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Retooled Tucson

Satin-metallic trim accents the interior, which has appealing textures and surfaces. Interior colors are black, taupe or black and saddle on the Limited. Photo courtesy of Morgan J. Segal.

Satin-metallic trim accents the interior, which has appealing textures and surfaces. Interior colors are black, taupe or black and saddle on the Limited. Photo courtesy of Morgan J. Segal.

By Mark Maynard

The 2010 Hyundai Tucson is new, refocused and mostly improved.
This five-passenger crossover is a complete update on the previous model, and it is lighter, roomier and more efficient. It has attractive styling, and its performance has been focused for “fun to drive” — with maybe a little too much emphasis on fun.
Hyundai targeted the Honda CR-V in Tucson’s re-engineering, but other competitors include the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Jeep Patriot, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.
To stake out its turf, Hyundai focused on a few details in the redesign of its compact five-passenger Tucson.
“It is important to pick a few attributes and become a leader in those rather than not lead in any category,” a Hyundai spokesman said. “We have to lead in these attributes if we want this car to sell well.”
Those attributes for Tucson are turning circle, fuel economy, interior efficiency and its list of standard and optional features. And there was a lot of arguing with the bean counters to give Tucson that list of features.
Tucson is sold in GLS and Limited models, with one four-cylinder engine, six-speed transmissions and optional on-demand all-wheel drive. Starting prices range from $19,790 for the base front-wheel-drive GLS with six-speed manual to $29,490 for a Limited all-wheel drive with six-speed automatic. The GLS tester with all-wheel drive, a navigation package and the Popular Equipment package and floor mats was $26,090.
Without all-wheel drive, the tester would have been $24,590 — and, as equipped, I can understand why dealers can’t keep the Tucson in stock.
Though the new model is 3.3 inches longer and an inch wider, it is 60 pounds lighter. A V-6 engine is unnecessary and no longer offered.
For California and states with similar emissions standards, the 2.4-liter engine is rated 170 horsepower, but it’s 176 elsewhere. Fuel economy on 87 octane is 23 mpg city and 31 highway for front drive or 21/28 all-wheel drive. The six-speed manual is rated 22/30.
The power is strong and even abrupt at times, which may be intended to rev up the “fun” attitude. The transmission can be shifted manually, but there is no separate Sport mode. The emphasis is always on Sport. And with the combination of a too-firm suspension, the Tucson sometimes feels like a pony that always wants to run. But that’s better than being an old nag.
The ride also can be noisy on concrete road surfaces, but it is quieter on blacktop.
Tucson excels in its packaging. There is headroom, visibility and leg support for a 6-foot-6-inch driver with enough room behind him or her for a good-sized teenager. The back seat feels spacious because of raised seating and a floor that has just a low hump at the exhaust/transmission tunnel.
The layout to switches and cabin controls is smart and efficient. But the angle of the optional navigation/camera screen causes it to be washed out by the sun at certain times of day.
There are auxiliary inputs for every form of digital music, and I like the three-blink “EZ lane change assist turn signals.”
The basis feel of the GLS model can be made almost urban-chic with the Popular Equipment package, $1,700, which adds such extras as leatherette/cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, soft-touch interior paint, and visors with extenders and lighted mirrors.
The cargo area is wide and square, with storage under the floor. The seats fold easily, but there are no handy alternate releases in the cargo area, only at the seat backs. A cargo net and roller cover are optional.
Standard safety features include downhill brake control and hill-start assist control. When activated, the brake control will hold forward speed below 5 mph on steep grades or driveways with marginal traction. Hill-start assist brakes the vehicle for a couple of seconds to give the driver time to move his or her foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator without the vehicle moving.
The compact crossover is the current consumer favorite of vehicles. The Tucson is the right-size vehicle for singles, couples and families of one, two or maybe three young children.

SPECS BOX

2010 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD
Body style: compact five-passenger crossover
Engine: aluminum, 176-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with continuously variable valve timing
Transmission: six-speed Shiftronic
EPA fuel economy estimates: 21 mpg city, 28 highway; 87 octane recommended
Cargo space: 25.7 cubic feet behind back seats to 55.8 with seats folded
Length/width/wheelbase: 173.2/71.7/103.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,382 pounds (3,203 FWD)

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: remote locking with alarm, four-wheel disc brakes (vented front discs, solid rear), hill-start assist control, downhill brake control
EZ lane change assist turn signals, air conditioning with air filter, six-speaker audio system with satellite radio,  iPod and USB auxiliary input jacks, power windows/locks/mirrors,  armrest storage box and front seat-back pockets, 12-volt power outlets, bottle holders in doors, rear armrest with cup holders, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat-back under-floor cargo storage with reversible cover, and rear wiper and washer
Safety features include: six air bags; rollover sensor; four-wheel, four-channel, four-sensor ABS with electronic stability control with traction control; electronic brake-force distribution; brake assist; active front head restraints; and adjustable head restraints at all seats

PRICING

Base: $22,290, including $795 freight charge; price as tested, $26,090
Options on test vehicle: Floor mats, $100
Popular Equipment package, $1,700, includes telescopic steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, auto up/down driver power window, leatherette/cloth insert seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, illuminated vanity mirrors and locking glove box, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control, soft-touch interior paint, privacy glass, roof rails and engine cover
Navigation package, $2,000, includes 6.5-inch screen, rearview camera, audio upgrade with external amplifier and subwoofer and automatic headlights
Where assembled: Ulsan, South Korea

Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at Mark.Maynard@uniontrib.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM.

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