2012 Hyundai Tucson Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 3, 2012

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2012 Hyundai Tucson Buying Advice

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson is the best SUV for you if you want a feature-packed compact crossover at an affordable price.

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson gets some tweaks designed to improve fuel economy and range, ride quality and stopping power. The changes are minor but fairly numerous and help strengthen Tucson’s hand in the competitive compact-SUV marketplace.

Hyundai, along with its subsidiary, Kia, are South Korean automakers who have thrived with a stream of fresh models with bold styling and a high value-for-dollar quotient. The 2012 Kia Sportage is essentially the same vehicle as the Hyundai Tucson, but with different styling and a slightly different engine lineup.

Should you buy a 2012 Hyundai Tucson or wait for the 2013 Hyundai Tucson? Wait for the 2013 Tucson if you crave the absolute latest in styling and features because it’s due a midlife freshening. The updates could include addition of a hybrid model or a turbocharged engine option, but major alternations to looks or basic engineering won’t happen. So buy a 2012 Tucson if you’re happy with the current design, don’t fancy a hybrid or need a turbo, and want to avoid the almost-inevitable model-year price escalation.

2012 Hyundai Tucson Changes back to top

Styling: With styling unchanged since its model-year 2010 introduction, the 2012 Hyundai Tucson remains eye-catching, if a bit busy with lots of curves and creases. Hyundai calls the philosophy behind these flourishes “Fluidic Sculpture.” This four-door wagon is also designed with fuel-efficient weight reduction in mind. Ultra-high-tensile strength steel is used for 69 percent of the body shell, says Hyundai. At as little as 3,175 pounds, Tucson is among the lightest compact SUVs.

Interior packaging and passenger space remain a 2012 Tucson high point. Despite a body length slightly shorter than that of most rivals, the 2012 Tucson has a fairly generous 103.9-inch wheelbase. Wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles, is key to the space a vehicle can allot for the passenger compartment. Tucson’s relatively short body length aids maneuverability and this five-seater is exceptionally easy to handle in tight spaces.

The drawback to the abbreviated length is relatively tight cargo volume. At 55.8 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded. Tucson’s luggage space is among the smallest in the class. It does boast a nice array of interior storage spaces, such as front- and rear-console cupholders with bottle holders in each door, front seatback pockets, and a large front center armrest storage bin.

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson is defined as a crossover by its car-type unibody construction. That means the body and chassis are an integral unit. That’s in contrast to a truck-type design in which the body is bolted to a separate frame.

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson lineup remains anchored by the entry-level GL model. The better-equipped GLS occupies the next rung up, and the Limited again tops the line. Styling differences are minor. The door handles and exterior mirrors on the GLS are body colored instead of black, and the Limited has chrome-trim on its grille and door handles. For model-year 2012, the GLS adopts the integrated turn-signal mirrors previously exclusive to the Limited model.

The 2012 GL again has 17-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers, the GLS continues with 17-inch alloys, and the Limiteds return with 18-inch alloys.

Mechanical: The 2012 Hyundai Tucson reprises a choice of two four-cylinder engines, three transmissions, and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. It does, however, gain Hyundai’s ActiveEco mileage-boosting system, among other changes.

A 2.0-liter four-cylinder remains exclusive to the Tucson GL model and again has 165 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the backbone of acceleration). The GL continues as a front-wheel-drive model only. The 2012 Tucson GLS and Limited return with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. They’re available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

The 2012 Tucson GL remains among the few SUVs available with manual transmission, in this case a five-speed. A six-speed automatic is a GL option and the only transmission available in the 2012 GLS and Limited models.

Tucson’s Hyundai-designed automatic features manual-type gear control the company calls Shiftronic. And 2012 Tucson equipped with this transmission gain the automaker’s ActiveEco system. Enabled by a dashboard button, the system intervenes to soften throttle response and, Hyundai says, can improve real-world fuel economy by 7 percent.

Like virtually every crossover SUV, the Tucson is rooted in a front-wheel-drive layout that concentrates the weight of the engine over the tires that also propel the vehicle. This serves to enhance traction on slippery pavement.

Hyundai doesn’t promote the 2012 Tucson as an off-road vehicle but it does give it AWD that can be locked in a 50/50 front/rear power split at the push of a dashboard button. Designed for low speeds only, the lock assures power goes to both the front and rear wheels for better performance on slippery surfaces. When not locked, the AWD system acts in the conventional manner, driving only the front wheels unless they begin to slip. It then begins sending power to the rear wheels (up to 50 percent) until traction is regained.

All 2012 Tucsons get larger rear suspension bushings designed to improve ride quality. And the GLS joins the Limited model with a suspension that automatically varies shock-absorber damping depending upon driving conditions. The idea is to provide a smoother ride without sacrificing handling.

Among other 2012 Tucson changes, the front brakes are increased in size. And fuel-tank capacity expands to 15.3 gallons, from 14.5. The climate-control system is modified to speed cooling and increase fuel efficiency, while solar glass becomes standard on all models to reduce the need for air conditioning. The GLS model also gets low-rolling-resistance tires designed to maximize fuel economy.  

Returning as standard on every 2012 Tucson is an antiskid system to reduce chances of sideways slides. Also standard are four-wheel disc brakes with antilock management for better control in emergency stops. Tucson also comes standard with uphill assist to prevent rolling backward on severe inclines, and with downhill assist to automatically limit vehicle speed to a crawl on steep descents.         

