Today’s compact crossovers can be very confusing. They are one in of the largest growth segments in the car industry and every car maker has an entry. And there’s always a push to update it, improve it or get attention with it. As an automotive journalist it’s my job to make heads and tails of these things, and within this segment I can’t even keep up, so I’m sure for you the consumer it’s even more bewildering.
Crowding the playing field, but doing a good job at making itself stand out, is my tester this week – the 2017 Hyundai Tucson. I actually drove this crossover in back-to-back weeks with a couple other of its rivals, including its sister vehicle the Kia Sportage. Don’t worry, I took copious notes about the Tucson.
After last year’s total makeover, this year’s model is just refreshed with an improved interior and some new technology. Last year’s remake was magnificent and made this five-passenger crossover a real contender within the segment.
On looks, the Tucson is attractive and seems to blend with the overall conservative nature of the compact crossover segment. The small grille has a simplistic, understated look. The long, horizontal LED headlights are the front end’s best, most attractive feature. The angular A-pillar is stout and presents a wide view for the driver.
Toward the back, the C-pillar that slopes downward is not as prominent and creates a more bulbous back end. For trims with a rear spoiler, like my tester, there’s a sporty look to the back end, which helps balance out this crossover. The Tucson certainly seems longer in the front with a stubby back. It does help differentiate from other crossovers on the road in that regard.
The Tucson has two engine options. There’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which produces 164 horsepower. My tester was the turbocharged 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. This is the more exciting option with 175 hp. Plus, the turbo engine gets a seven-speed automatic transmission as opposed to the six-speed with the 2.0-liter.
All in all, the turbo is the way to go with the Tucson. It’s quick off the line and peppy through most gears. There is some noticeable turbo lag in the lower gears. Front-wheel drive is standard, but my tester had all-wheel drive. Obviously, any crossover is better suited with AWD, with the only negative being a slight drop in fuel economy.
Inside, some minor upgrades have been made. While this segment is more about comfort and less about quality and luxury, the Tucson has improved enough to make me take notice. This year’s model seems to have better touchpoints than last year’s model. The seats are comfortable and there’s room for three adults in the second row. Shoulder room and leg room are ample.
Cargo room is adequate. With the second row up, there’s 31 cubic feet of space. Fold the second row flat and that expands to 61.9 cubic feet of space.
The most significant improvement for the 2017 model year is in the technology. A five-inch touchscreen is standard but there’s also a nice eight-inch touchscreen that controls everything from navigation to radio to phone interaction. It’s an intuitive system that requires little to no time to manage and has a quick response time to the touch commands. New for this model year is the integration of Apple Car Play and Android Auto which makes interacting with your phone even easier and introduces various interactive apps.
The Tucson comes in four trims: SE, Eco, Sport and Limited. My tester was the top-of-the-line Limited. The turbocharged engine is only available for the Eco, Sport and Limited trims. In addition, the Limited comes with leather upholstery, eight-inch touchscreen, LED headlights and dual-zone climate control as well as sensor-based safety features like lane departure, blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensor and emergency braking. A panoramic sunroof and heated and cooled seats also help justify the Tucson Limited’s higher price of $31,175. With extra options and features, my tester had a final price tag of $35,210.
The Tucson Limited (and Sport) with all-wheel drive has an EPA rating of 24 mpg/city and 28 mpg/highway. FWD options have a slightly better fuel economy rating of 25/30. The larger 2.0-liter engine with FWD has an EPA rating of 23/30. All told, the peppier engine, even with AWD, offers good fuel economy. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged 25.1 mpg.
The field is crowded for compact crossovers. They all do about the same thing. It’s nice that the Hyundai Tucson continues to tweak what it offers and presents options like a fun-to-drive turbo engine and improved interior full of easy-to-use technology.
Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.