The 2018 Hyundai Tucson competes in the rough and tumble compact crossover market, offering high-end features in a stylish SUV at a really good price. Hyundai designed the Tucson to lure away buyers shopping the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, although some Subaru buyers might be tempted as well. The Tucson is available with a choice of two fuel-efficient engines, optional all-wheel drive and a long list of features to meet just about any need. Although some in this class offer a bit more in terms of fuel economy, ride and handling, the Tucson can tout its available turbocharged engine, excellent resale values and impressive standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Yet while the Tucson has proven itself worthy on paved roads, it can’t really tackle off-road obstacles in the same manner as the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk or Subaru Forester — something to consider if you do a lot of outdoor activities.
What’s New for 2018?
In an attempt to make the 2018 Tucson more competitive, Hyundai has shuffled the trims, added more content and lowered the price. Last year’s SE with the Popular Equipment package becomes the SEL and gains a 7-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SE Plus becomes the SEL Plus, while the Value and Limited trims remain unchanged. The Eco and Sport have been dropped. See the 2018 Hyundai Tucson models for sale near you
What We Like
Lots of features; a wide range of standard and optional safety equipment; a smooth ride; stylish interior and exterior; better pricing structure this year
What We Don’t
Somewhat generic driving experience; not much guts with the 2.0-liter engine; high-end audio and desirable driver assist features like automatic emergency braking reserved for the most expensive trim; no adaptive cruise control
The Tucson offers two power plants. Base-level SE, SEL and SEL Plus models use a 164-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front– or all-wheel drive. Front-wheel-drive models return 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, while opting for all-wheel drive (AWD) drops gas mileage numbers to 21 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.
The Value and Limited trims are powered by a 175-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is mated to an impressively smooth 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Fuel economy with this engine tops out at 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive, 24 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with AWD.
Standard Features & Options
The Tucson is offered in five trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Value and Limited. All trims come standard with front-wheel drive but can be outfitted with all-wheel drive.
The Tucson SE ($23,539, FWD) ($24,930, AWD) is fairly basic, though it includes a few useful convenience features. Standard equipment includes a backup camera, YES Essentials stain-resistant fabric seat covers, air conditioning, 17-in alloy wheels, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio and a USB port for an iPod — all items that are also included in most of the car’s rivals. The standard engine is the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder paired with a 6-speed automatic.
The SEL ($24,780, FWD) ($26,180, AWD) adds an 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, 7-inch touchscreen audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED running lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated front seats, fog lights and a glove-box light.
The SEL Plus ($27,680, FWD) ($29,080, AWD) adds an 8-in touchscreen with navigation, leather seats, dual zone automatic climate control, Proximity Key with push button start, LED approach lights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, 8-way power passenger seat, 315-watt 8-speaker Infinity premium audio, rear seat air vents, 3-year complimentary Blue Link Connected Car Services, Homelink and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The Value ($27,530, FWD) ($28,930, AWD) builds off the SEL trim, losing some the Plus’ features but gaining the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, 7-speed dual clutch transmission, a panoramic sunroof, Proximity Key with push-button start, hands-free smart liftgate, rear parking sensors, 19-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist and premium front and rear fascias.
Topping the range is the high-end Tucson Limited ($30,405, FWD) ($31,805, AWD), which boasts over the Value an 8-in touchscreen with navigation, 315-watt Infinity audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, LED headlights, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel and auto-dimming mirrors.
The only optional package is offered on the Limited trim. Dubbed the Ultimate package ($2,500), it adds an LCD gauge cluster, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, an automatic braking system and adaptive xenon headlights.
The 2018 Hyundai Tucson offers virtually every modern high-tech safety feature you might expect from a car in this class. Standard features include side-curtain airbags, a backup camera and anti-lock brakes, while options include lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system and a forward-collision prevention system with automatic braking.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2018 Tucson its highest rating of 5 stars overall, with 5 stars in the front- and side-impact tests and 4 stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Tucson its highest rating of Good in all crash tests and Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test, earning the model a Top Safety Pick award.
Behind the Wheel
On the road, the Tucson is something of a mixed bag, though we suspect most crossover shoppers will appreciate the majority of what it has to offer. The Tucson touts a comfortable ride, predictable handling and, if you opt for the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine (as most drivers will), a tremendously smooth engine-and-transmission combination. In all, we think the Tucson offers one of the most pleasurable, supple rides in the compact-crossover segment.
Where the “mixed bag” remark comes in is for drivers who enjoy spending time behind the wheel. The Tucson isn’t especially fun to drive, as acceleration is mediocre with either engine, and steering — while suitable for the Tucson — isn’t exactly exciting. So while we think most drivers will appreciate the Tucson for its comfortable, smooth ride, those looking to have fun will probably want to consider another model with more power and improved handling.
As for visibility, interior room and cargo space, we found the Tucson to be roughly on par with other models in its segment: It’s not a standout, but it’s far from being the worst in its class.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Ford Escape — The Escape recently got a complete makeover, offering a choice of new turbocharged engines as well as an improved feature set. We think the Escape delivers a more dynamic driving experience but has a more cramped interior.
2018 Honda CR-V — The Honda CR-V offers a lot of technology and the same smooth, comfortable ride as the Tucson. We’d be sure to add it to our shopping list, too. Its turbocharged engine is standard on all but the base trim.
2018 Mazda CX-5 — If you like the Tucson’s equipment and fuel economy but want better handling and performance, the CX-5 is the way to go. It offers all the usual compact-crossover charm with an improved suspension and steering for a more enjoyable driving experience. There’s also a diesel engine option.
Used Hyundai Santa Fe Sport — Drivers who like the Tucson’s many attributes (including Hyundai’s excellent 10-year warranty) but need a little more interior space may want to consider the Santa Fe Sport, which offers everything we like about the Tucson in a larger package.
Although it’s a little pricey, the Tucson Limited is our favorite model in the lineup. It offers an impressive array of equipment teamed with a smooth engine and transmission, a high-quality interior and a supple ride. It’s also the only way to get driver-assist features like forward-collision warning and autonomous braking. If the Limited is too much, go with the Value. If you don’t mind the sluggish performance, the SEL is probably the best overall value.