2021 Hyundai Tucson Review
There are so many small SUVs on sale today that it can be hard to figure out which one's going to be best for you. The Hyundai Tucson, for example, easily gets overlooked compared to the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. But it's a viable alternative that earns high marks for its excellent infotainment system, comfortable ride and roomy interior. It also costs thousands of dollars less than similarly equipped rivals, ensuring you can get a competitive small SUV at a budget-friendly price.
The Tucson doesn't have many downsides, though both of its available engines are lackluster in terms of fuel economy and acceleration. The Tucson's cargo area is also a bit smaller than some of the more spacious choices in the class. Look for improvements in these areas on the redesigned Hyundai Tucson, which we expect will be released next year.
It's difficult to think of a more competitive segment than the one inhabited by the Hyundai Tucson. It takes a very well-rounded vehicle to stand out, and the Tucson is exactly that. Its mix of value, ease of use, comfort and inherent practicality make it a strong choice in this class.
How does the Tucson drive?
If the Tucson had a bit more horsepower, it'd be very difficult to find fault with how it performs. Braking and handling are more than competent and impart a better feeling of control than you find in other SUVs. It even has well-balanced steering — light at low speeds but with enough heft to give you confidence on the highway.
Despite a well-calibrated transmission, the engine's lack of power is noticeable. Small SUVs aren't known for rip-roaring acceleration, but even with this in mind, the Tucson feels sluggish. The standard 2.0-liter has even less oomph.
How comfortable is the Tucson?
If a smooth ride and comfortable interior are what you seek in a compact SUV, the Tucson needs to be at the top of your list of test-drive candidates. It easily equals the best vehicles in the class and is head and shoulders above the others. Indeed, the Tucson is a relaxing place to be during a long drive. It handles road irregularities exceptionally well, suppressing dips and seams without jarring the occupants.
Neither overly bolstered nor too flat, the front seats support a wide range of body types. The upper trim offers heating and ventilation — a rarity in this class — and the rear seats are heated too. Though wind noise is present at higher speeds, road and engine noise is controlled. This Hyundai has one of the quieter cabins in the segment.
How’s the interior?
There's a good sense of room, and anybody 6 foot tall or shorter will have plenty of legroom and headroom. Taller occupants will want a bit more of each, especially with the headroom-gobbling panoramic sunroof. There's good outward visibility all around with minimal blind spots. That said, the rearview camera is low-resolution and the details are often blurry when backing up.
It doesn't take long to get familiar with the Tucson. Every interface is straightforward, and its controls are clearly marked. It seems simple, but as vehicles get more and more complicated, that itself is turning into a bit of a luxury.
How’s the tech?
Hyundai's infotainment system is one of the more straightforward and easy-to-use systems on the market, let alone in the class. Its display isn't the prettiest, but it's darn functional. Voice controls are similarly easy to operate and don't require exact syntax.
Other highlights are a powerful optional Infinity-branded audio system, smart advanced driving aids and an intuitive navigation system. Drawbacks include a small touchscreen with dated graphics, but even this is a minor complaint.
How’s the storage?
The Tucson is hardly impractical, even though it trails some of its competitors in outright cargo capacity (31 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, compared to leaders such as the Honda CR-V with 39.2 cubes). With an agreeable liftover height and quick-folding rear seats, it's at least easy to load the cargo area. The cabin also offers plenty of room throughout to store small items.
The Tucson carries a tow rating of 2,000 pounds, which is more than the CR-V or the Subaru Forester. The modestly powered engine means it'll be a little slow when doing so.
How economical is the Tucson?
Rated at 25 mpg (22 city/28 highway), the Tucson is thirstier than the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester. A 16.4-gallon fuel tank goes some way toward extending the range, but we were not able to break 20 mpg over a tank of fuel in our time with the Tucson. All-wheel drive would lower the mileage even further.
Is the Tucson a good value?
Value for the money has always been a strong point for Hyundai. And while the Tucson does lag behind in fuel economy and horsepower, its high level of build quality, generous warranties and feature content keep it just ahead of the competitive pack. As with sister company Kia, Hyundai offers a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance is covered for five years/unlimited miles, which is similarly excellent.
Compact SUVs score points for being so simple to drive and free of frustration that they nearly become transparent in normal use. That's exactly what the Tucson does. With its mix of electronic and comfort-oriented features, the Tucson helps to take the edge off even the toughest daily drives. It's not particularly fun, but it can handle a few bends or on-ramps without falling on its door handles.
Which Tucson does Edmunds recommend?
True to its name, the Value trim offers a fantastic set of features for the money. But we recommend paying just a little more for the SEL. It comes with the Tucson's more powerful engine plus upgraded interior trim and rear air vents to keep backseat passengers happy.
Hyundai Tucson models
The 2021 Hyundai Tucson is a small SUV sold in six trim levels: SE, Value, SEL, Sport, Limited and Ultimate. The SE and the Value come standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (161 horsepower, 150 lb-ft of torque). The SEL, the Sport and the Limited get a 2.4-liter engine (181 hp, 175 lb-ft). Both engines are paired to a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional on all trims.