only 0.4 inches longer than the model it replaces, but its front and rear tracks have been widened by 1.4 inches, giving it a better overall stance. We do find the brake pedal to be a bit touchy, with a lot of stopping force applied at initial tip-in. This takes some getting used to, but when you learn to modulate the pedal accordingly, the brakes inspire confidence – you'll rarely need to press deeply into the brake pedal to get the Tucson to stop where and when you need it to.

As a daily driver, the Tucson has the goods to please the vast majority of small CUV shoppers. Overall functionality is rather good, too. The second-row seats fold flat, meaning that the rear cargo area can swell to accommodate up to 55.8 cubic feet of haulables. It's not as capacious as, say, a Honda CR-V (which offers an impressive 72.9 cubic feet of storage, and comes at a cost), but it's certainly nothing to frown at. And when you consider that the as-tested price of our GLS tester was only $22,590, the Tucson represents one heck of a value proposition – something Hyundai's based its business case on for years.

In a time when many consumers are trading in their humdrum sedans and larger SUVs for more affordable crossovers, the Tucson offers an economical, functional, good-to-drive option wrapped in surprisingly stylish sheetmetal. It's a proper evolution of the cute 'ute, and despite competing in a hotly contested segment, this new Tucson should certainly help further Hyundai's considerable momentum.

Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      That is one sexy SUV for just $23,000. Honda and Toyota should be very worried. Hyundai's biggest hurdle is the brand name but with time it will be on par with Honda imo.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "stylish all-rounder without sacrifice"... without sacrifice, huh???
      Plan to sacrifice $8,000 bucks if you simply want a sunroof! Want a simple cloth interior (without the 70's era leather side bolsters)? Only available in the very base model which doesn't even have cruise control. Simply want a cloth interior with a moonroof? Not available at any price!

      Compared to the first gen Tucson, this new model has a smaller fuel tank, overpriced packaging (i.e. moonroof), doesn't have reclining rear seats, and doesn't have the opening hatch window. Additionally, it has less horsepower than both the CRV and the RAV4.

      As the previous owner of the first gen Tucson, I can honestly say the new vehicle had potential, but Hyundai blew it by trying to go to "upscale" and not offering individual options such as stereo upgrades or moonroof, without the grossly overpriced packaging. Hyundai screwed up the new Genesis coupe and Kia Sorento in the same way. Otherwise very desirable vehicles if not for the mandatory leather and other crap to get other simple basic options.

      • 5 Years Ago
      tires: 225s
      Needs 190hp direct injection (go PZEV, why not?)
      and 240hp turbo 2.0
        • 5 Years Ago
        Uh, calm down David. I make supplemental deliveries for a cabinet manufacturer, and therefore I am concerned that this is smaller on the inside than my 2005 CR-V. Why the hostility? I love this car. Sheesh.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bob-Omb, what exactly are you hauling that you need more space than the Tucson offers? I never understand it when cars like these are faulted because they offer less cargo space than the "leader". SO WHAT??? Who wants a Suburban anyhow? Not me!

        As long as the rear seats fold flat, I could care less about the actual figures. The actual cargo volume have ZERO bearing on my purchase decision. That's why any hatch is preferable to any sedan, in my opinion.
        • 5 Years Ago
        i was gonna say 255's? that's totally unnecessary for a 4 banger
        • 5 Years Ago
        The GDI and turbo motors are coming. Kia announced them for the new Sportage, so you can bet they will be in the Tucson soon.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's funny how Korean cars are the new Japanese cars, Japanese cars are the new American cars, Chinese cars are becoming new Korean cars, and American cars are the new Chinese cars. Although the current crop of Hyundais and Kias are much more stylish than the Japanese cars were ten years ago.
        • 5 Years Ago
        American cars are the new Chinese cars? Have you been paying attention? American cars are much more like the new German cars (Focus, Regal, CTS-V, etc.) than they are like any Chinese car...aside from that gross mistatement, I agree with you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh please stop insulting American cars by comparing them to VWs. The last thing we need is a reputation like that.
        • 5 Years Ago
        haha chill out, the american car crack was just a joke, I think GM and Ford are doing some great stuff lately, especially the new Buicks. I was a big fan of the end-of-the-line Saturn lineup, I think it had real potential. Chrysler has a chance to be pretty cool if the Fiat product line comes over here, but at that point they're not really american cars...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Boxer, Ford says hello.
        • 5 Years Ago
        American cars are joining the European cars. controlled by government legislation, rather than consumer demand, and selling on brand tradition more than innovation or aggressive value for the dollar.

