The 2012 Hyundai Tucson might not be as big as its main rivals, but it makes amends with a handsome cabin, an ample list of features, sporty handling and a low price. It's a top pick for a small crossover.
Over the years Hyundai has become known for delivering respectable bang for the buck, and this compact crossover is no exception. But in addition to the strengths the brand has built its reputation on, the 2012 Hyundai Tucson offers a couple more unexpected bonuses -- namely distinctive styling and a fun-to-drive factor -- that make it an appealing choice for a small crossover SUV.
Unlike the utilitarian driving experience common to many compact crossovers, time spent behind the wheel of the Tucson can actually be enjoyable. Credit for the Tucson's handling goes to its Euro-tuned suspension and nicely weighted electric power steering. The engine choices aren't quite as special -- a 165-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a 176-hp 2.4-liter -- but they're generally competitive for the segment.
If there's one area where the Tucson doesn't shine, it would be its relatively small cabin. Compared to bigger rivals like the Chevy Equinox and the fully redesigned Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, the Tucson's backseat offers less room and neither slides nor reclines. Cargo room is also significantly less than in those other crossover SUVs. Another issue with the Tucson is a ride quality that some may find to be on the firm side -- especially with the available 18-inch wheels.
As such, the aforementioned larger crossovers would be better choices for families. However, those with less vital size requirements should find the 2012 Hyundai Tucson (as well as its mechanically similar cousin, the Kia Sportage) a keen choice.
The 2012 Hyundai Tucson is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV that is offered in three trim levels: GL, GLS and Limited. The GL base model comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, privacy glass, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-only steering wheel, a 60\/40-split-folding rear seat, full power accessories, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod\/USB interface.
The GLS adds 17-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded suspension, roof rails, heated side mirrors with built-in turn signals, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth and leather upholstery, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls and upgraded trim inside and out. All-wheel-drive GLS models also get heated front seats.
The Limited trim tacks on 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, a front wiper de-icer, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustments, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a cargo cover and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. An optional Premium package available only on the Limited adds a panoramic sunroof, touchscreen navigation system, a rearview camera and a seven-speaker upgraded sound system.
Unlike the utilitarian driving experience common to many compact crossovers, time spent behind the wheel of the 2012 Hyundai Tucson can actually be enjoyable. Credit for the Tucson's handling goes to its Euro-tuned suspension and nicely weighted electric power steering. The downside is ride quality that's a bit on the firm side, though this year's model is better than past Tucsons thanks to the retuned suspension.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the GL base model is underpowered, and there's really no advantage to this engine (besides its lower price) considering the 2.4-liter returns stronger acceleration and roughly the same fuel economy. The bigger engine does sound a touch unrefined compared to rival four-cylinders, however.
The 2012 Hyundai Tucson offers two different engine choices. Entry-level GL models come with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 165 hp and 146 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but a six-speed automatic is optional. It includes the Active Eco system, which alters engine and transmission response to maximize efficiency. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg city\/29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with the automatic, and 20\/26\/22 with the manual.
Stepping up to the GLS and Limited models gets you a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 176 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. In California-emissions states, this engine receives partial zero-emissions vehicle (PZEV) status and produces 170 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered, but buyers have a choice of front- and all-wheel drive. In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive GLS went from zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, which is slow, but on par with other entries in the class. Fuel mileage numbers stand at 21\/30\/25 with front-wheel drive and 20\/27\/23 with all-wheel drive.
The list of standard safety features on the 2012 Hyundai Tucson includes antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, hill holder and hill descent control. In Edmunds brake tests, the Tucson came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is about average among crossover SUVs.
In government crash testing, the Tucson received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal impact protection and five stars for overall side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this Hyundai its top rating of "Good" in the frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Inside the 2012 Hyundai Tucson you'll find an attractive, functional and roomy cabin. The five-passenger interior is more stylish than several of its competitors, and gauges and controls are well-placed and easy to operate.
Up front, the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel on GLS and Limited models makes it possible for a wide range of different size drivers to get comfortable. The rear seat is a little smaller than those of its rivals and it also lacks the ability to both slide and recline.
The Tucson also gives up ground to its rivals in terms of cargo space. There are just 25.7 cubic feet behind the 60\/40-split rear seats and 55.8 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down. That latter number falls short of the CR-V, Subaru Forester and RAV4 by around 15 cubic feet, an amount of space equal to the entire trunk volume of some popular midsize sedans.
Classy design inside and out; simple controls; good fuel economy; sporty handling; strong value.
Below-average backseat and cargo space; firm ride; pokey acceleration with base engine.