Features: Beyond the aforementioned mechanical changes and the GLS model’s new turn-signal mirrors, the 2012 Hyundai Tucson features roster is a repeat. Every model returns with standard remote keyless entry and alarm, power windows and locks, tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. Torso-protecting front-seat side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags for both seating rows also remain standard. The curtain bags are designed to deploy in side collisions and when onboard sensors detect an impending rollover.

To the GL model, the 2012 GLS again adds such standard equipment a telescopic steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. It also includes Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity, auto up/down driver’s power window, roof cargo rails, illuminated vanity mirrors and glove compartment, and privacy glass.

Limited trim levels again come with a power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, leather upholstery, automatic headlights, and fog lamps. In a bonus, heated front seats are again standard on every AWD Tucson.

All 2012 Tucsons return with a six-speaker 160-watt audio system 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. An available audio upgrade brings 360 watts, Bluetooth streaming audio capability, and an external amplifier and subwoofer.

Hyundai again offers the Tucson GLS with an option package build around a voice-activated navigation system with 6.5-inch dashboard touchscreen. The package includes a rearview camera, premium audio with external amp and subwoofer, and automatic headlights. Also returning is an option package for the 2012 Limited that includes those features plus a panoramic sunroof, but not the automatic headlights, which are already standard. With the panoramic sunroof, the front panel can tilt open or slide back over the fixed rear panel.

2012 Hyundai Tucson Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Hyundai Tucson is $19,970-$27,320. Even excluding the price-leader manual-transmission GL model (it has few direct competitors), the 2012 Tucson is priced some $1,000-$2,000 below key rivals, such as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4. That’s an important edge at this price-sensitive stratum of the compact-crossover category.  

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson GL starts at $19,970 with manual transmission and at $20,970 with automatic. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Hyundai’s fee for the 2012 Tucson is $825.)

Base price for the 2012 Tucson GLS is $23,120 with front-drive and $23,120 with all-wheel drive. The 2012 Hyundai Tucson Limited begins at $25,820 with front-wheel drive and at $27,320 with AWD.

Among key options, the Premium Package that adds the panoramic sunroof, navigation system, and premium audio to the Limited model is priced at $2,850.

Part of Hyundai’s value equation is a generous warranty of 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain. Included is 24-hour roadside assistance for 5-years/unlimited mileage. There is no deductible on any of this coverage. However, the full 10/100,000 powertrain warranty is limited to the original buyers. For any subsequent owner, powertrain coverage reverts to 5/60,000 from the date the vehicle was manufactured.

2012 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Economy back to top

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson remains among the fuel-economy leaders in its competitive set. EPA ratings for the 2012 Tucson GL are unchanged at 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 23/31/26 mpg with automatic transmission.

Again available only with automatic transmission and powered by the 2.4-liter engine, the 2012 Tucson GLS and Limited share EPA ratings of 22/32/25 mpg  city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/28/23 with AWD.

A few fuel economy observations about the 2012 Tucson: Although the GL trim level is the most affordable Tucson, it isn’t actually the most fuel-efficient. Its savings are realized primarily in the lower initial purchase price.

Second, EPA ratings are recorded without the use of the ActiveEco system, leaving Hyundai’s claim of up to a 7-percent mileage gain in real-world driving largely to your experience and expertise with a calculator.

And finally, the model-year 2012 tweaks designed to improve fuel economy result in a 1-mpg gain in highway driving for the GLS and Limited models. But the combined city/highway rating for AWD versions of those models drops by 1 mpg.

2012 Hyundai Tucson Release Date back to top

The 2012 Hyundai Tucson went on sale in early 2012.

What's next for the 2012 Hyundai Tucson back to top

Though Hyundai and Kia share a core engineering and development staff, their goal is to remain separate in terms of marketing and product focus. Broadly, Hyundai aims for a sophisticated, tech-rich image with a dose of family values while Kia goes for a sportier flavor, even if it means sacrificing a sliver of fuel economy.

What this suggests for future versions of these sibling crossovers is that the Hyundai Tucson will eventually get a gas-electric hybrid powertrain while the Sportage will have exclusive use of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and probably won’t adopt the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

2012 Hyundai Tucson Competition back to top

Honda CR-V: Fully redesigned for the first time since model-year 2007, the 2012 CR-V gets fresher styling, improved fuel economy, and a wider selection of features. It still uses one four-cylinder engine, with 185 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, and retains a five-speed automatic transmission. That transmission decision puts it behind top rivals, most of which use a six-speed automatic. Interior roominess, passenger comfort, and cargo space remain high points. So does Honda’s deserved reputation for quality and resale value. The 2012 CR-V’s fuel-economy ratings are 23/31/26 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/30/25 with AWD. Base price range is $23,105-$30,605.

Toyota RAV-4: The largest crossover in this grouping, RAV4 offers a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines with a body long enough to provide an optional, child-sized third-row seat. It’s due a full redesign for model-year 2013 and will get new styling while retaining outstanding passenger or cargo room. Reports suggest the V-6 option will die. Meanwhile, the 2012 RAV4 remains a sound choice for versatility and reliability. With AWD, the four-cylinder rates 21/27/24 mpg and the V-6 19/26/21. Base-price range is $23,460-$29,460.

Nissan Rogue: Roomy and adept on twisty roads, this crossover has a strong four-cylinder engine but compromised throttle response thanks to Nissan’s decision to use a continuously variable automatic transmission instead of a conventional automatic. Rogue’s overall design is conservative but appealingly functional and solid. Styling and perhaps performance should improve with a full redesign set for model-year 2013. The 2012 Rogue rates 22/28/25 mpg with front-drive and 22/26/24 with AWD. Base–price range is $22,390-$29,980.

UPDATED BY CHUCK GIAMETTA

2012 Hyundai Tucson Next Steps