Hyundai, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD – Road Test

For the last year or so Hyundai has been on a bit of a tear with new models coming out every few months – each one significantly better looking than the model it replaces. The Santa Fe was the first model to get the new treatment followed by a completely new model line-up in the case of the Genesis Coupe and Sedan, followed by the all-new Sonata that has earned numerous awards around the world. More new vehicles are coming in the next few months, but this week’s Road Test is the highly anticipated small CUV, the Tucson.

It’s been a few years since I last drove the Tucson. Having a look back at my previous review, it was all the way back to 2006, so it’s long overdue for another look. Other than the much-improved looks (I think the last model looked like a Boston Terrier), there are a number of significant changes for the 2011 model year. Where the previous model looked like it was designed and built using whatever was left lying on the floor, the new model is striking in how different it looks from any other CUV on the road today. Conceived and engineered at Hyundai’s new design centre in Frankfurt, the design, handling and ride are very European. The Tucson’s unique styling begins at the signature hexagonal grille, extends up through sculptured hood lines and back through a double shoulder line extending from headlight to tail lights.

First Impressions
The new model drops the 5-speed manual to the base version only – all the models now come with a 6-speed automatic instead of a 4-speed unit. Hyundai have also decided to ditch the V-6 option from the Tucson and I’d have to say that’s a good thing. I could never understand why such a small CUV would even have that option – never mind the fact it blurs the distinction between the Tucson and the larger Santa Fe. The outgoing 2.7 litre V-6 (173 hp & 178 lb/ft torque, 4-speed Automatic with Shiftronic) was surprisingly zippy, but the new 2.4 litre 4-cylinder is even better. Not only does it perform better, but it’s more than $2,000 cheaper to buy!

The L (base model – from $20,999 Cdn) comes with a 2.0L (165 hp), 5-speed manual transmission, FWD and has the option of a 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic. All other models come with a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine (176 hp, 6-speed Automatic with Shiftronic). There’s an optional advanced electronic on-demand AWD system with driver-selectable lock delivering 50/50 torque split to the front and rear wheels for maximum traction in off-road and slippery situations.

Getting into the 2011 model takes a bit of a step up, something that is out of the ordinary in CUV’s of late. Most SUV’s are getting more car-like and therefore you just slide into the seat with little or no stretching required. Perhaps the taller 17″ alloy wheels make most of the difference, as the older model ran on 16″ wheels. Also the door sill is quite high and wide, so that could also be part of the issue.

Once seated the view around the dashboard is first-class – Hyundai have really gone out of their way to improve the looks and quality of the materials used in their new batch of vehicles. Gone is the tacky tick tick its-gonna-break-if-I-hit it-too hard sound and feel of everything. Now, everything is solid, and when you tap it with your knuckles you get a nice solid thunk from the dashboard and door trim. The tilt and telescopic steering wheel is just the right size and includes audio, cruise and Bluetooth buttons – all perfectly placed where your fingers can reach them.

2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD,, Iain Shankland

Adjusting the seat is nice and simple using leavers to raise the height and tilt the seatback. The seat is very comfortable with plenty of side bolstering as well as a perfect seating angle with lots of knee support. One thing missing is a lumbar adjustment, and because I have a bad back that is the first thing I look for in any vehicle I drive. If you don’t have a bad back you’ll probably find the seat very good – I was comfortable enough on a 2-hour journey, so it’s not THAT bad – it’s certainly better than a Honda Civic seat. By stepping up to the Limited model you get Driver’s 8-way Power-adjustable with Power Lumbar Support and Artificial Leather seats.

Heading on to the streets, I was very impressed with the response from the Tucson. While it’s no drag racer, it feels very light and tossable. The steering is very light and way too over-boosted for my liking – I like heavy steering, it makes me feel like I’m actually connected to the road via the front wheels. Because of the short wheelbase, the Tucson tends to bobble over road imperfections and potholes. It’s one of those things you get used to after driving it for a little while, after that it isn’t quite as pronounced.

Entering the motorway was uneventful as the Tucson got up to speed quickly and surprisingly doing so with very little noise from under the hood. Other than wind noise from the outside mirrors, the Tucson is very quiet and serene – way better than one expects of any vehicle in this price range. Keeping up with traffic is good, and the view out of the driver’s seat is very good. I found the gas pedal a little lazy when I needed to pick up speed after a slow down – other cars were pulling away and it just didn’t have the same urgency to get up and go unless I put my foot to the pedal harder. In contrast, the Sonata I’d driven the previous week had an instantaneous response to my right foot – maybe I was just spoiled (my wife felt the same way, so it wasn’t just me). I’m sure the vast majority of people wouldn’t even notice it, but it’s something that did stand out for us. Other than the somewhat delayed reaction to stop and go driving, the 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic worked flawlessly, and shifts were unperceivable.

It rained constantly for the first few days that we had the Tucson, and in some ways that brought to light an issue that we also had with the Toyota RAV4 earlier this year. When getting out of the Tucson, your leg brushes against the door sill as you step out – and therein lies the problem – it’s not protected by the door, so you get all the mud, rain and in the winter snow and slush, all over the back of your legs. In dry weather, you’d never even notice it, but in the wet it comes to the fore right away.

