Hyundai continues to refine and upgrade the Tucson, its compact-crossover SUV. Improvements for 2012 include bigger brakes; faster-acting, more energy-efficient air conditioning; a smoother ride; a larger gas tank; and better fuel economy from the larger of two four-cylinder engines. Features such as turn-signal repeaters and sophisticated Sachs amplitude-selective shock absorbers, previously reserved for the top-end Limited model, are now standard on the mid-range GLS as well. And those are only the highlights.
The 2012 Hyundai Tucson lineup begins with the value-priced, front-wheel-drive Tucson GL. Powered by a 165-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Tucson GL rates an EPA-estimated 20/27 City/Highway mpg with its standard 5-speed manual transmission, and 23/31 with its optional 6-speed automatic.
The Tucson GLS and Tucson Limited models are offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Power is provided by a 176-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. Hyundai’s superb 6-speed automatic is standard, and for 2012 comes with new Active Eco technology, which makes the response of the engine and transmission smoother to changes in throttle position over time. Hyundai says this can yield as much as a 7-percent gain in real-world fuel economy. EPA ratings for the 2.4-liter Tucson with Active Eco are 22/32 mpg with front-wheel drive and 21/28 mpg with all-wheel drive. New low-rolling-resistance silica tires contribute to those numbers.
Inside, the cabin is a model of straightforwardness and simplicity. It's excellent ergonomically, meaning everything is easy to reach and operate. The materials are nice. The seats are supportive and comfortable. There's plenty of room in both the front and rear seats, with comfortable seating for four, capability for five.
Though Korean, the Tucson design is decidedly European in flavor, sporty and aggressive, capturing the crisp, agile look for which German styling studios are famous. Tucson skillfully tricks the eye, to its benefit. Just as the huge Audi Q7 manages to appear smaller and more athletic than it is, the Tucson does just the opposite. Its high beltline and squinty side-window configuration make the Tucson appear larger and more capacious than it really is. This may give the buyer a feeling of getting more for the money.
In short, the Hyundai Tucson is a well calculated vehicle that delivers roomy interior space, crisp performance and very good fuel efficiency.