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Auto review: That's a Hyundai? Tucson SUV is hi-tech head-turner

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Hyundai buyers may ultimately demand the same, but the Tucson's design is more elegant than the Honda, so we'll see. For now, the driver can easily adjust volume using thumb tabs on the steering wheel while the passenger can poke at the screen's up-and-down volume arrows.

The design theme continues through the lower console with the transmission function actuated through a (rectangular, natch) push-button shifter. The space-saving device opens acres of room for console storage and cupholders.

Room is the priority beyond the front seats. Every compact SUV wants best-in-class claims, and Tucson drops the mic with class-leading leg and cargo room. Rear seats are pickup-roomy. I easily sat behind my big 6'5" self with inches to spare before my knees met the front seat.

Continuing the Tucson's appeal to giant Yankees, the cargo area is also best in class. Flatten the rear seats and you can transport a jumbo LCD television screen back there to go with the tiny LCD instrument display up front. If you have a family that spends a lot of time in the back, Hyundai offers option like heated rear seats, multiple USB ports and a panoramic roof.

Once an attractive, conservative family hauler, the Hyundais have been dressing to the nines for the roaring '20s. Tucson follows the Hyundai Elantra, Veloster and Sonata with extreme wardrobe makeovers. The racy styling has been complemented with more pep under the hood, too. The Sonata, Elantra and Veloster have all received N-badged performance versions with taut suspensions and more ponies under the hood.

Tucson is content to leave the fast footwork to its siblings.

 

The compact SUV options an N-line trim, but it's a showpiece only with blacked-out trim and bigger wheels. Crack open the hood and you won't find a 295-horse (Sonata N) or 275-horse (Veloster N) furnace within — just a pair of reliable, sippy four-bangers. That's in keeping with the Tucson's determination to get you to your destination unruffled.

I tested both the 187-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-banger and 227-horse 1.6-liter turbo 4 hybrid, and they are almost indistinguishable (save the hybrid's better low-end torque) under the cane given the cabin's boardroom quiet. Credit slavish attention to detail as engineers have applied triple-layer lamination to the front windshield, a beefy firewall, and extensive sound-deadening throughout the cabin.

The compact yacht doesn't encourage heavy left foots anyway. This is no Mazda CX-5 or Chevy Equinox with corner-carving ambitions. The Tucson wants you to admire its wardrobe as it saunters by.

Tucson competitors Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape have big hybrid ambitions in the compact SUV space, with both targeting 30% hybrid sales. Hyundai won't give any sales goals, but don't expect the usual Hyundai price bargain. The 37-mpg Tucson hybrid — Hyundai's first effort in this segment — is priced right on top of ($32,835) the 41-mpg Ford Escape hybrid ($32,990) when equipped with my essential features (AWD, blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control).

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