Value without being from the bargain basement Due to the sheer competitiveness of the marketplace, automakers are trying to throw in as much content as possible into their cars.
We car critics often face the arduous task of testing the many similar, but different offerings from various manufacturers that compete in the same market segment. There really isn’t a more competitive segment than the compact crossover SUV market. Manufacturers are constantly playing leap-frog with each other, adding new features, new styling cues, and more value to the prospective customer. This is what Hyundai has done with their updated Tucson, originally released back in 2010. Three years can be an eternity in a fast-moving marketplace, so does the little SUV stay fresh enough to stay on the radar? Hyundai handed me a base 2014 Hyundai Tucson GL, complete with a six-speed stick-shift.
There has to be something said for base models of anything nowadays. Due to the sheer competitiveness of the marketplace, automakers are trying to throw in as much content as possible into their cars, whether it is additional media connectivity or little things that are trickling down from luxury cars of the past. There aren’t very many cars nowadays that give you only the things that you need, and nothing more. I think my tester for this week comes pretty close to that point. The GL trim represents the entry-point for Tucson buyers, and is the only trim available if you desire a manual transmission. It is also notable that the stick-shift is only available in the front-drive configuration, which dilutes the point of a crossover SUV somewhat, but I digress. Starting at only $20,999, Hyundai is certainly pricing the Tucson aggressively. For that kind of money, you do have to give up some nicer items, such as aluminum wheels, some body-coloured trim, and a telescoping steering column. On the other hand, you still get heated front seats (super-fast, if I may add), Bluetooth integration with streaming audio, LED daytime running lights, and power windows and locks. It is an impressive value right out of the box with many features that appeal to a large audience.
New for 2014 are the aforementioned LED daytime running lights, which are easily seen from quite a distance away. Ever the popular trend, they are popping up on cars everywhere, usually to good effect. Projector halogen low-beam headlamps are also new for this year and round out the modernized lighting package. Also new for 2014 is the 2.0L direct-injected four cylinder motor, producing 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Hyundai rates fuel efficiency of this Tucson at 10.0L/100km in the city, 7.2L/100km on the highway, and 8.7L/100km in a mixed cycle. These numbers fall below similarly-sized front-drive competitors, such as the Mazda CX-5 GX and Toyota RAV4. I managed 9.2L/100km in a mixed cycle. Tucsons equipped with the six-speed automatic actually get better fuel efficiency by some margin, possibly due to different gearing aimed towards efficiency. The 2.0L engine, while fine for commuting duty, does feel underpowered if you need to get anywhere in a hurry. It’s too bad the up-level 2.4L engine is not available with this manual transmission.
Being a slightly older Hyundai design (dating back to 2010), the Tucson wears its “Fluidic Sculpture” design fairly well, but like its bigger brother, the Santa Fe, the upward swoop of the window sill line as you go towards the back of the vehicle definitely impacts blind-spot visibility. A blind-spot monitoring system is not offered on the Tucson, unfortunately. Also missing is the much-promoted “Driver Selectable Steering” that varies the level of electric assist in the steering. While not a true enthusiast feature, the Sport function on other Hyundais does a decent job taking away some of the numb finger-light weighting some of us have come to dislike.
Hyundai has a comprehensive lineup ranging from super-small runabouts to large luxury barges, with lots to choose from in between. While the affordable crossover SUV may be attractive to a lot of people (thanks to the added ground clearance and more rugged style), I personally don’t feel that going with a front-drive variant is the best use of your dollars. All-wheel-drive is available and probably will make up a good portion of Tucson sales, but many buyers may end up with the front-drive variant with differing levels of optional equipment added on. If a manual transmission with all-wheel-drive is what you’re after, Subaru does offer the base Forester 2.5i with a 6-speed manual. It being a Subaru product, AWD is, naturally, standard.
If you can live with the lower ride height, you can pick up an Elantra GT, which we drove earlier this year in both transmission guises. For about the same amount of money, you’ll get more standard equipment, the same hatchback utility and versatility, better fuel efficiency, better on-road handling, and in my opinion, a better looking car. However, if the onslaught from the hit TV series, “The Walking Dead” has worked at all, you’ll remember the Tucson as the official “good guy” car. It has proven to be useful in every situation and able to deal with hordes of the infected without even getting dirty. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
2014 Hyundai Tucson GL 6-speed Gallery