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#8

in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $15,785 - $20,904
Original MSRP: $19,145 - $26,495
MPG: 20 City / 26 Hwy
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2012 Hyundai Tucson Performance

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

The Hyundai Tucson isn’t the most powerful SUV in the class, but reviewers are pleased with the Tucson’s 2.4-liter optional engine because it’s practical for highway and city driving. It has plenty of power for passing and merging and handles pleasantly.

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 2012 Tucson has several available powertrains. The base two-wheel drive GL trim has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional. The more expensive GLS and Limited models have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but are only available with the six-speed automatic. Unlike the GL trim, these models have optional all-wheel drive. Of the two engines, reviewers prefer the 2.4-liter engine, saying its 176 horsepower make it a champ, and it has no trouble passing and merging.

Most reviewers have tested models with a 2.4-liter engine, so there are few comments regarding the base engine, but its 165 horsepower rating is low for the class. In exchange for less power, the Tucson provides higher fuel economy ratings than many of its competitors. The 2.0-liter base engine with a manual transmission gets 20/26 mpg city/highway, which isn’t particularly good, but with an automatic transmission, those figures jump to 22/29 mpg city/highway. The 2.4-liter engine has ratings of 21/30 mpg city/highway with an automatic and 20/27 mpg city/highway with a manual. All-wheel drive models get 20/27 mpg city/highway with an automatic transmission, according to the EPA, and 19/25 with a manual.

The two-wheel drive versions of the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox have competitive fuel economy ratings of 22/32 mpg city/highway, but they’re also more expensive.

  • "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
  • "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

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say the 2012 Tucson, like most crossovers, has a smooth ride. However, steering isn’t spot on, and body roll is noticeable, especially when cornering. Reviewers add that the suspension isn’t the best in the class either because it’s easy to notice when the car rolls 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
  • "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
  • "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

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