The Hyundai Tucson, a compact crossover SUV, was just fully redesigned for the 2010 model year but returns for the 2011 with a new Tucson GL base model, available only with front-wheel drive and with a smaller, slightly more economical 2.0L engine. GLS models get a much-improved standard equipment list that includes such things as a telescopic steering wheel, steering-wheel audio controls, leather trim, Bluetooth, roof side rails and new trims, while Limited models get a new auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink universal garage-door opener and Sachs Adaptive Selective Dampers for a better ride. Heated seats now come standard on all Tucson models with all-wheel drive.<p><p>For 2011, the Tucson's Motor Driven Power Steering system has been upgraded to work better with the stability control system.
New this year is a base-model Tucson GL model that offers a slightly smaller, more economical engine and an even more attractive price. While the Hyundai GLS and Limited come with a 176-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, the new Tucson GL has a 2.0-liter version rated at 165 hp. Both engines have continuously variable camshaft timing for responsiveness without giving up efficiency. Hyundai has saved a lot of weight in the Tucson's body by using high-strength steel, so fuel economy ratings stand as the best in this class, overall--with an EPA 22 mpg city, 31 highway with the 2.4-liter and automatic and 23/31 with the smaller engine.
On GL models, a 5-speed manual transmission is standard with an optional 6-speed automatic. The 6-speed auto is standard on all GLS and Limited models. The automatic in the Tucson comes with Shiftronic manual control, and has very smooth shifts while downshifting responsively to make the most of the larger engine.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the Tucson, though an all-wheel drive system is available; it sends power only to the front wheels in normal driving but sends more to the back as needed--or also has a 50/50 lock mode good for slippery conditions such as snow or mud.
The Tucson has an absorbent ride and a quiet, refined interior feel, thanks to a suspension arrangement that uses a stabilizer bars front and back; the electric power steering system varies its effort for various vehicle speeds and helps save fuel. Its turning circle of 34.7 feet is the best in its class, according to Hyundai.
Hyundai has, just as with its other vehicles, loaded on the standard safety features. The list includes electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, Hillstart Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control for confidence on slippery slopes, front active head restraints, a total of six airbags with both front side and full-length side-curtain airbags.
While the Tucson isn't much larger than other compact crossovers, its long wheelbase pays off in an especially roomy interior. The back seat is quite spacious, with enough legroom for adults and the front seats have additional seat track to accommodate tall drivers. Back seats fold forward flat for a large cargo area, and the Tucson has lots of smaller cubbies and compartments for everything from sunglasses to extra drinks.
The new Tucson GL starts at well under $20,000, including destination and includes air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless entry, tilt steering and a trip computer. The GLS adds alloy wheels, telescopic steering, leather trim, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and roof rails, while the Limited adds 18-inch alloys, leather seats, heated front seats, a power driver seat, solar front glass, a windshield wiper de-icer, fog lamps and a premium suspension that has new adaptive selective dampers.
A touch-screen navigation system and premium audio system, with Bluetooth audio streaming capability, iPod, USB and auxiliary inputs is optional. XM Satellite Radio is also available. The Limited offers a navigation system and a sunroof optional.