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#11

in 2011 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $14,306 - $18,895
Original MSRP: $18,895 - $26,345
MPG: 20 City / 27 Hwy
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2011 Hyundai Tucson Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2011 Tucson handles pleasantly for a compact SUV, with reviewers only complaining about its numb electric power steering. The Tucson’s greatest performance strengths are available all-wheel drive and its competitive fuel economy ratings.

  • "Runs up and down Malibu's canyon roads revealed a pleasantly firm suspension that provides nearly flat cornering attitudes and also resists dive and squat. Electric power steering is tuned better than most, if still a bit overboosted at parking-lot speeds." -- Automobile Magazine
  • “Our initial thought was that such winding, treacherous asphalt might be wasted on a compact CUV. We were half right. On the plus side, the Tucson feels (and is) remarkably stiff, especially for a little crossover." -- Autoblog
  • "The electric power steering supplies a super-tight turning circle -- 34.7 feet -- but doesn't move Hyundai's reputation much for lack of road feel. Engineers tried to make it sportier by stair-stepping the power assist with speed, a common practice, but they went overboard on the Tucson. At 60 mph its steering suddenly becomes monstrously heavy, and the wheel snaps back to center as though it's spring-loaded. It reeks of robotic artificiality. Get thee back to the test track, Hyundai!" -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Tucson has two engine options. The base GL trim comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 165 horsepower. The more expensive GLS and Limited models have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower. Reviewers say this engine is a champ and has no trouble in passing and merging maneuvers. These engines provide nearly as much power as the Toyota RAV4’s 179-horsepower four-cylinder engine for less money.

The GL model receives a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. The limited and GLS models receive a six-speed automatic transmission. Depending on which model you choose and whether you select all-wheel drive, your fuel averages will vary considerably. The EPA says the GL trim will net 23/31 mpg city/highway with the six-speed automatic and 20/27 mpg city/highway with the six-speed manual. The GLS and Limited models average 22/31 mpg city/highway with the six-speed automatic and 21/29 mpg with the six-speed manual.  If you add all-wheel drive, these numbers decrease to 21/28 mpg city/highway for the six-speed automatic and 20/27 mpg city/highway for the six-speed manual. All-wheel drive is only available with the GLS and Limited models.

These fuel economy figures make the Tucson one of the most fuel-efficient non-hybrids in its class. The GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox offer similar fuel economy -- one more mile per gallon on the highway and one less in the city -- but they cost about $3,000 to $5,000 more than the Tucson. In this respect, the Tucson is still a better deal.

  • "We're not sure we'd want to give up any of the 2.4-liter's 176 ponies. The large four-banger is noisy under hard acceleration, but when cruising, the Tucson is surprisingly quiet. The automatic's six gears are welcome, although the top two seem very close together while the gap between second and third is large." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Hyundai provided a CR-V and RAV4 for comparative purposes, and the Tucson holds up well. It's louder and sounds less refined than its Japanese powerhouse competitors, but the Hyundai has more low-end grunt than the CR-V (admittedly not hard to do). I thought it performed quite adequately for this size of crossover and the automatic's manual mode was responsive enough on my mountain drive." -- Edmunds
  • “With the new engine/trans combo, the vehicle feels quicker and spryer, and has no trouble getting to or staying at freeway speeds." -- Motor Trend
  • "Indeed, [the engine] leads to good performance. It's a little thrashier when you whip the I4 in high demand situations, but good sound insulation and well-managed vibration makes for reasonable levels of noise on full-acceleration." -- About.com

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say the 2011 Tucson, like most crossovers, has a smooth ride. However, steering isn’t spot on and body roll is noticeable, especially when cornering. The suspension isn’t the best in the class either; it’s easy to notice when the car drives over potholes.

  • "Smooth and quiet, the two-wheel-drive Tucson glides over corrupted pavement with a relatively gentle footfall. Not so with the all-wheel-drive version. It has a stiffer suspension that clops down harder on the rough stuff.” -- Car and Driver
  • "Feel could be better, but the electric power steering offers consistent weighting and doesn't feel connected to bungy cords like the Nissan Rogue or connected to nothing like the Chevy Equinox." -- Edmunds
  • "However, the new electric power steering does feel a bit artificial and the suspension doesn't absorb enough of the impact of hitting a pothole." -- Motor Trend
  • "Tucson maneuvers through traffic with ease, but body lean comes on quickly, even during moderate cornering. The steering is responsive, if a bit heavy at low speeds. Standard Downhill Brake Control can be turned on to help the driver maintain a constant vehicle speed while traversing steep declines." -- Consumer Guide
  • "It takes more effort to ‘crack’ the wheel out of its on center position, meaning you initially have to put more muscle into turning the wheel and find yourself turning a degree or two more than you intended, especially at higher speeds. However, we got used to the sensation fairly quickly. We should also state that like with most new technologies in cars, the feel of electronic power steering will improve over time.” -- Autoblog

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