2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD
2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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201 Hyundai Tucson

This Korean-built, compact SUV was totally redesigned in 2010 with dramatically curvy styling which Hyundai describes as “an antidote to boring design,” perhaps a not-so-subtle jab at the boxy styling of some of its competitors. It also reflects Hyundai’s current approach to vehicle styling which has seen dramatic makeovers of its volume sellers, the Sonata, Elantra and Accent.

The other big change for 2010 was a new 176-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that replaced both previous four and six-cylinder powerplants; as well as new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions that replaced five-speed manual and four-speed automatics respectively. Hyundai’s decision to replace the optional 2.7-litre V6 engine with the new (but more powerful) 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine was, and is, a gamble. Ultimately, this was done for reasons of fuel economy and reduced emissions but there are buyers who prefer the smoothness and “torquey-ness” of a V6 engine, and those who just don’t want a four-banger – they will just have to look elsewhere. Still, it should be pointed out that the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester have done just fine with their exclusive four-cylinder engines.

2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD
2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD
2011 Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD. Click image to enlarge

For 2011, the Tucson remains basically the same, but there’s a new entry-level model with a smaller 165-hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, standard five-speed manual transmission, and an attractive starting price of $19,999. This model appears to be targeted at buyers with a limited budget rather than those who want better fuel economy. With the manual transmission, its fuel economy is actually worse than a Tucson with the 2.4-litre engine and standard six-speed automatic transmission: 10.1/7.4 vs 9.5/6.3 (L/100 km, city/hwy). However, a Tucson L equipped with the optional six-speed automatic is marginally more fuel efficient with city/hwy ratings of 9.1/6.5 L/100 km. To Hyundai’s credit, this model is also more fuel efficient than the front-wheel drive Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue.

For 2011, the Tucson GL ($24,299), GLS ($26,799) and Limited ($32,249), all come with the standard six-speed automatic transmission with ‘Shiftronic’ manual shifting mode – the six-speed manual has been dropped from the GL. All-wheel drive can be added to the GL and GLS for an extra $2,000, and it is standard on the Limited model.

Today’s review is the mid-level Tucson GLS trim with optional all-wheel drive, likely to be one of the most popular models because of its sub $30,000 price-tag and high feature level. It has an MSRP of $28,799 plus a rather hefty $1,760 Freight and Delivery charge, bringing the as-tested price to $30,559 (plus taxes).

Driving impressions

The Tucson’s all-aluminum 2.4-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine is rated at 176 horsepower and 168 lb.-ft. of torque, and features continuously variable valve timing on both camshafts and a variable intake induction system for better engine breathing and more torque. Its horsepower and torque ratings are competitive with other four-cylinder vehicles in this class.

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