2014 Hyundai Tucson
2014 Hyundai Tucson
2014 Hyundai Tucson
2014 Hyundai Tucson. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

The first thing I noticed about the Tucson was that it looked good. Like, really good. Like, “wait, is that the right one?” good. It’s tiny by today’s SUV/CUV standards; it seems to me like it’s the same size as the first generation RAV4s.

Turns out it was the right one. A base model, 2014 Hyundai Tucson GL with a 2.0L engine, front-wheel drive and six of my very own, manually operated gears to muck about with. It was the LED accents in the headlight cluster that threw me. It’s a nice high-end touch to any car, let alone a $21,499 compact crossover.

It helps that Hyundai has designed the Tucson so that the standard 17-inch steel wheels fit the wheel wells nicely, and the wheel covers take a couple of takes before they begin to look cheap – they’re well executed.

The high-end touches carry over into the interior – well, sort of. It’s ridiculous to call this interior “premium”, but it’s three times more ridiculous to call it “economy”. The faux aluminum accents are convincing enough and add a little flair to the steering wheel, which is soft and thick, despite not being leather. The dash is simple in design, but the two little indents that merge into the centre stack are interesting. This version of Hyundai’s radio system is actually the better one. It is small and simple to use, and this iteration doesn’t offend me with its ghostly blue background the way larger units do.

The antenna for this radio is glitchy, though, and cuts out a lot when others wouldn’t. I’d advocate replacing it for an aftermarket item if you can.

Climate control, like the gearbox, is manual but the system is uncomplicated and effective. The heated seat buttons are easy to get to and the seats warm quickly – another good feature at this bracket. My only complaint about the radio and climate controls are that the ones on the right are a stretch for my little T-Rex arms – the same can be said for the gear lever in fifth and sixth. By the time I get my seat where I want it I have to stretch to get to them.

Speaking of seats, these ones are cloth, and flat, but firm enough to be supportive. There is a hint of bolstering, but it would only really be effective for the most J-Lo of backsides – my own is not petite, but still didn’t touch the sides. They are manually adjustable, and an added bonus in the back, they recline in two different positions. That two-stage recline means the LATCH anchors are a little awkward to get to though, which is the exact definition of a “nitpick” if you’re wondering. The small children using those LATCH anchors won’t be able to ruin the backs of the cloth seats either, as Hyundai has thoughtfully placed a rugged plastic shell right where your young’un’s winter boots will spend most of the time kicking.

So that’s the styling, and the interior – both surprisingly good. You know what else is surprisingly good? The steering. Usually at this point in this article you might expect me to talk about the floppiness on centre, the lack of feel in the steering and the overboosted electronic assistance – nope. The Tuscon, maybe because it is the base model without the three-mode electronic assistance system, is perfectly weighted in all instances. It’s light but not vague at low speeds, and nice and firm at higher speeds. Even the centre of the wheel feels confident and direct.

2014 Hyundai Tucson2014 Hyundai Tucson2014 Hyundai Tucson2014 Hyundai Tucson
2014 Hyundai Tucson. Click image to enlarge

At speed, darting between lanes is accomplished with a minimum of fuss, and the off-ramps are dealt with deftly at normal-person speeds. Body lean is ever-present, but not in a way that disconnects the car from the road, and understeer is only an issue when you break away from normal-person speeds and move towards silly-journalist-who-is-a-frustrated-racecar-driver speeds.

It’s nimble in the underground carparks of your local condo or shopping centre, and despite the lack of rear-view camera the Tucson was easy to park thanks to a small turning circle (10.6 m), narrow track and short wheelbase.

Did I mention a frustrated-wannabe racecar driver? I did? Good, because this engine is absolute rubbish for that bloke; or this bloke as the case may be. It isn’t very powerful at 164 hp, and the upgraded torque (151 lb-ft up from 146 last year) is meagre enough to frustrate me a little. My criticism aside, there is more than enough stoke in the fire to haul this 1,443 kg Tucson up to highway speeds quickly and keep up with traffic. When the six-speed manual is working hard there is a lot of engine noise, but that’s to be expected in a car without a lot of cabin noise suppression. I noticed a fair amount of wind noise and tire noise, but winter tires might account for the latter. The Tucson has a well-defined clutch bite point, which makes it easier to drive in stop-start traffic and in city confines, and enhances the overall drive experience too.

Connect with Autos.ca