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2014 Hyundai Tucson: An honest small crossover gets a makeover

Monday - 8/11/2014, 6:39am  ET

The 2014 Tucson SE is a $26,000 crossover. There's even a 'Walking Dead' version. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
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WASHINGTON -- Lately, most small crossovers have been anything but small -- many of them are really midsize crossovers in the small crossover market. But Hyundai has a vehicle that legitimately qualifies in the class, and it seems to have a crossover for just about everyone.

I've driven the Santa Fe, a midsize SUV with room for seven, and the slightly smaller Santa Fe Sport with room for five. Now we look at the smallest crossover Hyundai makes, the updated Tucson.

It was refreshing to drive the 2014 Tucson SE. The $26,000 vehicle is the middle trim level, and you get a decent amount of equipment for the price. It includes comfortable heated front seats, a power adjustable driver seat, reclining rear seat backs and a fair amount of room for most people.

The rest of the interior has some style, with a trendy dash that has some cool shapes and a small 4.3-inch touch-screen display, but the standard rear view camera is a nice touch. If you're looking for leather and navigation, you will have to spend a few thousand more for top-of-the-line limited trim level. The interior looks and feels nice for the price on the SE.

To give the Tucson a more fun persona or perhaps to help in marketing the Tucson name, there is also a 2014 Tucson "Walking Dead" special edition. It includes grabbing hand graphics, special badging outside, walking dead stickers, custom cargo mat and The Walking Dead Survival Kit.

The outside of the Tucson got a facelift. There are some welcome curves on the small crossover, and the side windows start to follow the body lines toward the rear of the vehicle. It's a nice-looking design and gives it a slightly larger look. The standard 17-inch wheels are stylish and the Limited trim level comes with larger 18's. I think my tester looked very striking with the garnet red paint. The color really works with darker gray wheels.

Driving the Tucson was a bit of a pleasant surprise. The 2.4L four-cylinder engine was rather peppy and moved the Hyundai nicely with its 180hp but it gets loud and buzzy when really pushed.

The only transmission for any Tucson is a six-speed automatic. This does a nice job keeping the Hyundai moving and offers smoother shifts when taking it easy. The smaller foot print of the Tucson means less weight and that also helps out on the handling prowess of this sporty crossover. It's really a nimble crossover.

Some people will think it's a bit firm in the ride and handling, but I liked it and found it a little bit German compared to the usual float you get from most crossovers. The Tucson is a very city-sized crossover and it felt at home knocking out miles on the highway as well.

One reason to choose a small crossover is fuel economy, and I managed 23.2 mpg on regular gas over 217 miles of both city and highway driving. The Tucson AWD is rated 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. You can save some money and see 28 mpg on the highway if you choose a front-wheel drive Tucson.

If you've been looking for an honest small crossover that's stylish and comes nicely equipped for city driving or even escaping "the undead," the 2014 Hyundai Tucson deserves a look. I wouldn't hesitate to say that with its easy drive, affordability, plus a 10-year power train warranty and a new car warranty good for five years or 60,000 miles, that we will see more value packed Hyundai's on the road.

Editor's note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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