Apr
17

Hyundai Tucson — A Smaller Santa Fe

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by Greg Morrison
ATLANTA — Hyundai Motors is trying for a second bite at the apple in the SUV segment with the Tucson and hoping it works as well as the Santa Fe.

The Tucson is a smaller unit in the same category as the Ford Escape, Honda CRV and the sister brand Kia Sportage.

What Hyundai did right out of the gate was to offer a 2.7 liter V6 engine in the vehicle along with the standard 4 cylinder power plant that comes in a truck of this size. The bigger motor delivers 173 horsepower and 178 foot pounds of torque. In daily driving that is enough under the hood to make the Tucson feel quite peppy in expressway driving. On the Atlanta Speedway commonly referred to as I-285 the Tucson was able to not only keep up with the pricier imports but also lead the charge on some stretches of the roadway without giving the impression that it was terrified.

For passengers, the Tucson has enough room that a 5 foot 8 inch driver could be comfortable while a 6 foot 2 inch passenger could fit into the back seat without discomfort. Interior noise was reasonable enough that a conversation was not too difficult between the front and second row of seats.

What every passenger really liked was the quality of the sound system. The AM/FM/Cassette/CD/MP3 stereo can play audio from every imaginable source (unless you are determined to resurrect those 8 track tapes again!). The six speakers are well balanced and sound like systems in more upscale brands.

In typical Hyundai style the vehicle comes with nearly every feature as standard equipment. This ranges from four wheel disc brakes, independent front and rear suspension, dual front and side impact airbags along with side air curtains, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, fog lights, alloy wheels, and the floor mats.

However, the front cup holder pad was optionional. It cost $10. The total tab came to $20,009

While it may have many of the same lines as its big brother Santa Fe, the Tucson has a less aggressive appearance but still offers some useful touches like roof rails as standard equipment. But it does stay with the corporate look that includes color keyed bumpers and body cladding. Since it is smaller, the Tucson only measures 66 inches from the ground to the top of the roof rails so it has a lot less tendency to feel like it wants to tip over in a crosswind.

For the brand, the Tucson is part of a long term strategy to establish Hyundai as more than a compact car manufacturer. While the Tucson was designed for the North America, it can be sold around the world where there is more of a market for small SUVs.

Hyundai is a company that a few years ago was perceived as the maker of “throw away cars” (Does anyone remember the Excel?). Today Hyundai is firmly established in he US market with a network of dealers and a variety of offerings from the subcompact to the well appointed mid sized sedan and now two SUV’s.

Gerg Morrison can be reached at autoguysouth@cs.com.

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