– Spending a week recently driving a 2010 Hyundai Tucson told me a lot about the compact crossover but also raised a big question: Is good enough good enough?

I learned a long time ago that enough is enough, having heard that mantra about a million times while growing up.

“Enough is enough!” my father would shout after hearing my sister and I bicker and argue for 30 minutes over something silly.

“Enough is enough!” my mother would declare after discovering I’d eaten the hunk of cake she’d been planning to serve after dinner.

But after more than 20 years of writing about cars and trucks, I’m still not sure when good enough is good enough to make a vehicle successful. If it is, Hyundai can probably count on gobbling a bigger piece of the compact crossover pie with its all-new-for-2010 Tucson.

The Tucson GLS AWD that I tested has a lot going for it in a class dominated by old favorites such as Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4 and made even more competitive by Chevrolet’s new-and-improved Equinox.

But the Tucson doesn’t particularly distinguish itself in its class. Although it has the goods to satisfy most compact crossover shoppers, it falls short of some competitors in some areas.

The new Tucson, for example, ranks near the bottom of its class in cargo space. It trails the CR-V, Equinox, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester and, according to the manufacturers’ specs, has nearly 50 percent less cargo space behind its second-row seat than the class-leading RAV4.

And the RAV4 has over 17 more cubic feet of cargo space than the Tucson with both vehicles’ rear seats folded.

Yet the Tucson’s cargo space seemed good enough during my weeklong evaluation. The Hyundai swallowed everything I fed it, easily devouring a week’s worth of groceries that included a 55-pound sack of dog food.

The Tucson has nearly 26 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seat, dwarfing even the roomiest midsize sedan’s trunk. And when one or both sides of its standard 60/40 split rear seatback is folded flat, the Tucson can accommodate bulky cargo that would never fit in a conventional sedan without first taking a chainsaw to it (the cargo, not the sedan).

The Tucson, however, doesn’t measure up to competitors such as the RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander if you want to transport more than five passengers. It lacks the third-row seating offered by those competitors.

Yet it is good enough accommodating five to attract compact crossover buyers who don’t need a third row. The Tucson’s second-row legroom rates near the top of its class, and four adults of average size are able to get comfortable even with a child in the center of the second row.

The seats in my GLS test car were comfortable, and there was plenty of head- and shoulder room. Despite a high beltline, the cabin feels roomy and never seems cramped.

But a sharply contoured greenhouse and thick C-pillars cut into the driver’s view out the back. It never troubled me when I was backing into a parking space or garage, but I can see where some drivers might feel differently.

Some might also feel differently than I do about the Tucson’s ride quality. I like its firm suspension, which helps make the Tucson behave more like a car than a truck and contributes to making it more fun to drive on winding back roads than most of its competitors.

Body roll is noticeably absent in the Tucson, which responds quickly and predictably to driver input. It also has one of the best turning circles in its class at under 35 feet. This adds up to an overall feeling of surefooted nimbleness.

But I wonder if the Tucson’s ride comfort will be good enough for some compact crossover buyers. There are definitely cushier choices in this class.

There also are more powerful ones. Hyundai no longer offers a six-cylinder engine, as it did in the previous-generation Tucson and as several competitors do. Its six-cylinder competitors provide noticeably more punch than the Tucson.

But the Tucson’s powertrain certainly seems good enough to satisfy most buyers. Its new 2.4-liter, four-cylinder’s 176 horsepower actually exceeds last year’s 2.7-liter V6 by three horses.

The engine feels smooth, peppy and responsive, launching the Tucson from a standstill to 60 mph in a reasonable 8.6 seconds, according to my stopwatch. In all but the least expensive, two-wheel drive Tucson, the engine is paired with a state-of-the-art six-speed automatic that delivers luxury-car like gear changes and seems a perfect mate for the motor.

Together, the engine and transmission enable the new Tucson to achieve near best-in-class EPA fuel economy ratings. That goes for both the two- and four-wheel drive versions of the vehicle.

With fuel economy playing such a big role these days in the purchasing decisions of car buyers, Tucson’s powertrain looks very appealing. It delivers better mileage than most competitors and enough power to satisfy most potential buyers.

That’s the kind of good-enough performance that typifies Hyundai’s Tucson, which has enough going for it to earn a spot on the shopping list of anyone in the market for a compact crossover.

The question for Hyundai is whether good enough is good enough to turn shoppers into buyers.

 

Scott Wasser is executive editor of MaineToday Media. He writes a weekly auto column for the Sunday Telegram and other newspapers. He can be reached at

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