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2010 Hyundai Tucson: The Urban Cruiser?

I’m rarely one to toot my own horn, but I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way: there’s a bit of me in the brand-new 2010 Hyundai Tucson. Once upon a time, not that long ago, I was a product planner at Hyundai who was tasked with finding and developing a new concept direction for the second generation Tucson. The first Tucson, which debuted for the 2005 model year, was a decent if uninspiring small crossover SUV, and Hyundai really wanted to hit the second generation out of the park.

Our team worked closely with designers, engineers, and planners from all over the Hyundai universe (in the U.S., Korea, and Europe) and finally came up with the basic idea for the second generation Tucson. We code-named it “Urban Cruiser” and developed it to be – completely unlike the first generation – city-oriented, sleek, agile, with a strong on-road performance persona. No off-road pretense here; we wanted the new Tucson to be a sleek city slicker, though and through.
Naturally, after I left Hyundai to work for AutoPacific and its VehicleVoice offshoot, I had been anxious to see the fruits of my team’s efforts hit the road, and in the end I was very happy to see that the finished product had stayed true to the fundamental ideas behind our concept.
The new Tucson is definitely a part of Hyundai’s current renaissance, having launched at about the same time as the much-lauded Sonata. While that sedan may be in the spotlight, the Tucson is also a very important player in the Hyundai portfolio. Compact crossovers are all the rage and the segment is expected to get quite a bit bigger in the coming years as consumers continue to choose them over more traditional sedans. As part of Hyundai’s renaissance, it incorporates the “Fluidic Sculpture” design language seen on the Sonata and making its way throughout the Hyundai lineup. It’s a visually engaging look, promising not to blend in with the sea of similarly sized crossovers at your local Target parking lot.
In fact, I was particularly happy to see how well the final styling had turned out considering that top Korean management had insisted on a more conservative styling direction for Tucson about the time I left the company. Apparently soon after, style prevailed, resulting in the much more distinctive shape seen here.
The interior is an even bigger leap forward compared to the last Tucson. Instead of sober shapes rendered in drab plastic, the new Tucson’s cabin in sharply dressed and full of modern technologies. Navigation with real time traffic, Bluetooth, backup camera, XM satellite radio, and a high-zoot audio system are all available. Even a panoramic moonroof is available on Limited models.
Our 2010 model had a 176HP 2.4L four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain was plenty peppy and has an impressive EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. For 2011, a slightly thriftier 2.0L engine with 165HP is available and gets one mpg better in the city. Sometime later in 2011, a 2.0L turbocharged engine with direct injection is due; this engine puts out 274HP in the Sonata and should turn the Tucson into a real rocketship.
Any complaints? The ride quality can get a little unsettled at times, particularly at the rear. Hyundai says they have a fix for that with 2011 Limited models, which get more refined shocks by renowned suspension expert Sachs. And the steering is a bit too devoid of feel for my tastes.
But overall, the new Tucson is truly a fine effort from Hyundai. In fact, it’s one of the best in its segment, and I’m not just saying that because I had a hand in developing it! The Tucson is truly a good indicator of Hyundai’s capabilities these days, and absolutely deserves your consideration if you’re shopping for a small crossover.

1 Comment

  • Mac| September 22, 2010 at 5:32 am Reply

    I have driven the new Tucson and found it to be one of the finer small crossover offerings currently on the market. To get a similar (or better) level of performance, one has to go to the RAV4 V6. I’d bet the Tucson will embarrass more than a few CRV and Rogue owners in a stoplight battle.

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