The Tucson was Hyundai’s entry level crossover SUV. I say was because they added the smaller and cheaper Kona below it a couple of years ago. Before that, the Tucson was your entry point into the Hyundai SUV world. It began life back in 2004 and shared its Elantra-based platform with the Kia Sportage. That was back when even smaller SUVs still looked a bit truck-like and the Tucson wasn’t a looker. That first generation lasted five years and ended in 2009.
Generation two brought us a much more contemporary crossover look brought about the supervision of former BMW designer Thomas Buerkle. Still sharing a platform with the Elantra and Sportage, it also shared it’s platform with the Kia Forte and the non-U.S. Kia Cee’d which is fun to say. The third generation only came about circa 2017 so this 2019 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate AWD that we’ve been driving for a week is pretty fresh.
The Tucson has several trim levels including:
- SE – $23,350
- Value – $24,800
- SEL – $25,750
- Sport – $27,850
- Limited – $29,050
- Night – $30,800
- Ultimate – $31,700
The notion of a trim level called the “Value” aside (Imagine hearing “I just got a new Hyundai, it’s the Tucson Value” at a dinner party?) the one we’re testing is the big dog, the Ultimate.
The Ultimate features a 28 MPG (Highway EPA est.) 181-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, and cool features like a panoramic sunroof, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, ventilated front seats Heated rear seats as well as Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go (SCC) and Pedestrian Detection system. Full specs and features here.
Enough of the brochure, what did we think of the 2019 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate AWD? Let’s find out.
Overall it’s hard to make a compact crossover with stand out styling. The overall crossover shape is fairly de rigueur and it might be a challenge to find your Tucson in a parking lot of similarly sized crossovers. That said, I actually like the exterior, it is very sharp and classy looking for a “cheaper” crossover. The “Dusk Blue” is a nice greyish blue hue that gives off some decent reflections during the magic hours of photography.
The Ultimate is an easy build, it’s got all the options already! There are no packages available, just some accessories. Standard exterior features include:
- LED accents
- LED Daytime Running Lights
- LED headlights and taillights
- Front fog lights
- Automatic headlights
- High Beam Assist
- Roof-mounted Center High-Mount Stop Light (CHMSL)
- Dual fold-away power, bodycolor side mirrors
- Heated side mirrors
- Side mirrors with turn-signal indicators
- Premium front and rear fascias
- Premium side sills
- Chrome accent grille
- Window trim molding Chrome
- Chrome door handles
- Solar glass (front door, windshield)
- Privacy glass (rear windows)
- Panoramic sunroof
- Roof side rails
- Hands-free smart liftgate with auto open and adjustable height setting
- Shark-fin roof antenna
That’s a lot of kit, LED all the things! And once you add in All-Wheel-Drive, you’re still in a very reasonable price range around $34,000. Nice.
OK, so I’m a bit less excited about the interior. If I’m honest, it’s a little boring on the inside, but that might come down to the choice of beige leather on our press loaner. It’s clear that they used nice materials, but the end result is pretty bland looking overall.
What did work pretty well was the interface. Mercifully, it’s a touch screen and not some knob-powered setup (hi Mazda!). The Apple CarPlay interface was pretty solid, I rarely got caught in that no-man’s-land (no-person’s land?) where I needed to change something in the main system while in CarPlay. That’s mostly thanks to the easy to access buttons across the left and right of the screen. Speaking of the screen, it looks a tad tacked on, but no worse than just about every other automaker. At least it doesn’t look like someone glued an iPad to the dash (hi Audi and Mercedes!).
My biggest complaint is this little guy directly above. Rarely do I take a picture of a random trim piece, but the area to the right of my right knee was very uncomfortable. Like with any car, it’s basically where I rest that knee for long periods of time. It is built from a hard plastic with no padding. I haven’t had quite such a bad right knee experience since a Dodge Avenger rental car I suffered through years ago.
Cars are made to be driven! That’s a real sentence that I’ve probably said in real life in mixed company (where there are non-car-people, so like everywhere…mostly). However, you could say that crossovers are made to be used for the express purpose of conveyance.
Get from point from A to point B. Get you and your stuff somewhere that you aren’t. And back.
It’s at this point that I note that the aforementioned 2.4L 4-cylinder engine isn’t the fastest tool in the shed. With all of 181 horsepower, it’s made to get the metal and meaty bits above, and behind it, going, that’s about it. There is nothing particularly exciting about driving a Tucson. And that’s fine, it’s not what it’s meant for. There are tons of fast cars, trucks, and SUVs out there. Hyundai and Kia make some of them. So I can’t really fault the Tucson for being a bit appliance-like to drive. I’m not their target market, most people will think it’s “fine”.
I drive a lot of crossovers. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, I get free cars to drive and I freakin love it. What that actually means is that I’m pretty good at figuring out what’s good and what’s now. That’s basically my job. The Tucson is excellent at what it does. It provides a compact (ish) crossover experience that will get you a ton of stuff for your money in an attractive and likely reliable package. If that’s all your after, you’re gold!
I can’t say that I don’t wish they offered it with more power (boom, double negative!). The RAV4 Hybrid I just drove recently felt faster, which make sense since it has another 40 horsepower. But beige interior aside, the Tucson did everything that I asked of it. Haul around 3 kids and their stuff. Yep. Run by Home Depot to pick up supplies after our basement flooded. Check. Get me to and from work in relative comfort. Did that.
So, sort of like the Kia Forte that Jacob reviewed recently, in which is summarized things with a title of “It’s a Perfectly Good Car”, the Tucson is a perfectly good SUV. I even went with the same title.