The Tucson was last redesigned in 2010, and most of the changes for 2012 center on eking more mileage out of the Tucson. (You can compare the 2011 with the 2012 model here.) The most obvious change for 2012 is the addition of an Active Eco button that changes engine and transmission response to get better mileage, but there's also an improved air-conditioning system, among other updates.
Hyundai offers three versions of the Tucson — GL, GLS and the Limited trim level — and three different engines: a 176-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; a 170-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; and a 165-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It's offered with either front- or all-wheel drive and with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Our test model was a Limited trim with the larger, 2.4-liter engine and a six-speed automatic mated to front-wheel drive.
There's no getting around it: The Tucson rides firmly. You'll feel every ripple in the road, and every pothole will register through the chassis. Our test model came with the largest wheels — 18 inches — and while that can affect ride, the overall sensation is that of a car that doesn't absorb bumps as much as it bounces over them.
You don't get a crashing or banging sensation that makes you think you've broken something, so it's not the worst car out there in this respect, but this is the area where Hyundai needs to do the most work. It's the Tucson attribute that stands out the most, and the fact that it's not a positive one is not good.
The biggest problem Hyundai has is that many competitors — most notably the 2013 Mazda CX-5 and the 2013 Ford Escape — achieve better ride quality. (See them compared.)
Despite (or perhaps because of) its stiff ride, the Hyundai Tucson still manages to be decent to drive.
On very smooth roads, the Hyundai handles pretty well for a small SUV. It doesn't wallow around like other cars can, and it's able to take tight turns fairly quickly. There's some hopping when you hit a bump at a higher speed, though, so it does demand an attentive driver.
While it didn't blow me away, the drivetrain provided good power off the line, and I was able to pass easily on the highway. Take note, though: Hyundai says the Active Eco mode "modifies engine and transmission controls to improve gas mileage." I'd say it this way: "Pressing the Active Eco button takes whatever fun there is in driving the Tucson right out of the equation." But, of course, one doesn't have to press that button. Hyundai says its EPA mileage estimates are calculated with Active Eco turned off; the feature is intended to improve that mileage. Mileage is as follows.