Hyundai Tucson moves past cute ‘ute phase |

Hyundai Tucson moves past cute ‘ute phase

Andy Stonehouse
summit daily auto writer
2010 Hyundai Tucson

No longer just another cute ‘ute, the new Hyundai Tucson takes some nicely style-forward, European-designed looks and incorporates the company’s quickly maturing reputation for nice interiors, solid powertrains and efficient dynamics.

Demonstrating, therefore, that even the most rough-around-the-edges import upstart can eventually craft a vehicle that (nearly, or, often) whups the butt of the domestics. Detroit, you’ve been warned, and clearly, you’re still not listening.

Let me not get entirely ahead of myself, lest you come to think that the Koreans are suddenly crafting vehicles like the Germans, albeit German vehicles which were both affordable and reliable.

Tucson is still a slightly bumpy riding and occasionally brittle sounding CUV, reacting a little over-reactively to bad pavement and producing considerable cabin noise at highway speed.

And the improved 2.4-liter four-cylinder, while turning out 176 horsepower (a quarter more than the old model), produced for me some mileage figures (about 20 mpg overall) that weren’t a hell of a lot better than the much, much larger Toyota 4Runner.

But in terms of style, ease of driving experience and comfort, Tucson’s a pretty nice ride. You’ll notice from the new looks that whatever design work the company did in Munich (they call it Fluidic Sculpture) has resulted in an automobile that’s quite compelling in its curvy, angular blend.

You’ll notice that the soon-to-released 2011 Kia Sportage, essentially the same vehicle, also got the Fluidic Sculpture treatment; in the Kia iteration, that means a super-smiley nose and grille, giant cat-eye headlamps and a highly texturized hood, plus the swoopy, Euro-style roofline.

Tucsons with major two-tone paint jobs benefit from the new, pronounced black body line, which serves to give the car a little extra substance.

That horsepower makes Tucson a comfortable cruiser. It’s not a screamer but also not underwhelmingly anemic, with the slightly rigid suspension also imparting absolutely flat, non-rolling turns, like a taller Genesis sports car. Head down a long incline and the six-speed automatic transmission works like a charm, self-adjustable to control your speed.

Light offroading expeditions may also benefit from the downhill brake control system, while the electronic all-wheel-drive lends an overall feeling of security.

I had a curious revelation with the Tucson’s seating – for whatever reason, it fit my stumpy frame absolutely perfectly, with soft but still supportive, two-tone leather.

The cabin design is otherwise clean and efficient, maybe a little heavy on the swirly design cues, including a stuck-out set of door speaker covers that might hit your knees on exits.

The optional touchscreen navigation system is seamless, with a Bluetooth setup included, and the two-zone AC system even includes a special air-cleaning filter.

There are even some Volvo-by-way-of-Audi-inspired pass-thru handles on the center console for an extra hand-hold during your run on the Rubicon Trail.

The optional double, panoramic sunroof gives the already reasonably comfortable rear seat a whole new feeling of headroom, though the rear panel does not open and the front panel actually slides over the rear when fully open-providing double UV protection, I guess. Funky little third-row windows also cut down on the feelings of claustrophobia, and the curve front seatbacks add to rear passenger knee room.

Tucson’s doors were noticeably light and susceptible to wind gusts, and the door sills just slightly tall, necessitating a wide step to exit.

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