Consumer Road Test: 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS

by on December 15th, 2014
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Nowadays it would be very easy to say that Hyundai, as a car manufacturer, is on a very serious and very long roll when it comes to introducing very successful new models. Not only have these new vehicles been competitive but many have been called the best in their respective classes. A Hyundai? Surely this can’t be the same company that brought us the Hyundai Excel compact which is best remembered as being “not quite as bad” as the Yugo hatch that came to market around the same time.

The Value Equation

As is still always the case with most every Hyundai product, the 2012 Tucson is a terrific value for money. And just because our GLS tester was relatively inexpensive at $22,295, it definitely didn’t lack for features. Spend a few grand more for a Limited model and you can even add leather, cooler looking alloys, navigation and an upgraded premium audio system. But to our way of thinking the GLS is the smartest buy in the Tucson lineup and even the standard 6-speaker audio system does a terrific job in its attempts to sound “premium.”

Standard features on the 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS includes power windows, door locks and mirrors, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD 6-speaker audio system, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, a 2.0 liter 176 horsepower/168 lb. feet of torque 4 cylinder, a 6-speed automatic, tinted glass, alloy wheels, keyless entry and a whole lot more. It is, in short all of the compact family SUV that most people really need.

Interior and Exterior

Whereas the 2011 Hyundai Tucson has plenty of legroom for six-footers in the front and back seats, the cargo hold is a bit smaller than competitors like the RAV4. So if outright utility is what you are after there are better choices than the Tucson. Cargo capacity is 25.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 55.8 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.

Sure, there is a bit of hard plastic used around the interior of the 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS but the whole of the design never looks of feels cheap. At this price its only real competition comes from the 2012 Kia Sportage (Hyundai and Kia are part of the same company and share a platform and powertrain) whose interior design is more European and doesn’t seem to try so hard. And while this is purely a personal preference, we think that the Sportage is a more daring and attractive SUV from an exterior style standpoint.

Driving Experience

In addition to its attractive pricing and plethora of features, the Tucson also returns 22 city/31 highway according to the EPA. This frugality is no doubt attributable to the silky smooth 6-speed automatic which was designed entirely by Hyundai for this new compact SUV. This helped us average an excellent 26.7 miles per gallon over a week of mainly around town driving. Exactly the kind of place this SUV will be spending most of its time. A hardcore off-roader the 2012 Hyundai Tucson is not.

Unfortunately for the Tucson, its 2.0 liter engine 176 horsepower/168 lb. feet of torque gives the driver a decent amount of power but just isn’t as smooth as the standard motors found in the class leaders. For some reason, this same engine seems better isolated and less rough even in its fraternal twin the Kia Sportage. Perhaps Hyundai needs to invest a little bit more into sound deadening measures even though wind and tire roar are never a bother. Probably since all you can hear is the engine thrashing and moaning.

Now, the Tucson’s engine isn’t horrible but it does make a bit of racket when you need full throttle acceleration during freeway on-ramp maneuvers and the like. But given the 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS and its very tempting price, you could always just turn the radio up and never be bothered by it. Otherwise, steering feel is impressive and offers better feel than what you find when piloting a Sonata, oddly enough. SUV’s aren’t supposed to be driver’s cars but the Tucson allows you to have a little fun on the drive to pick up the kids from soccer practice.

Should You Buy One?

Every new car buyer should narrow down their selections to three models and if you are looking for a compact family SUV you really need to give the 2012 Hyundai Tucson (and 2012 Kia Sportage) a closer look. They aren’t as refined as a 2012 CR-V nor do they have the interior elegance of a 2012 Chevy Equinox but their price, style, features and extra-long warranties make them tempting choices.

Vehicle Tested: 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS (Front Wheel Drive)

Price as Tested: $22,295 plus destination fees

Engine: 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine

Power: 176 horsepower/168 lb. feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

0-60: 9.5 seconds

Fuel Economy: 22 city/31 highway

Average Test Economy: 26.7 miles per gallon

Fuel Tank Size: 14.5 gallons

Runs on: Regular Unleaded

Cargo Area (behind second row): 25.7 cubic feet

(all seats folded): 55.8 cubic feet

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 mile bumper to bumper

10 years/100,000 mile powertrain

Safety Ratings (IIHS): “Top Safety Pick”

Also Test Drive: 2012 Honda CR-V, 2012 Kia Sportage, 2012 Chevy Equinox

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