2011 Hyundai Tucson Review and Prices
Past and Future Reviews
The 2011 Hyundai Tucson is the best compact crossover SUV for you if you’re ready to jump aboard the auto industry’s fastest-moving bandwagon.
The 2011 Hyundai Tucson is a shapely rival for the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It hails from the only automaker that’s thrived during the recession. Hyundai and its partner division, Kia, enjoyed double-digit sales increases while nearly every rival declined or merely held steady. In bit of gamesmanship, the South Korean carmaker introduced this second-generation Tucson as an all-new 2010 model in December 2009. The 2011 Tucson follows quickly and even adds a new entry-level GL model equipped with a smaller and more affordable 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
Should you buy a 2011 Hyundai Tucson or wait for the 2012 Hyundai Tucson? With the recent updates and added technology for 2011, few changes are anticipated for 2012. Hyundai could potentially expand the lineup by adding a turbocharged version with some 270 horsepower, but more likely is a gas-electric hybrid model. Neither is likely to arrive during model-year 2012, however.
2011 Hyundai Tucson Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Hyundai Tucson is arguably the most dramatically styled compact crossover. Hyundai calls its collection of sheet-metal licks, curves, and creases a product of its “fluidic sculpture” school of design. We call it busy, even a little pretentious. But this four-door wagon is eye-catching. More important, it’s a fine example of weight-savings in pursuit of fuel economy.
Hyundai says 69 percent of the body shell is comprised of pound-shaving ultra-high-tensile strength steel. Hyundai developed its own six-speed automatic transmission that’s 26.4 pounds lighter than the five-speed it replaced. Even the suspension’s front stabilizer bar is hollow instead of solid. Indeed, the 2011 Tucson is among the lightest compact SUVs. It weighs as little as 3,175 pounds for the front-wheel-drive model—although it’s surprisingly four pounds heavier with the five-speed manual than with the six-speed automatic transmission—and 3,366 for the lightest all-wheel-drive (AWD) version. Comparable rivals are generally 100-200-pounds heavier, a small difference but notable nonetheless.
Against the first-generation 2005-2009 Tucson, the new model is longer and wider, yet more than 60 pounds lighter. The 2011 Hyundai Tucson doesn’t sacrifice interior space on the altar of weight-cutting thanks to efficient packaging. Wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles, is a prime factor in how much space a vehicle can allot for the passenger compartment. Tucson’s 103.9-inch wheelbase is midpack for the class, as is overall interior volume. Yet its body length compared to key competitors is shorter by several inches, saving weight and benefiting maneuverability.
Hyundai creates a three-model 2011 Hyundai Tucson lineup by adding the price-leader GL model to the returning GLS and fancier Limited trim levels. The 2011 Hyundai Tucson qualifies as a crossover because it has car-type unibody construction. That means the body and chassis are an integral unit, versus a truck-type design in which the body is bolted to a separate frame. Note that the 2011 Kia Sportage from Hyundai’s corporate sibling uses the same basic design as the Tucson but has different styling inside and out and a slightly different powertrain lineup.
Mechanical: The biggest change for 2011 Hyundai Tucson is introduction of the GL trim level with its “Theta II” engine. This 2.0-liter four-cylinder is rated at 165 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. The 2011 Tucson GLS and Limited continue with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets you moving and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum). A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on the GLS and Limited and optional on the GL in place of a five-speed manual. The six-speed automatic has a separate gate for its floor shifter that allows manual-type gear control.
Notably, this most affordable version of the 2011 Tucson -- the GL with a five-speed manual transmission -- is the least fuel efficient, at 20/27 mpg city/highway. Order the GL with the six-speed automatic transmission, and it merits the highest fuel-economy ratings in the 2011 Tucson lineup at 23/31 mpg city/highway.
All 2011 Tucsons come with front-wheel drive, with the GLS and Limited also available with all-wheel drive (AWD). Front-wheel drive concentrates the weight of the engine over the tires that also propel the vehicle. This is conventional practice in the class and serves to enhance traction on slippery pavement. Hyundai doesn’t pretend the 2011 Tucson is an off-road vehicle; in fact, it calls it an “urban cruiser.” Still, Tucson promises better rocky- and sloppy-surface traction than most compact crossovers because it’s among the few with AWD that can be locked in a 50/50 front/rear power split at the push of a dashboard button. Otherwise, the AWD system acts in the conventional manner by automatically shuffling power between the front and rear wheels to quell tire slip.
