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2014 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD: Value-packed compact crossover

by: HYUNDAI MOTOR COMPANY - The 2014 Hyundai Tucson looks good and comes packed with standard equipment.Not the long ago, those shopping for a smaller crossover faced a difficult condition. Fuel-saving four cylinder engines were mostly available on front-wheel-drive version. Buyers wanting all-wheel-drive (a wise choice in the rainy Pacific Northwest) had to go with less economical V6 engines.

But that has largely changed in recent years. Now many manufacturers offer all-wheel-drive crossovers with four cylinder engines. The change has happened as engineers have figured out how to squeeze more power out of larger displacement engines. Technological advances include direct gas injection systems and turbochargers, which use a turbine powered by exhaust gases to push more fuel in the combustion chambers as engine speed increases.

Even better, these advances have occurred as the rest of the vehicles have gotten better, too. The compact crossover market is hot right now and manufacturers are responding with bolder styling, upgraded interiors and a wide range of entertainment, navigation and safety equipment in even their base models.

The 2014 Hyundai Tucson is a good example. Although it is one of the less expensive small crossovers on the market, it is surprisingly refined and well equipped. Despite being several years old, the Tucson still looks fresh, with sharp lines, a handsome grill, and a sloping rear hatch that makes it look longer than it actually is. The interior is very roomy, a trait of even the smallest vehicles these days, thanks to clever designs and advanced manufacturing techniques. Materials now rival those of more expensive vehicles from not that long ago, especially when equipped with leather seats, like our test Limited model. The dash and door panels were an attractive two-tone combination of well fitted hard and soft plastics.

Our test Tucson was equipped with the larger 2.4-liter engine and all-wheel-drive. Equipped this year with direct gas injection, it produced a respectable 182 horsepower and 177 foot-pounds of torque. Power was delivered delivered through a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a Continuously Variable Transmission, which many manufacturers are adopting with varying degrees of success. The combination provided decent acceleration under most circumstances, at least in the normal mode. It bogged down a little bit in the Active Eco mode, which improves mileage slightly by reducing the responsiveness.

On the road, the Tucson had a firm but not overly stiff ride, giving it a slightly sporty feel. Visibility was good, thanks to the SUV-style ride height and large windows. A back up camera helped when pulling out of the driveway and parallel parking.

Hyundai is well known for loading up their vehicles with a lot of standard equipment, and out Tucson was no exception.

Entry level models come with LED running lights, a rear spoiler, cloth upholstery, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks with recline, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with auxiliary controls and a six-speaker CD sound system with iPod/USB connectivity and satellite radio. Limited models, like ours, add automatic headlights, foglights, heated side mirrors, sport body cladding, roof rails, a 4.3-inch central touchscreen display, 18-inch wheels, chrome exterior trim, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a retractable rear cargo cover.

Our Tucson did not include the available Technology Package, which adds LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, an upgraded seven-speaker sound system, a 7-inch touchscreen, HD radio and a navigation system. The standard stereo got plenty loud, however.

Without the Technology Package, our Tucson was priced at $28,700, which is very reasonable considering everything it came with. The entry level GLS version costs around $25,000 and features a less powerful 2.0-liter engine, but can still be ordered with all-wheel-drive. An SE version is equipped and priced in between the GLS and Limited versions.

The rear seat has enough room for two adults or three children, at least for reasonable trips. Cargo space behind the rear seat is so large you might thing a third row of seats is hidden there, but that's not the case. If that's why you want in a Hyundai, you'll need to step over the midsize Santa Fe Sport up to the full-size Santa Fe, which offers a V6.

Despite being available with all-wheel-drive, crossovers like the Tucson aren't intended for serious off-road use. The ground clearance isn't all that high, and underside skidpads aren't available. Mostly the all-wheel-drive systems help maintain traction on wet paved roads. That said, our test Tucson came with an electronic locking center differential, which should help during moderate snow storms, muddy unpaved streets and not-too-severe trails.

The compact crossover market is very competitive these days, with newer models from some manufacturers, including Mazda and Subaru worth considering. But the Tucson is such a good value that it should be high on your list, especially considering Hyunda's industry-leading 10 year/100,000 mile power train warranty.

Facts and figures

• Model tested: 2014 Tucson Limited AWD.

• Manufacturer: Hyundai.

• Class: Compact crossover.

• Layout: Front engine, front- or all-wheel-drive.

• Style: Five-door SUV.

• Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4 (164 hp, 151 lbs-ft); 2.4-liter inline 4 (182 hp, 177 lbs-ft).

• Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 23/29/25 (2.0/FWD); 21/25/23 (2.0/AWD); 21/28/23 (2.4/FWD); 20/25/22 (2.4/AWD).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $23,000 ($28,700 as tested).