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Hyundai Tucson Se vs. Sel

1. Overview

On the styling front, the Tucson sports a new cascading grille, a redesigned front bumper, and a new headlight and fog light setup. The result is a sleeker look that falls more in line with other models in Hyundai's lineup. A new 18-inch alloy wheel design is also now available, which sports a darker finish and 235/55R18 tires. A redesigned taillight setup and a few other subtle exterior tweaks complete the looks of the refreshed 2019 Tucson. The SEL trim provides some added features with heated side mirrors, a third 12-volt power outlet, and a power-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar support. The upgraded Value Edition offers LED headlights and taillights, and an innovative hands-free smart liftgate. HTRAC All-Wheel Drive is available in the SEL, Value, and Limited trims.

The newly updated Tucson has undergone another facelift for the 2019 model year, and Hyundai has made significant improvements to safety, technology, and styling. In the crossover SUV segment, it's always important to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology and safety features, and the 2019 Tucson is now up to speed. Numerous advanced driver-assist features are now standard across all trims, including forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, and a driver attention warning system. Other notable improvements include an updated infotainment system employing a larger 7- or 8-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, and a second-row USB charging port. One of our favorite new features is the second-row center armrest, which now comes standard in the SEL and up and provides a little extra comfort to rear passengers. (Nicoletti et al.2021)

1.1. Exterior Features

Rumors have it that there will be two different versions of the Tucson that will be distributed among the countries it's sold in. The European version will be slightly shorter and is supposed to have a more wagon-like look to it. The European version is a bit toned down from the American version which implements a more aggressive look with sportier alloy rims, dual asymmetrical chrome exhaust tips, and a rear spoiler (only available on the Limited package). All-wheel drive is an option available for both models. Configuring the system of the Tucson in AWD mode, the torque will automatically be transferred to the rear wheels when accelerating. This will help to deliver a smoother transition in torque. The European spec also gets a unique 6-speed manual transmission and reduces the ground clearance of the AWD model by 20mm.

This swagger appeal does set it off a little bit seeing how other competitor compact crossovers want to try to get sleeker lines design. In the game of compact SUVs, we have no doubt that the CRV and RAV4 are a full-on home run slugger with tons of power and reliability. But the Tucson looks to bring a bit of a disruptive change to the game in wanting to make efficiency a little bit more sexy.

Rumor has it that Hyundai is about to deliver a major action on the compact crossover inflamed with the release of the new 2010 Hyundai Tucson. The fact that its unique swoopier little SUV has long been a gigantic aim for the Japanese manufacturers even its parent company Kia, at least in terms of exterior design.

1.2. Interior Features

Se and SEL are both equipped with modern interior details. This includes a 6-way adjustable driver seat, including adjustable seat height. Both trims include a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback (SEL's rear seats also come with adjustable reclining back). The biggest advantage for the SEL trim is the heated front seats, which include a 3-level control. (The SEL trim also includes an 8-way power driver seat with power lumbar support). Both trims come with a tilt and telescopic steering wheel for more convenient driving positioning. Both trims also come equipped with steering wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth, and cruise controls. The SE trim only allows for Bluetooth connection and voice recognition, while the SEL trim is set with Bluetooth hands-free phone system and wireless technology. The SEL trim enables the driver to connect wirelessly, which allows for the import of apps such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and also has Siri Eyes Free. Both trims come with dual illuminated vanity mirrors as well. The SEL trim is equipped with certain interior features that are not included in the SE trim. The SEL includes proximity key entry with push-button start (while the SE only uses remote keyless entry). The SEL includes a rear center armrest with cupholders, dual automatic temperature control (including automatic defogging system and clean air ionizer), and an electrochromic inside rearview mirror with a compass feature. The SEL also includes an upgrade to a 3-year complimentary subscription to Hyundai's Blue Link connected car system (this includes 24/7 safety and car care services) with the option to continue using the service.

1.3. Performance

The stiff structure and well-tuned suspension system give the Tucson a firm but composed ride, and handling is predictable and secure. Nicely weighted steering contributes to the Tucson's feeling of stability at higher speeds. Although as smooth as the transmission may be, the engine noise under heavy acceleration is quite noticeable. This experience can be qualified as very average among compact SUVs; a CR-V or a Mazda CX-5 might provide a more engaging experience, and a Rogue or a Forester might provide a smoother and quieter experience. All models come equipped with alloy wheels, and SEL models and above include a drive mode select feature. Unfortunately, an independent rear suspension is not available on any trim, and SEL models and above use a less efficient and less responsive AWD system.