All Tucsons come with an antiskid system to mitigate sideways slides and four-wheel disc brakes with antilock management for better control in emergency stops. For model-year 2011, Hyundai says Tucson’s power-steering system is better integrated into the antiskid system to improve driver assist in adverse road conditions. There is also a new driver-override for the antiskid system to allow some wheel slip in certain low-traction condtions. Tucson also comes standard with Hyundai’s first application of uphill and downhill assist. The former prevents rolling backward on severe inclines, the latter automatically limits vehicle speed to a crawl on steep descents.
Finally, Hyundai enhances the 2011 Tucson Limited model with an upgraded suspension that mechanically varies the shock absorber damping depending upon driving conditions. The idea is to provide a smoother ride without sacrificing handling.
Features: With the 2011 Tucson GL added at a lower price point, Hyundai moves the 2011 Tucson GLS up a notch with added features. New standard equipment includes a telescopic steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, driver power window with auto up/down, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, privacy glass, roof side rails, illuminated vanity mirrors and glove compartment and steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. Heated seats are now standard on all-wheel-drive models.
This five-passenger crossover comes with torso-protecting front-seat side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags for both seating rows. The curtain bags are designed to deploy in side collisions and when onboard sensors detect an impending rollover. Power windows and locks, tilt steering wheel, fold-away mirrors, and remote keyless entry with alarm are standard on every 2011 Tucson.
Available features include leather upholstery, heated front seats, power driver seat with lumbar support, integrated turn-signal mirrors, front windshield-wiper de-icer, and dual front automatic climate control. An option exclusive to the Tucson Limited is a dual-panel panoramic sunroof; its front pane can tilt open or slide back over the fixed rear panel.
All 2011 Tucson models come with a six-speaker 160-watt setup that includes XM satellite radio and an iPod/flash-drive interface via both USB and auxiliary inputs. Steering-wheel audio controls also are standard on the GLS and Limited models. Optional is a voice-activated navigation system governed by voice activation or a 6.5-inch LCD dashboard touch-screen. The nav system includes a rearview camera and Bluetooth streaming audio capability and comes with a 360-watt premium audio system that includes an external amplifier and subwoofer.
The rear seatbacks fold down, but Tucson’s relatively brief body length limits maximum cargo volume to 55.8 cubic feet – among the stingiest in the class. Hyundai compensates some with a generous array of interior storage spaces, augmenting front- and rear-console cupholders with bottle holders in each door, front seatback pockets, and a large front center armrest storage bin. The Tucson GL models have 17-inch steel wheels while the GLS has 17-inch alloy wheels and Limiteds come with 18-inch alloys.
2011 Hyundai Tucson Prices back to top
Value pricing is a Hyundai hallmark and the 2011 Hyundai Tucson still begins below $20,000 for the GL model with a five-speed manual transmission. That keeps the 2011 Tucson among the lowest-priced crossovers in the compact class. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Hyundai’s fee for the 2011 Tucson is $795.)
Base price for the 2011 Tucson GL is $19,540 with the manual transmission and $20,540 with the automatic. The 2011 Tucson GLS has a base price of $22,640 for the front-drive model and $24,290 with all-wheel drive.
The 2011 Hyundai Tucson Limited begins at $25,490 with front-wheel drive and at $26,990 for the AWD version. Adding the Premium Package to the Limited AWD (it includes the panoramic sunroof, navigation, rearview camera and premium audio), Tucson pricing tops out at $29,840, keeping this Hyundai below the $30,000 mark with all the trimmings.
A consideration in any Hyundai’s value proposition is a warranty the carmaker promotes as America’s best. Coverage is 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain. Owners also receive 24-hour roadside assistance at no extra charge for 5-years/unlimited mileage; the service includes emergency towing and lockout service. There is no deductible on any of this coverage. However, only the original purchaser gets the full 10/100,000 powertrain coverage. Hyundai’s powertrain warranty for any subsequent owner reverts to 5/60,000 from the date the vehicle was manufactured.
