For years now, the top Canadian sellers in the highly popular and lucrative compact crossover category have been the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, and behind them the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and... Hyundai Tucson. With the release of the newly-refreshed Tucson, could Hyundai be in a position to challenge for one of the top spots? The short answer is yes.
Looks the part
This is the third generation of the Tucson to see the light of day since the model was first introduced in 2005. 2019’s refresh sees some notable improvements in the looks department, including a new front fascia with Hyundai’s signature cascading grille and a new headlight design with LED technology. A redesigned rear fascia, including new taillights and new wheel options offer a refreshed look. In addition, chrome trim has been added to the bottom of the side windows for upscale trims. A new shark-fin antenna is also standard for all trims.
The look isn’t radically different, which is a testament to its already fine lines. The Tucson makes a very good first impression and the SUV is as pretty and classy as any of the afore-mentioned competitors.
The Tucson’s secret sauce: usability
Competing in one of the most coveted and cutthroat vehicle categories, any compact crossover will need to be at the top of its game - and the Tucson is indeed just that. Sitting inside it, I was immediately impressed at the seating position, comfort level, cockpit layout, material fit and finish and all-around usability.
What the Tucson does better than any of the others is render vehicle operation a cinch. By this I mean that there are no fancy attempts at making it seem futuristic, no efforts to minimize the number of physical buttons or adopt anything annoying (like a push-button shifter for example). No, the Tucson’s operation will be easy for just about anyone, and easy means comfortable.
Somehow, despite the generous supply of physical buttons for everything, the new dash is still clean and uncluttered. There are easy-to-use dials for temperature and volume (as every vehicle should have), a traditional gear-select lever, very functional air vents and a 7-inch infotainment screen (upgradable to 8-inch). I like Hyundai’s menu system and most will find it plenty user-friendly, though the screen is a bit far from the driver.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available to connect to your smartphone. Hyundai BlueLink offers technologies such as remote start with climate control, remote door lock/unlock, car finder, enhanced roadside assistance and stolen vehicle recovery. These functions are all accessed with a smartphone app or via buttons on the rear-view mirror. There is available wireless smartphone charging and even USB outlets in the second row.
The fit and finish of the materials used in the cabin help inspire confidence that the whole vehicle is well-built. I liked the steering wheel feel and grip as well as the gear-shift lever, which is very solid. The seats provide good support and are comfortable. Hyundai made sure to place soft-ish materials where occupants’ knees and elbows rest, making the overall driving position extremely comfortable.
An array of safety features
The Tucson comes standard with a forward collision avoidance system to protect its occupants. The FCA system is designed to help detect and monitor the vehicle ahead and warn the driver if a collision may be imminent. The system also initiates braking automatically.
Lane keep assist is also standard and detects the lane on the road and assists steering wheel control if the vehicle leaves the lane when the vehicle speed is over 40 mph (just under 65 km/h). This can be somewhat annoying in certain situations where the vehicle crosses a dotted line and the indicator isn’t on, because it will attempt to correct and veer you back where you don’t want to go. For the most part, though, it works as intended, plus you always have the option of turning it off.
Other safety features such as pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, a surround-view monitor, smart cruise control with stop and go and driver attention warning are available on higher trims.
New engine options
There is an update to the engine options this year. Hyundai no longer offers the 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder and instead has two naturally aspirated 4-cylinder units on tap. The smaller is a 2.0L making 164 hp, the larger a 2.4L inline-4 that delivers 181 hp. Both are mated to 6-speed automatic transmissions.
My test vehicle came with the larger of the two motors and it was able to move the Tucson with ease and to my heart’s desire. It’s not a screamer but it will do the job adequately for just about anyone, and with reasonably good fuel efficiency. I wasn’t able to get it below 11L/100 km, but to be fair I did mainly city driving.
There’s plenty of cargo space in the trunk and folding the seats down allows you to fit even more back there. Seat operation is easy, as is trunk closing thanks to the power liftgate. You’ll also be able to fit two child seats in the back seat without issue.
The starting price is $25,599 for the Essential trim, which still comes with CarPlay / AndroidAuto, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, backup camera, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted audio, phone and cruise controls and a 7-inch touchscreen. The powerplant will be the smaller 2.0L motor, and it doesn’t come standard with all-wheel drive, only as an option, so you’ll want to take that into consideration.
Other standard safety features include four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control, traction control and Hillstart Assist Control.
The $27,999 Preferred trim also has the option of AWD on the menu, and adds a heated steering wheel, 17-inch wheels, blind spot monitoring with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert.
For both these trims, adding all-wheel drive will set you back an extra $2,000.
The Luxury trim will run you $34,699 and comes standard with the larger 2.4L motor, AWD, chrome-tipped dual exhaust tips, a drive mode selector, surround-view monitor, power liftgate, leather seats and a second-row USB outlet.
Finally, the Ultimate will get you the 8-inch touchscreen, an Infinity audio system, 19-inch wheels and LED headlights for $37,999.
A shot at the top
My overall impression of the Tucson is that it’s a simple take on a popular product and it does everything very well. It’s easy to drive, looks great and won’t break the bank. There is quite a lot of competition out there but the Tucson makes an amazing case for itself, particularly since it has a starting price about $2,000 less than all of the vehicle listed above save for the Ford Escape.
It will definitely have its work cut out for it because the CR-V and RAV4 continue to battle it out for the top spot in compact crossover sales in Canada with 13,021 and 12,386 units sold in the first quarter of 2019, respectively. The Tucson, by comparison was in sixth place with 4,935 units moved.
Solid value for the price demanded
Good interior finishing
Ample space for people and gear
User-friendly in terms of the multimedia system and other controls
We like less
The Tucson is not designed to excite, and it doesn’t
Drive-assist systems on the higher trims can get a bit intrusive