Hyundai is known for its powerful engines and relaxed driving experiences, and the 2020 Tucson fits that exact description. The base engine is a 161-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder that EPA fuel economy estimates at up to 23 mpg city and 28 highway. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. This is a bit underpowered for an SUV, and we would recommend the widely available 181-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder that can be paired with a frugal but sluggish Eco, a more responsive Sport, or a loaded Limited trim.

2. Safety and Technology

In terms of safety, the SE and SEL trims share quite a lot in common. The notable difference between the two is the added Driver Assistance System that is included with the SEL trim. This system includes Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Safe Exit Assist. These features are designed to help the driver avoid potential accidents and will provide better safety for any driver and their passengers. The Safe Exit Assist, in particular, will further help to keep passengers safe when parked by temporarily locking the rear doors when it is determined that it is unsafe to open them and let passengers exit the vehicle. This system aims to make driving a safer experience and could be a big selling point for the SEL trim. The other safety features such as the advanced airbags system, anti-lock braking, and tire pressure monitoring system remain consistent across the trims and do help to make the Tucson a safe vehicle. As for the technology in the vehicle, both trims will provide a 7-inch touchscreen display with the standard AM/FM/MP3 audio system. The only difference here is that the SEL trim has Blue Link Connected Car System installed. The standard system with the SE trim is still very good, but the Blue Link System does add more availability of remote services and an enhanced safety package which includes automatic collision notification and SOS emergency assistance. This can be enabled through an updated version of the Blue Link mobile app or using Google Home, making it easier to keep track of the vehicle and to have peace of mind when driving. This additional system on the SEL trim can be very useful and convenient for the driver in the future and could be another point towards the SEL trim. Both trims also include a 3.5-inch LCD display instrument cluster and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. These tech features help add extra interfaces to the vehicle making it easier to control and see essential information when driving.

2.1. Safety Features

The Hyundai Tucson SE has downhill brake control to help the driver maintain control during steep descents and a brake help system that will provide maximum braking power when an emergency stop is detected (below around 40 km/h), and this is sometimes known as brake force distribution. The automatic headlights are also a safety feature on the base model since the vast majority of accidents happen at night, and an LED headlight provides better visibility of the road. The hill start assist is designed to help prevent rollback when stopping and starting on an incline.

Hyundai Tucson SE and Tucson SEL are proven to be two safe vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's review of the Hyundai Tucson lists it as having a 5-star overall rating, five out of five stars score in the frontal crash test, five out of five stars in the side crash test, and four out of five stars in the rollover test. There are quite a few safety features that are similar and a few safety features that are different. The ones that remain the same are the dual front advanced airbags, the front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and the electronic stability control (ESC). The dual front and side airbags are designed to inflate with the appropriate amount of force depending on the severity of the impact. A rollover sensor is also in the airbag control system to provide additional protection in the case of a rollover. The electronic stability control is designed to provide better directional stability by detecting and reducing traction loss and helps the driver to maintain control during cornering.

2.2. Infotainment System

All these features enhance sound quality and overall driving experience by providing seamless connectivity and a true integration of a customer's smartphone and the infotainment system. This allows for easy usage and access to all smartphone features such as maps, music, most popular apps, and more. The infotainment systems on all SEL's and higher are a huge improvement and a feature that everyone looks to for everyday usage. This makes it possible for all systems to stay updated, provide additional features for convenience, and is an area where we feel we can make a huge improvement on the previous and current models. We hope to provide a strong and beneficial system than can really change the lives and driving experience for our customers. This is an area of huge potential for a strong improvement and we're confident it will be a major success. All customers are convinced this is a necessary next step and an obvious choice for a vehicle in this rapidly advancing modern age.

The 2018 Tucson Sport also has the 8-inch system. As well as the 2018 Value package and higher level 2018 SEL Plus. All models equipped with the 8-inch display come loaded with a vastly improved audio system that utilizes an external amplifier. This system will be improved further with the additional benefit of Clari-Fi, an auto adjust sound system. This feature will adjust the sound system volume and clarity depending on the speed of travel to optimize sound quality at all times. This is a huge improvement overall from the current systems being offered and really worth the additional investment.

