When the Hyundai Tucson debuted for the 2005 model year, it represented Hyundai's first entry in the small crossover segment. The first-generation Tucson became Hyundai's official entry-level SUV, and it offered a favorable combination of attributes, including an available V6 engine, a generous list of standard equipment and a lengthy warranty. However, this Tucson looked rather dowdy, had a decidedly low-budget feel to its cabin and never really registered on most consumers' radar as a mainstream option.
Now in its third generation, the Tucson offers sharp exterior styling and a slick interior to match. There's no V6 option, but the current four-cylinder choices provide respectable performance along with greater fuel efficiency than the earlier, considerably less powerful base four-cylinder engine. Overall, the current Hyundai Tucson is a considerably more capable and interesting vehicle than before. As with most of Hyundai's product line, each generation is an improvement on the last, and the third-generation Tucson is no exception.
Current Hyundai Tucson
The Hyundai Tucson is a five-passenger SUV currently available in six trim levels. That may seem like a lot, but they're much less complicated than some competitors. The Tucson's trim levels start with the base SE, then move up to the SE Plus, Eco, Sport, Night and Limited.
Two engines are available for the Tucson. The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 164 horsepower. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and powers both the SE and SE Plus. All other trims use a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 175 hp and significantly more torque than the 2.0-liter. The more powerful engine is paired with a more refined seven-speed transmission. All Tucson trims can be had with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The base SE trim comes standard with features such as alloy wheels, heated mirrors, climate control, cruise control, bluetooth, a rearview camera, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver seat, split-folding rear seats with recline, and a 5-inch touchscreen. The Eco has the same basic equipment, but uses the 1.6-liter engine.
The Sport trim gets bigger wheels, a hands-free power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, and upgraded interior trim and safety technology. Night trim is primarily a visual upgrade to the Sport trim, with lots of blacked-out exterior and interior trim pieces, including black wheels, but it also gets a panoramic sunroof as standard equipment. Both trims are powered by the 1.6-liter engine.
Stepping up to the SE Plus and Limited trims adds LED lights, leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and an upgraded stereo system. The big difference between the two is that the SE Plus uses the 2.0-liter engine, while the Limited uses the 1.6. The Limited can also be optioned with the Ultimate package, which adds the panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, parking sensors, and more active safety technology.
In reviews, we praised the Tucson for offering a lot of technology, roominess and comfort. There's plenty of storage space, and we particularly like the proximity-activated power liftgate. While the base trims can feel a little plasticky, upgrading to higher trims really improves interior quality. The 2.0-liter engine is a bit unrefined and lacks the power to properly motivate a vehicle of this size, so we recommend the more powerful and efficient 1.6-liter.
Used Hyundai Tucson Models
The current third-generation Hyundai Tucson debuted in 2016. It was a complete redesign, and improved on the previous generation in every aspect. For 2017, the SE Plus and Night trims joined the lineup, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were added to higher trim levels.
The second-generation Hyundai Tucson was produced from 2010 to 2015. Initially, only the GLS and Limited trim levels were available along with an entry-level GL trim introduced (along with its smaller engine) for 2011. For 2013, both the Tucson's ride quality and its fuel economy were slightly improved. The engines prior to 2014 lacked certain improvements that resulted in different power outputs. The 2.0-liter produced 165 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque (and could be had with a manual transmission), while the 2.4-liter produced 176 hp and 168 lb-ft (note these figures were slightly lower in California emissions states). Fuel economy was pretty much the same, however. Other changes that year included revised touchscreen interfaces and the elimination of the base GL trim.
The second-generation Tucson was available in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels. The base GLS came standard with a 2.0-liter engine that produced 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The SE and Limited models got a 2.4-liter making 182 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Both were matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. All trim levels offered a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
The GLS came standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker audio system with an iPod/USB interface. The SE's added perks included automatic headlights, a rearview camera, a power driver seat, heated front seats and upgraded upholstery. The Limited sported 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control. In 2014, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics was added. Optional on the Limited were a panoramic sunroof, an upgraded sound system and a navigation system.
In reviews, we appreciated the Tucson's combination of style, sophistication and sharp road manners. Inside, controls were simple and easy to reach, and the contoured twin-cowl dash and available two-tone color schemes set the Tucson apart from competitors with plainer, less imaginative interiors. There was plenty of room for four adults and the backseat reclines, but maximum cargo capacity was down compared to competitors. We recommend models made after 2014, especially for buyers looking at the Limited trim, to take advantage of the improved engine and interior technology.
The first-generation Tucson was produced from 2005 to 2009. In 2005, Hyundai called the top-line model the LX rather than Limited, but from 2006 on there were three constant trim levels: GL, GLS and Limited. Other notable changes were limited to the 2008 addition of active head restraints, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. Every first-generation Hyundai Tucson had antilock brakes, stability control, front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
The base GL was powered by a 140-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to either a five-speed manual (mandatory on AWD models) or a four-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment included four-wheel disc brakes, alloy wheels and heated outside mirrors. The GLS had a 173-hp, 2.7-liter V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission as well as additional standard features. The top-shelf Limited model boasted items such as a sunroof, leather seats, automatic climate control and an upgraded audio system. As of 2009, a navigation system and a Kenwood audio system upgrade were optional.
In reviews, we praised the first-generation Tucson for its roomy interior and generous list of standard comfort and safety features. When the 60/40-split rear seat was folded flat, it opened up a respectable 65 cubic feet of cargo space - more than the second-generation Tucson. On the downside, the four-cylinder simply didn't have enough power to move the Tucson with any authority, and the V6 was barely better than the four-cylinder engines found in some competing SUVs. Bland styling and inconsistent interior quality were also lowlights. While the first generation can still be a practical bargain, we recommend looking at the second generation due to its myriad improvements.