2011 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Economy back to top
EPA mileage estimates for 2011 models had not been released in time for this report, but 2011 Hyundai Tucson fuel-economy ratings shouldn’t change from 2010-model levels.
That suggests a 2011 Tucson GLS with manual transmission and front-wheel drive will be rated around 23/31 mpg (city/highway). With automatic transmission, expect the 2011 Tucson GLS or Limited to be rated 22/30 with front-wheel drive, 22/29 with AWD.
These figures place the Tucson among the most fuel-efficient compact crossover SUVs. For example, the only other 2010 model in its competitive set to achieve a 30-mpg highway rating was the Ford Escape Hybrid. Hyundai says the Blue edition will be even more frugal thanks to its smaller, specially tuned engine, specific gearing and tires, even smoothed aerodynamics. A rating of 25/33 mpg isn’t out of the question.
2011 Hyundai Tucson Release Date back to top
The 2011 Hyundai Tucson went on sale in August 2010. The Tucson is built in a Hyundai plant in South Korea but was designed and engineered in Europe at the company’s technical center in Germany. It’s sold in North America, Europe, and Asia.
What's next for the 2011 Hyundai Tucson back to top
Introduction of the current Tucson ignited a Hyundai product initiative that puts this aggressive carmaker on pace to launch seven all-new models by the end of calendar 2011.
Kia is owned by Hyundai and will continue to sell its own version of the Tucson as the Kia Sportage; the 2011 Sportage was recently revised and is essentially a mechanical twin to the Tucson. Thus far, Kia is not offering the base 2.0-liter engine of the Tucson GL, but has announced it will a more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 270-plus horsepower sometime during the 2011 model year. Hyundai has not confirmed when it might offer the turbocharged engine in the Tucson.
As for the long-term future of the Tucson, Hyundai offers it with four-cylinder diesel engines in other markets, but for U.S. versions it would likely turn to a gas-electric hybrid powertrain if it decided to offer an alternative to today’s conventional fours. Hyundai has confirmed plans to offer some of its cars with hybrid power, such as the Sonata, but hasn’t discussed if or when it would take that step with one of its SUVs.
Speaking of “SUVs,” or sport-utility vehicles, Hyundai prefers the description “crossover utility vehicle,” or CUV. That term is used increasingly to distance the new breed of crossovers from the truck-based wagons that were the original SUVs. Some manufacturers have coined “sports activity vehicle” for performance-oriented iterations, such as the BMW X6 and Acura ZDX.
In any event, Hyundai notes compact CUV sales are projected to grow at a rate far above the industry average through 2014. Compact CUVs are among the fastest growing segments due to their convenient size, car-like refinement, and good fuel economy relative to larger SUVs.
2011 Hyundai Tucson Competition back to top
2011 Honda CR-V: America’s top-selling SUV is a five-seat crossover that’s a little short on acceleration but excels for reliability, build quality, and resale value. The current-generation CR-V went on sale as a 2007 model and will be fully redesigned for model-year 2012 or 2013.
2011 Toyota RAV-4: This crossover SUV appeals for its solid feel, Toyota genes, and available V-6 engine. It’s also larger than the Tucson, its longer body making room for an optional, child-sized third-row seat. The RAV-4 got a mid-cycle freshening for model-year 2009 and a full redesign is anticipated around model-year 2012.
2011 Subaru Forester: A model-year 2009 redesign expanded its size from compact-car smooshed to compact-crossover roomy. Along with revised suspension and added features, that moved this cult favorite to the front ranks of small SUVs. Acceleration is lively, handling is sharp, and off-road ability surprisingly good. Forester is the only vehicle in this class with AWD standard on all models. This Subaru’s next redesign won’t come before model-year 2014.
2011 Nissan Rogue: Nissan wanted to get into this fast-growing segment and brought out the Rogue for model-year 2008. It is refreshed for the 2011 model year with some restyling and added technology. Both styling and performance of the Rogue make it one of the sportier entries in this class.
UPDATED BY JAY KOBLENZ