The Tucson SE comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen. While the SEL and any vehicle with the Popular Equipment Package receives the 8-inch touchscreen with additional features. The 8-inch system has SiriusXM Radio, HD Radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless smartphone integration. Navigation is also available with the SEL at a lower additional cost than the Value Package. Audio systems are also improved with the SEL since the system is integrated with the external amplifier as opposed to the internal amplifier in the SE. This includes the additional feature of Clari-Fi which is an auto adjust sound system.

2.3. Connectivity Options

Apart from this, a smartphone app service made by Blue Link is available on the Tucson. This is a remote access service that allows the customer to execute and schedule functions for the car from a distance, such as starting the engine to activate the climate control system, locating the car while it is parked in a large location, locking and unlocking doors, and setting the alarm. All these features are provided in both paid and free versions, with some features being available on only one or the other. All versions of the Tucson, including the SE, come with a complimentary five-year trial of Blue Link's Assurance Package, which includes SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, monthly vehicle health report, and maintenance alerts. A separate Remote Package can be a paid service in addition to the free Assurance Package. This too has in and out of car, six apps included where specifics, which are not stated in detail, are expected to be the same as the current apps on the phone and more.

Unfortunately, the Hyundai Tucson does not come equipped with cloud connectivity and remote telematics, which are only available in specific versions of the car. Excluding these, no other services or features are required. Apps such as iOnRoad are complimentary and can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple App Store and easily installed on the customer's existing smartphone, turning their device into a powerful road safety tool. By utilizing the device's native camera, GPS, and sensors, it provides visual and audio collision warnings in real-time, assessing the risk of a collision with the vehicle in front, lane departures, and speeding. It is supported on most smartphones and tablets, which means it can be used in any car, and customers can benefit from having the first 30 days free full premium version, giving access to all features.

3. Comfort and Convenience

Se is built with stain-resistant cloth for its seats; SEL upgrades to YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth. Both YES Essentials and the upgraded cloth are good choices for families with active kids and pets. Any material that can withstand spills and stains is a plus, and the absence of leather is no big loss in the Tucson, which wouldn't be a luxury vehicle no matter what's on the seats. The difference is more pronounced when it comes to space and getting in and out. The SE's cloth is good nonetheless, but the front seats have relatively short bottom cushions. Although the seating position is reasonably high, tall or long-legged drivers might not find enough thigh support. The SEL and all other versions get a power driver's seat. Both front seats have lengthier travel than in the SE and provide a more comfortable seating position, so even short-drivers should feel at ease. Lacking on all Tucsons are any adjustable lumbar supports, whether manual or power. Other marks against the front seat comfort are the absence of memory function and seat ventilation. Memory is becoming common in the class, and ventilated seats are starting to be offered as part of a package even in very mainstream models. The seating position, power seat function, and lack of lumbar or memory function are exactly the same on the Sport and Limited, so the only way to get greater front seat functionality is to opt for a model using a more expensive version of the platform.

3.1. Seating and Cargo Space

This is one area where the SE and the SEL differ. The SE comes with a six-way adjustable seat for the driver and a four-way adjustable seat for the passenger. The rear seat is a 60/40 split that reclines. Steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls are standard in the SE. The SEL has heated front seats and adds an eight-way power adjustable seat for the driver and a second-row USB charger. The SEL can also add the same eight-way power adjustable seat for the passenger. This time the driver has a power lumbar support too. An extra-cost option for the SEL is the panoramic sunroof. Also optional on the SEL is the Ultimate package. This adds several drivers aids and active safety features, and we will cover this option package in the next section. Both the SE and the SEL come with YES Essentials® stain and odor resistant cloth seats. Leather seats are not available on either trim level. Safety Connect is complimentary for the first year on the SEL and includes enhanced roadside assistance, emergency assistance, a stolen vehicle locator service, and automatic collision notification. As per the rear cargo area, the SE and SEL are the same and have a cargo space of 31 cubic feet. This can be increased by lowering the rear seats, which have a combined total of 72 different recline/pitch positions, to open up the cargo area to 61.9 cubic feet (this time the SE has the advantage with 1.1 cubic feet more than the SEL) and both trims come with a cargo-area 12V power outlet.