        Otherwise, the movement is apt. Chinese just starting out with teething problems, Koreans getting past that and growing aggressively, Japanese kinda sputtering and getting tired.
        • 5 Years Ago

        You truly are a paranoid weiner.
        • 5 Years Ago
        hoov23- I think you've managed to insult three nations (four, if you're Chinese) in a single paragraph.
        • 5 Years Ago
        American cars are the new Chinese cars? i hope you dont mean piss poor quality and zero safety features.

        remove the Chrysler group and american cars are doing pretty damn well. The only thing holding them back is that their entire lineups are rarely full of good cars, there always seems to be one car that is terrible to bring the whole brand down.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "American cars are the new Chinese cars."

        Probably, American car will survive, because no auto maker making american muscle car.
        Future of American cars are "Harley Davidson".
        Many American auto bike destoryed by Japanese Honda, Suzuki, etc. But, Harley Davidson can survive from Japanese invasion.
      • 5 Years Ago
      this is damn classy! perfect for a business professional loved it!
      • 5 Years Ago
      From the side it looks like a pregnant guppy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Love it.The front part is really stylish and very unique.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i'm sure many of you saw plenty of this on the road. it's by far the best looking CUV right now. it looks so new. CRV is friggin ugly.

      but watch out for new sportage. that thing looked great.

      sonata & optima - best looking midsize sedan

      tucson - sportage -best looking cute ute

      must be the end of the world. haha

      • 5 Years Ago
      I actually test drove the new Tucson recently and it is a huge improvement over the previous generation BUT the interior is made out of cheap plastics just like the rest of todays competiotion at this price range, its nothing outstanding, rear head room could have been a bit more generous for taller people, plus cargo space is pretty small compared to this CUV segment. New Tucson is a design of form over function. Driving dynamics, well, lets just say that I still prefer Mitsubishi Outlander with SAWC. New Tucson is a nice car but it is not a game changing CUV, it has a few shortcomings, practicality is not its strong suite and thats what most of CUV shoppers I believe look for. If I had to compare this new Tucson to anything it would probably be Nissan Murano. Overall its a good looking car with limited space.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I gave one a good look.
        I was shocked at how poorly the seat materials were stitched. Bad gathers in the material and poorly fitted. Rear cargo covers were very flimsy, cheap, and not very durable looking or feeling.

        Clearly they cut cost in materials to get you gadgets instead of quality.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, it's clear you are just ANTI-Hyundai/Kia.
        • 5 Years Ago
        what do you expect from a 20k CUV? Leather wrapped interior? Hyundai had to cut corners somewhere in order to maintain the lower price tag. Overall it looks really good.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You are the best all the way,Hyundai Tucson 2010
      • 5 Years Ago
      Actually, I am liking Kia's new cars, but not their CUVs as much... But this Tucson looks decent.

      The coke-bottle fender curves, and the window graphic that makes sense (unlike the GenCoupe's. Tucson's headlights look better than GenCoupe's as well.)

      The grille looks better blacked out. It might even look better blacked out on non-black paint-jobs.

      If this weren't so tall off the ground, it would look like kind of a nice mid-sized 5-door wagon-let.

      Frankly, I think this looks better as a CUV than Sonata as a sedan. I do prefer the Kia Optima to the Sonata, as well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I still just don't get why they think the cross-eyed instrument panel looks good... That is one Hyundai down-side.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Kia = Designed by European
        Hyundai = Mostly Designed by American (Sometimes European)

        American designers are really not so great.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you were to drop it down closer to the ground, it basically becomes a compact hatchback, which is indeed a very practical vehicle. Reminds me of the Mazda3 hatch - not necessarily in specific looks, but in overall shape and practicality. I see the point of this type of vehicle, but I've never been satisfied with their dynamic agility, and until they figure that out I'll stick with the lower center of gravity and lighter weight of the hatchback cars.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Why do people think huge screens in the middle of their center stacks look good?(ON EVERY CAR!!) At least this Hyundai being reviewed doesn't haven one, and I have to say its VERY refreshing. I mean we still get the blue backlit display. I can stomach that more than a big touchscreen. I would prefer just a "strip lcd display" that's smaller than the blue but hey I'll take this with no complaints.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @ BoxerFanatic:

      Well said! No one could have said it any better!
    • Load More Comments