What's New for 2008
All 2008 Hyundai Tucsons receive active front head restraints, satellite radio and auxiliary audio input as standard equipment. For the Limited trim, the six-CD changer is now standard as well.
Since its introduction three years ago, the Hyundai Tucson has been a solid choice for compact-SUV shoppers. It's generously equipped with lots of standard features and safety equipment, and its long warranty coverage is one of the best in the segment. Buyers have a choice between two engines and front- or all-wheel drive. And the Tucson delivers respectable carlike ride and handling dynamics that should satisfy most shoppers in this class.
As is common for the segment, buyers can choose between four- and six-cylinder power. But compared to rivals, the 2008 Tucson's power plants are both down on power -- the V6 makes only 173 horsepower, not much more than competitors' four-cylinders. Furthermore, the Kia must make do with a four-speed automatic, while some other compact SUVs offer five-speed automatics. These downsides are also true for the Tucson's sibling, the Kia Sportage.
With so many choices available for small SUVs these days, the 2008 Hyundai Tucson's detriments keep it from being one of our top picks. It's not as quick as the Toyota RAV4 V6, as sporty as the Mitsubishi Outlander or as refined as the Honda CR-V. However, its roomy passenger quarters, strong warranty and high value still make it worth considering, especially if you're on a tight budget.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson is a small crossover SUV available in three trim levels: base GLS, midlevel SE and top-of-the-line Limited. Standard features on the GLS include 16-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, full power accessories and a CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. Air-conditioning is optional on GLS models with the manual transmission; otherwise, it's standard.
The Tucson SE adds premium cloth seat trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer and foglights. The Limited provides monochrome exterior trim, a windshield wiper de-icer, leather seating, heated front seats, automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard for the Limited is a premium 200-watt six-disc CD changer audio system with a subwoofer. Significant options include a sunroof and Bluetooth connectivity.
Powertrains and Performance
The base GLS comes with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that puts out 140 hp and 136 pound-feet of torque. Power is transferred to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic with manual shift control. The Tucson SE and Limited provide a larger 2.7-liter V6 engine that generates 173 horses and 178 lb-ft of torque, coupled with the four-speed automatic. V6 models can be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system.
V6 models will accelerate to 60 mph in about 10.7 seconds, about a second or so off the quicker four-cylinders in the segment and more than three ticks off the class hot rod, the RAV4 V6. Fuel mileage estimates for a 2008 Sportage V6 with AWD are 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, a bit below the class average. The four-cylinder gets only a couple city mpg better.
The 2008 Hyundai Tucson offers a generous level of standard safety equipment for a vehicle in this class, including antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front seat side-impact airbags, head curtain side airbags and active front head restraints. In government crash testing, Hyundai's compact SUV achieved a perfect five stars for both frontal- and side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Tucson received a second-highest "Acceptable" rating for both frontal-offset and side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Hyundai Tucson features a modern cabin design with a straightforward layout and good build quality. The quality of materials is inconsistent, however, with a few too many hard plastic surfaces and standard cloth trim of questionable taste. There's a generous amount of legroom up front, though larger passengers may be a bit cramped in back. When it's time to really load up, the rear seats fold flat to reveal 66 cubic feet of total capacity -- about mid-pack for its segment. Additionally, the front passenger seat folds down to allow long objects to be carried within the cabin.
On the road, the 2008 Hyundai Tucson provides a carlike ride and relatively sporty handling that makes it a little more fun to drive than many other compact SUVs. It's capable of being both a good city runabout and a long-distance highway cruiser. Power from the standard four-cylinder is barely adequate, so we recommend you opt for the V6. The four-speed automatic isn't quite as smooth as the five-speed units offered by competitors, but it's alert enough to usually keep the V6 right in its power band.