Imagine riding off the lot with your brand-new car. You’re a couple of miles from the dealership, perhaps grabbing a quick bite. And when you hop back in your car and start it, it begins to smoke. You turn the car off, and it bursts into flames.
That wasn’t a hypothetical situation for one unlucky Hyundai Tucson owner from Georgia, who escaped unharmed. This story illustrates broader engine problems with the 2019 Tucson — problems that eventually led to a recall.
The 2019 Hyundai Tucson on paper
The Hyundai brand is practically synonymous with reliability. And on paper, the 2019 Tucson is a dependable car. The base-model SE comes with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine that produces 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque — respectable numbers for a compact crossover SUV. But the SE isn’t particularly fuel-efficient, EPA-rated at 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Nor does it provide much cabin or cargo space compared with rivals like the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4.
With an MSRP of $23,350, the Hyundai Tucson SE also comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, rearview camera, and 17-inch wheels. The Value trim might give you the best bang for your buck, especially if you’re looking at a Hyundai Tucson for everyday use. Starting at $24,650, this trim comes with push-button start, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and HD Radio. Also included are advanced safety features like blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Higher trims SEL, Sport, Limited, and Ultimate come with an upgraded 2.4-liter inline-four engine, 18-inch wheels on the SEL and Sport, and 19-inch wheels on the Limited and Ultimate. The top-of-the-line Ultimate, starting at $31,550 with front-wheel drive and $32,950 with all-wheel drive, boasts numerous luxury touches. It treats you to an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, built-in navigation, a 4.2-inch LCD gauge cluster, a panoramic sunroof, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and more.
The 2019 Hyundai Tucson’s safety ratings and concerns
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2019 Hyundai the Tucson a perfect 5-star safety rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick+. Despite these coveted safety awards, owners flocked to these and other sites to lodge complaints about the Tucson’s engine problems.
The aforementioned model that caught fire had logged only 390 miles. Several other owner complaints on the NHTSA’s website involve the car suddenly dying, putting drivers in dangerous situations. Take, for instance, this harrowing account from an owner in Centennial, Colorado: “Driving hwy speeds 65mph, car lost all acceleration and almost killed by truck while changing lanes. Pulled to side of road. Car then died, locked, and can not be opened with physical key, key fob nor bluelink remote. Car is brand new July purchase 1800 miles. Bluelink shows 0 problems under diagnostics.”
Two other complaints — from owners whose Tucson SUVs had logged only 4,000 and 6,736 miles, respectively — detailed a sudden power loss while on an interstate. Both drivers did not get into accidents. But these frightening experiences are only the tip of the iceberg. Widespread engine problems prompted a safety recall of the 2019 Tucson and other model years too.
The Tucson’s recall
In September 2020, Hyundai issued a recall for 2019, 2020, and 2021 Tucson models. Less than four months later, it issued a recall for 2016, 2017, and 2018 models. The company realized the automatic braking system could corrode and start an electrical fire. That appears to be what happened to the unfortunate driver from Georgia.
All told, the recall covered more than 650,000 vehicles. As part of the recall, owners have been asked to take their Tucsons to dealerships to have the hydraulic electronic unit in the antilock braking system replaced (free of charge) to prevent this from happening.
However, for drivers facing engine failure, this recall doesn’t cover that issue. But Hyundai would be wise to ensure no manufacturer’s defect adversely affects the 2019 Hyundai Tucson. According to ABC News, Hyundai and Kia were recently fined over $100 million for delaying a recall of more than a million vehicles with defects resulting in engine failure. Hyundai vehicles recalled included specific models from 2012 through 2016 but none after that year.
Still, even if there’s a possibility of engine problems at low mileage, at least Tucson owners no longer have to worry about their engines catching fire.