3.2. Climate Control

SE model comes with single zone manual climate control, air conditioning with air filter, and rear seat heating ducts as standard equipment. The Tucson interior can be kept quite comfortable. The combined heating and cooling controls are simple and straightforward; all other climate controls are easy to reach and intuitive to use. For some drivers accustomed to setting a specific temperature as they drive and then just letting the automatic temperature control function do its thing, the manual HVAC might seem a little outdated. Automatic temperature control is available as part of a package that also includes a power driver seat and premium audio, but only on the GLS. The top-line Limited model comes with automatic temperature control, and the dual-zone variety at that, something still not that common among compact crossovers yet personalized climate settings for driver and front passenger enhance the comfort factor. In addition to the dual-zone automatic temperature control, the Limited model also comes standard with rear vents at the back of the center console to help ensure rear passengers can direct airflow as needed to stay comfortable. Finally, the rear window defroster timer, standard on Limited, is a subtle but appreciated convenience feature.

3.3. Keyless Entry and Start

Keyless entry and start buttons are found in the Hyundai Tucson SE, but not in the Hyundai Tucson SEL. With a keyless entry, the car can be easily accessed by simply pressing a button on the door handle. There is no need to get the key out of your pocket. This feature is convenient if you have your hands full. The keyless entry also includes a two-tone system where pressing the unlock button on the key once will unlock the driver's door only and pressing it twice will unlock all of the doors. This feature can help to increase security for travelers in some remote locations. The two-tone system can also be customized by changing the settings on the dashboard. This level of customizability is something that Hyundai Tucson SE drivers can appreciate. An additional feature that comes with the keyless entry in Hyundai Tucson SE is the way in which it can activate the lights on the vehicle. The lights can be turned on simply by pressing the door handle of the keyless entry transmitter. The lights will remain on for about 15 seconds or to turn them off sooner, the button just needs to be pressed again. This can be helpful when finding the car in a dark or crowded car park. The start button is an alternative key to turning the ignition. It turns the same sequence of operations as the manual ignition with the only difference being there is no need to insert a key. This can be a quicker way to start the car when the driver is in a hurry. The keyless entry and start button features are about convenience and security for the car owner but there is a possible disadvantage to having these features in the Hyundai Tucson SE. When the car is running and the doors are closed, the doors are auto locked. If the keys are left inside a running car, there is a risk of being locked out of the car. This can be frustrating and embarrassing for car owners who have experienced it. An auto locking feature also poses a risk for parents with children. If a parent gets out of the car with the intention of getting back in to get something out of the back seat, the doors may be automatically locked when they close it. This can potentially lock the parent out of the car and lock the child in the car alone. The Hyundai Tucson SE and Hyundai Tucson SEL are both cars for family use and it can be said that the less automated features of the cars better suit the needs of families.

3.4. Power Adjustable Seats

Power adjustable front seats and a power height-adjustable driver's seat are standard on the SEL Plus and Limited. The power driver seat with power lumbar support is standard on the Sport and Value editions. On the other hand, the base SE has a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat and a 4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat. The front seating position of the Tucson is quite high, providing a commanding view of the road ahead. Large, tall adults should find the front seats comfortable and sufficiently roomy. The seats themselves are a bit lacking in lateral support but are effective long-distance chairs. Sliding and reclining rear seats are standard only on the Limited. Step-in height is slightly lower than normal, and doors open fairly wide, making entry and exit easy. Drawbacks are few. The thickish rear roof pillars and smallish rear window can make it difficult to see when backing up or changing lanes while driving. The rear head restraints also slightly impede rear visibility. Cargo space is quite respectable. Tucson has 60/40 split folding rear seats, with nearly flat folding, and the rear seatbacks are easily released by remote handles in the cargo area. The two-level cargo floor, a Hyundai innovation, is also very useful. Items can be hidden from view beneath the cargo floor or placed atop it, depending on how much space is needed for taller items.

4. Pricing and Options

Available packages and upgrades for both of these vehicles are available variously. All you need is to determine how much budget you want to spend on this. Do you want to get more features in safety and technology without adding a lot to the price, or do you want to make a dream car with maximum features by spending more money? It depends on your decision. Because too many features are still not good if you are still confused to use them. Take the simple way if you do not really need some features. And vice versa, if you need some specific features, you can add them to your vehicle by choosing an available package. It will make you more comfortable in driving and get a better experience with it.

