2019 Hyundai Tucson AWD Limited Ultimate Review

Tweaks and an engine change make all the difference


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: New non-turbo engine is responsive and capable, minor exterior styling details freshen things up nicely, truly easy-to-use interior, solid driving manners, excellent safety scores
Negatives: The cabin needs bright spots in its sea of darkness, okay fuel economy, some cheap interior bits
Bottom Line: It was smart for Hyundai to get rid of the 1.6T engine since it wasn't especially smooth or quick. The 2.4-liter is much better, and the Tucson now keeps up with the newer Santa Fe in terms of looks. The infotainment screen is much improved, and the Tucson is packed with great standard tech and safety features. It's a worthy candidate in the compact crossover segment.
The current 3rd-generation Tucson has been around since 2016 and gets its first major refresh that goes deeper than just the skin. The revised compact crossover ditches the rather unimpressive but somehow top-tier 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and the dual-clutch automatic. There are only two engines now, There's a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque that arrived in 2018 and the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic. There are also styling changes inside and out, new tech, and new safety features, all of which make the 2019 Tucson even more competitive than it was. We drove the top trim Limited Ultimate AWD for a week. Read ahead for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.7

 

The biggest change, of course, is the replacement of the rough 1.6-liter turbo engine in the higher trims. There was way too much lag, it felt unrefined, and it just lacked power overall. The DCT didn't help matters. We really like the 2.4-liter non-turbo.

Ride Quality: The Tucson is smooth but not mushy. You can also feel the road without getting jarred from bumps and gaps. It strikes a good balance and will please most drivers.

Acceleration: It's not blistering, by any means, but the pickup is decent. Throttle response is noticeably better with the non-turbo engine.

Braking: The Tucson has good brakes and pedal feel.

Steering: The steering is actually pretty good with some heft to it. Feedback isn't really there, but the turn-in is quick and precise.

Handling: Handling in this crossover is better than most of the competition. It manages turns without much body roll, and the Tucson feels balanced.

Technology

8.8

 

The new 7-inch hi-res screen looks far better than the old one that was set into the dash, and the 8-inch in our tester was well-sized. This follows Hyundai's new approach to infotainment, and the controls are great. We just wish there was a central knob in the center console like Mazda, Audi, and BMW.

Infotainment System: The screen is easy to read, and menus are simple. The standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are welcomed additions that make operation even easier.

Controls: Hyundai controls are some of the best, including the flanking buttons for infotainment, the no-look steering wheel controls, and the well-placed knobs and buttons for climate control.

Styling

8.8

 

Generally speaking, crossovers all kind of look the same. At least the refreshed Tucson adopts some styling cues that make it look more expensive than before. It also brings the Tucson into the more modern Hyundai design language with updated front and rear fascias, as well as a reworked interior.

Front: The cascading grille is better than the somewhat boring version on the 2018 Tucson. We like the revised headlights that mate better with the grille.

Rear: The back of the Tucson gets taillights similar to the Elantra and Sonata in terms of shape. It's a nice, clean look from the back.

Profile: Not much has changed here, except the lower crease in the rear quarter panel seems to have been massaged out. The side view is well-proportioned and muscular.

Cabin: Outfitted in black leather, the Tucson's interior is on the dark side, but materials overall are very good, and the layout is more open in the 2019 thanks to the flatter dash and new infotainment screen that sits on the center stack rather than inside it.

Comfort

8

 

Though the Tucson isn't huge inside, it does provide occupants with good seats and very good ergonomics. Visibility out back is a bit compromised, however.

Front Seats: The Tucson's seats are very good. The leather quality is high, and the cushioning and bolstering are just about right. Heating and ventilation are huge pluses.

Rear Seats: The rear seats have good adult-sized legroom, and the seats are decently comfortable, albeit a bit flat. The outboard position seats get heat in the Ultimate.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The build quality is excellent, but there is some road noise when the speeds increase.

Visibility: Out the front and sides, visibility is good. The thick C-pillars, however, obscure rearward sightlines. The rear camera and surround view camera work very well.

Climate: The climate control system works very well, providing good heat during a chilly winter in Chicago.

Safety

9.2

 

The Tucson was already a very safe crossover as of 2016, and the 2019 adds to the level of safety thanks to added standard safety features. There's also new optional equipment, as well. Families should feel safe driving the 2019 Tucson.

IIHS Rating: It nabbed the top score, the Top Safety Pick+ thanks to perfect crash tests and and acceptable for LATCH and headlights.

NHTSA Rating: The Tucson got five stars from the federal government.

Standard Tech: Great standard features include forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, tire pressure monitoring, blind spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, surround view monitor, and lane-keeping assist.

Optional Tech: None. Ours came fully loaded.

Storage/Cargo

6.5

 

The Tucson's interior is very usable thanks to a flat and wide load floor, as well as good cabin storage.

Storage Space: The front row has good options including a large tray under the console for smartphones, a deeper and smaller cubby in front of the cupholders and a rather large armrest compartment. The door pockets are also very good.

Cargo Room: 31 cubic feet sits behind the second row, and 61.9 with the seats folded flat. That's more than the Mazda CX-9 and a tad less than the Ford Escape.

Fuel Economy

6.6

 

Aside from their hybrids, Hyundai seems to struggle with fuel economy in the real world. Our tester was driven largely in Sport mode during our time with it, which can at least account for some of the diminished efficiency.

Observed: 20.6 mpg

Distance Driven: 151 miles

Audio

8

 

The upgraded Infinity sound system in the Tucson is very good but not excellent. There was very good clarity, but the system needs more bass. We experienced no distortion, and the system was very easy to use with fuss-free streaming from our smartphones.



Final Thoughts

The small/compact crossover game is a fierce one with numerous competitors. It was smart for Hyundai to make some key changes without totally redesigning the Tucson. Its biggest weakness was the 1.6T engine that's no more. The 2.4-liter is a much better choice, and the revisions to the exterior and cabin were just right. The fact that it now has standard safety that was previously optional is a huge plus. It's a worthy crossover that's now more appealing than last year.
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