has a cutesy-snubbed nose. Light plays appealingly along
subtle crease lines that run from fore to aft along its
side. A sporty roof rack and fold-flat passenger seating
promises it won't be tethered to boring suburban streets,
but will yearn to travel along coastal highways, through
mountain passes, along dirt roads to a secluded lakeside
is Tucson, the new, small-front-drive SUV from Korean-based
auto maker Hyundai's California headquartered subsidiary,
with a distinctively American character. Its name, for one
of the Southwest's fabled cities, suggests it knows exactly
what it is after -- an impressive number of compact sport
utility buyers wanting that "yee haw" factor.
on sale in February as a 2005 model, comes in three trim
levels. It is powered by transverse mounted, 2.0-liter I-4
or 2.6-liter, all-aluminum I-6 engines, with plenty of stability
and safety technology. Transmissions are a five-speed manual
or four-speed automatic with Shiftronic manual mode for
that sense of rodeo adventure. An on-demand four-wheel-drive
system is one of the few options.
Hyundai confirms pricing (in a matter of hours from press
time, we expect), one should be able to drive away in a
stick-shift base model for around $18,000. Will it take
imaginary six guns blazing to corral a loyal following?
Probably not. With its larger brother, the Santa Fe, Hyundai
already proved that attractive styling, lots of standard
equipment, bargain prices and a lengthy warranty were more
than enough to do the job.