Base price for Hyundai Tucson SE is $25,900 and the SEL is $27,400. Of course, the price for the car can be different in every area and different dealer. The price is expensive for most people. But if we compare it with other vehicles, it is not too expensive. You can still find another vehicle with the same type and specification but cheaper than this. But as long as we know, good quality always comes with an expensive price. So if you want to get a better experience in driving and comfort with the complete features, the price still makes sense for you. And you can still negotiate with the dealer to give a specific offer that is more reasonable for you. The money that you spend to get a high-class experience with this vehicle is really worth it for you.

4.1. Base Price

Now how budget friendly these two vehicles can be? Since SEL costs about $950 more than SE model, the consumers who are looking to get a base model with AWD might want to think about going for the SEL with AWD added in at its base price of $25,100. This is only a little more when compared to SE AWD price which is $25,150. A fully loaded Tucson SEL with HTRAC AWD and Ultimate package can go as high as $35,000. This is just a $3000 difference when compared to fully loaded SE with AWD which is about $32,000. Given that consumer would be getting more for his money with a SEL fully loaded package than SE. So depending on the set of features a consumer is looking for, the SEL can be more budget friendly in the long term.

Coming to the price range of 2019 Hyundai Tucson, SE has a base price of around $23,750. The base price of 2019 Hyundai Tucson SEL is around $24,700. This means that the starting price of Tucson is about $1000 more when compared to these two configurations. SE comes with a limited set of options with all-wheel drive being one of the few. AWD can increase the price of the SE with its Base AWD model starting at $25,150. On the other hand, SEL has an extensive list of options and packages which all have a noted price increase than its base price.

4.2. Available Packages and Upgrades

These values may pique interest to some consumers but may be a disappointment to others. These package values force a higher-end spending for both models and raise questions as to why some features should not or could not be included in the base model. This then could taint the value of the model in comparison to its competitors. An example would question the choice of placing the LED running lights in the SE Popular Equipment Package instead of including them as a standard feature. These pricing factors could have the potential to push buyers towards other brand, competitor models. A distinguished factor is the amount of added value for each model. Although the SE may have a higher spending point, it still does not match up to the somewhat poor frequency package value. Consumers can rest assured that if they are to purchase the base model, the lifetime value is still significantly high.

The SE-L offers a similar approach for package options but at a far greater value. All features included in the SE Popular Equipment Package are already equipped in the SE-L, raising the value of the superior model in comparison. It then offers the addition of the same two package choices as the SE, the Popular Equipment Package, and the Tech Package. This offers the same features as the SE Tech Package but priced at $1200 less than the SE's. A completely unique package for the SE-L is the Ultimate Package which includes all aforementioned features and adds a multi-feature side mirror with turn signal indicators, a larger touch screen, voice recognition, and an upgraded speaker system. In addition, an Automatic Emergency Braking system with pedestrian detection and a lane departure warning system are also included. This package is offered at a mere $2400 which is significantly cheaper in comparison to the already offered features. An additional option offered exclusively to the SE-L is the Panoramic Sunroof and an option only available to consumers with the Popular Equipment or Value Package, the B-tech package which offers an exclusive interior elegant brown finish.

To accompany the many trim differences mentioned in the section above, the SE and SE-L offer a number of optional packages as well. The SE offers a Popular Equipment Package which includes a multitude of features such as a power driver's seat, LED running lights, a touch screen display audio system, and auto open driver side windows. These additions are great selling points for the SE as they mimic many features of the superior model. Additional packages include the Premium Package and the Tech Package, each offering features at a high price point but not nearly as many available features as the previous. The highest possible point of spending for the SE would be $31,375. This is including the MSRP of $26,195 and adding the Premium and Tech package along with carpeted floor mats. This spending value comes very close to the starting price of the SE-L and is something to consider when purchasing a Tucson. An additional point to mention would be the two solitary features offered to SE buyers being the Panoramic Sunroof and the newly available for 2018, Value Package. Both are features which intrigue buyers but force spending into the 30k price point.


Nicoletti, L., Romano, A., König, A., Köhler, P., Heinrich, M., & Lienkamp, M. (2021). An estimation of the lightweight potential of battery electric vehicles. Energies, 14(15), 4655. mdpi.com