I really like the blue lighting that Hyundai have chosen to use on the latest vehicles – it’s so much easier on the eyes at night than the more traditional red or green lighting that is quite harsh in comparison. The pleasant glow of blue from the speedometer and tachometer is extended to the power door lock and window buttons as well as the radio, heating and cooling dials. The climate control buttons and dials are pleasant to look at and are nice and simple to operate – turn one dial for hot or cold and one for the fan speed. It was easy to find just the right amount of heat when needed and for those of us in the colder climates, I was happy to see and use the very good bum warmers.

2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD,, Iain Shankland

Rear seat accommodation is generous with plenty of space for rear passengers. Even with the front seat pushed back, there’s plenty of knee and foot space. Just like the front seat, it’s a little higher than normal to get in and out compared to a number of other CUV’s we’ve tested recently. I found the rear seat very comfortable and roomy – many luxury vehicles don’t have this much space and I wasn’t expecting so much room in a vehicle this small! The rear bench seat splits 60/40 and incorporates a folding centre armrest with cup holders. Unlike the previous model, the rear seat-back is not adjustable and does not recline.

Cargo space is very generous with an impressive 25.7 cu ft of cargo space at the back. There aren’t any additional cubby holes or cargo areas under the floor. Unfortunately, the front passenger seat doesn’t fold forward for additional cargo options. The previous model had two important features that have been eliminated in the re-design: the rear window doesn’t open independently thereby offering transport of longer items, and probably the biggest surprise is that there’s no rear window washer sprayer. You have to rely on rain and snow to clear the rear window with the wiper!

2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD,, Iain Shankland

The Tucson makes safer driving a priority with Bluetooth Handsfree with Voice Recognition and steering-wheel-mounted Bluetooth controls, and Bluetooth Audio Streaming (you can enjoy music you have on your phone). The standard audio system comes with a 160-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with 6 speakers, iPod/USB/MP3 Auxiliary Input Jacks and the ever useless XM Satellite Radio. There is an optional external amplifier, 7 speakers and a cargo-mounted subwoofer generating 360 watts. I haven’t heard the optional system, but I’d recommend it because the standard unit isn’t particularly good. There’s no deep bass and the speakers are easily overpowered. It’s a nice easy system to use, it’s just not up to the quality I’d expect in a vehicle in this price bracket – sister company Kia’s systems are considerably better.

Safety Features
The 2011 Hyundai Tucson is loaded with many standard safety features, some unexpected, like the solid organ-style accelerator pedal improves comfort and ensures that nothing can get beneath it. Other features include: Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist plus Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Traction Control System (TCS); 6 airbags, including dual front airbags, dual front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and 2 side-curtain airbags which are equipped with rollover sensors to ensure they remain inflated throughout a roll; Hillstart Assist Control (HAC) – to minimize backroll on steep ascents – and Downhill Brake Control (DBC) – to maintain vehicle control and speed on steep descents. Also standard on the Tucson are front active head restraints (in the event of a rear-end collision, the restraints move forward before your head moves back, providing added protection against whiplash).

The Conclusion
Don’t even think of this as the “cheap” car company from Korea anymore – Toyota and Honda better be paying attention to the same details that Hyundai designers are or they’ll be the ones everyone will be looking down their nose at. Hyundai announced at the Toronto Auto show that their residual on used vehicles had surpassed Mercedes-Benz in 2009 – think about that – the new Tucson, Sonata and Genesis pair hadn’t even hit the marketplace at that point – what’s going to happen when used versions of those vehicles hit the street?!

Plenty of zip and very comfortable to drive
Doesn’t have and doesn’t need a V-6
Stuffed with safety features

In wet climates, you’re going to have to develop a relationship with your local dry cleaning company
Rear window doesn’t open and doesn’t have a washer system

Immediate Competition:
Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
For more information visit:

Powertrain:        2.4L I4 DOHC with Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) Engine, 6-Speed  Automatic Transmission with SHIFTRONIC, On Demand All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower:     176 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque lb-ft:      168 @ 4,000 rpm
0-100 kph:         N/A – too wet to test
Curb Weight:       1,582 kg (3,516 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:    Behind Front Seats: 1,580litres (55.8 cu.ft)  //  Behind Rear Seats: 728 litres (25.7 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:   907 kg (2,000 lbs) – when equipped with trailer brake
Wheel base:        2,640 mm
Ground clearance:  170 mm

Fuel Consumption:  (Regular / 87 Octane)
City: 10.1 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 7.1 L/100 kms
I averaged 11.2 L/100 kms in mixed driving and 10.6 L/100 kms & 11.9 L/100 kms during 100% motorway driving @120 km/h. The onboard computer said I was averaging between 12.8 & 13.1 L/100 kms.

Pricing for the 2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD ($ Cdn)
Base Price / As Tested: $28,799
Destination & Delivery: $1,565

Comprehensive Limited, Powertrain & Basic Emissions – 5 yrs/100,000 km. Major Emissions – 8 years/130,000 kms. Road Side assistance – 3 years/unlimited kms

Copyright © 2011 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland & Hyundai

Also Published at: