We spend a week in the slick compact crossover from Hyundai that's all new for 2016.
Interior fit and finish
Ride, performance and handling
DCT low speed issues
2016 Hyundai Tucson
The 2016 model year marks the emergence of the third-generation Hyundai Tucson – a vehicle that during the last two years has labored in the shadow of its two larger siblings, the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe. But after a bit of seat time in Hyundai's latest compact CUV we believe all that is about to change.
Not a single body panel has been carried over from 2015. Up front, the previously awkward-looking split grille has been replaced by a bolder single piece unit containing three wide horizontal chrome strips. Meanwhile, a more prominent lower air intake is both wider and taller. Finally, both the headlights and fog light enclosures are narrower and look a bit sinister, actually (on the Limited trim both house standard LED lights).
Along the sides, there's a new and sharper upper character line, while the lower side crease no longer kicks up toward the back and is more horizontal, giving the vehicle more presence.
In back, the Tucson sports a much cleaner look that is highlighted by a prominent upper spoiler, narrower LED taillights and a more aggressive lower valance that, on Limited models, features twin exhaust outlets.
Stepping into the stunning interior, you immediately realize just how far Hyundai has come in the past eleven years. Everything fits together with the precision typically found in luxury brands. All surfaces are soft touch, while the design of the dashboard seems to be the perfect compromise - falling somewhere between the over-the-top swoopiness found on the previous-generation Sonata and the too-conservative rendition exemplified in the current one.
Both the driver and front passenger have plenty of leg, hip and headroom and the soft, leather-covered seats (the fronts being both heated and cooled in our tester, thank you very much) are very supportive with just the right amount of side bolstering. The instrumentation, as well as the various knobs and buttons are easy to read, backlit at night and within easy reach of the driver. Driver visibility is good out the front and sides, but that swoopy exterior styling compromises visibility out the rear three-quarters and is also hindered by the large C-pillar.
The center stack on our Limited tester featured a standard 8-inch touch-screen display with navigation and rear view camera. Infotainment features included Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system, premium audio with subwoofer and SiriusXM satellite radio as well as Bluetooth connectivity for phone as well as music streaming.
There is more than enough room in the back seat for two adults – although three might be a squeeze on longer trips. The wide rear doors allow for easy ingress and egress, although cargo volume behind the second row, at just 31.0 cubic feet, is a little on the low side for the segment.
Even the base 2016 Tucson SE comes with a long list of standard equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, projector headlights (automatic) with LED accents, power heated outside mirrors, rear spoiler and window wiper, keyless entry, power locks, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted cruise, radio and Bluetooth phone controls, rear privacy glass, stain-resistant fabric seats and steering wheel-mounted audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls.
Safety equipment includes a full complement of 6 airbags, ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management and downhill brake/hill-start assist control.
Limited models come with all that plus 19-inch alloys, LED taillights, blind spot detection, Smart Power Liftgate with auto-open, leather-wrapped steering wheel and seats (8-way power driver with power lumbar), premium interior trim, power windows, dual automatic climate control, proximity key with push-button start and an electrochromatic inside rearview mirror.
Our tester also came with the Ultimate Package which includes a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights (LED headlights are standard on the Limited), lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear parking sensors, interior front and rear LED map lights, 4.2-inch color electroluminescent instrument cluster, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.
Under the hood
The base SE trim comes equipped with a 2.0-liter normally aspirated, direct injection inline-4 that generates 164 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. It's matched to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
All other models, including the Limited, come equipped with 1.6-liter aluminum inline-4 equipped with a small twin-scroll turbocharger (for quick spool-up) that delivers a decent 175 horsepower and a more than expected 195 lb.-ft. of torque that comes on as early as 1,500 and remains flat through 4,500 rpm. It's mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
The EPA estimates fuel economy for the AWD Limited at 24/28/26 city/highway/combined mpg, while our own observed fuel economy was 27.5 miles per gallon in primarily city driving.
On the road
On the road, it's noticeably sportier than the outgoing model, although the ride is tuned more towards comfort than ultimate handling. Having said that, the Tucson's suspension does an excellent job, soaking up all manner of road imperfections both minor and major, including pavement strips and even the occasional pothole. Both in around town and freeway driving, it is, in our opinion, the smoothest riding CUV in the segment.
On the freeway, it cruises smoothly with very little in the way of wind, road or engine noise makes its way into the cabin. The turbo four produces plenty of torque making merging and passing effortless.
Although there wasn't a lot of initial bite to the pads, the brakes felt solid, they were easy to modulate and feedback to the driver through the brake pedal was very good. The steering also had a nice weight to it with a decent amount of on-center feel, although feedback to the driver is not as good as that of Mazda's CX-5.
One minor issue we experienced had to do with the dual clutch transmission. Under most circumstances, it performed flawlessly. But in some low speed situations we detected a bit of hesitation in engagement.
2016 Hyundai Tucson prices
2016 Tucson prices, including destination, begin at $23,595 for a base SE front-wheel-drive model and can top out at over $35,000 for an AWD Limited model equipped with the $2,750 Ultimate Package (HID headlights, land departure warning, automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof, electroluminescent cluster, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats). Our AWD Limited tester had a base price of $31,300. Options included $2,750 for the Ultimate Package and $125 for floor mats. Those items, plus $895 for inland freight and handling, brought its as-tested MSRP to $35,070.
The Bottom Line
The 2016 Tucson Limited brings a lot to the table. Not only does it look better both inside and out, it also possesses excellent handling characteristics. In addition, the ride is much quieter than many small crossovers and the little turbo four certainly packs a lot of punch, especially on the low-end.
At the same time, its swoopy styling limits rear visibility, steering feedback could be better and the dual clutch transmission could use some tweaking.
But the fact remains that the new Tucson is now one of our top recommendations in the compact CUV segment. This latest from the Hyundai brand now offers not just a lot of bang for the buck, it goes even further and no longer has to make excuses to anyone – it's that good.