The 2016 Hyundai Tucson comes fully redesigned as a compact SUV that is bigger in most ways than the model it replaces, but still slightly smaller than top selling class rivals. It is available in four trim levels (that is SE, Eco, Sport and Limited), each of which has plenty of features for their respective price tags. The regular SE starts at $22,525 while the Limited starts at $30,975. These are offered in four-cylinder engines, but the powerful and efficient turbocharged engine that is standard on the upper three trims is your best shot.
The 2016 Tucson comes inches longer, 1.1-inch wider and has a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase compared to its past editions, which was one of the smallest brands in the compact SUV category. The added width and wheelbase is especially noteworthy, as it brings those dimensions on the same level with competitors like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The result thus is a more passenger friendly cabin, especially for those in back cabin. The 60/40-split rear seat is mounted high, giving ample thigh support, and there is plenty of legroom even with a 6-footer up front. An additional 11 degrees of seatback recline is a new feature too.
Even with its larger overall size however, the Tucson still falls a bit short in terms of cargo space. Its 31 cubic feet of space with the rear seats raised and 61.9 cubic feet with them lowered is considerably more than its predecessors, but on paper, the cargo area remains among the smallest in the category. However compared to the likes of the Ford Escape or Jeep Cherokee, the Tucson’s cargo area is wider and easier to load, with the added bonus of a floor that can be lowered an additional 2 inches for some extra space.
Engine Performance and power train
The entry-level 2016 Hyundai Tucson SE trim lands with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder that was in the outgoing base model. It’s placed at 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive still come standard, with all-wheel drive being optional. Its EPA rating is up one notch to 26 mpg combined 23 city/31 highway with front-wheel drive. Opting for all-wheel drive forces the number down to 23 mpg combined.
Also new to the Tucson is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine, along with its standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (DCT), makes moving up to the higher trim levels a tempting option. With 175 hp and, more importantly, 195 lb-ft of torque, it moves to highway speeds with more confidence than the base engine.
In a given test, a front-wheel-drive Tucson Limited accelerated 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is fast for cars in this class. In terms of flooring acceleration, the Tucson may have beaten its rivals, but in everyday driving conditions it comes up a bit short in the class. There’s a noticeable delay between applying pedal pressure and forward motion. Gear changes also produce inelegant lurches on occasion. Halting from 60 mph needed 120 feet, which is a few feet shorter than competitors.
Notwithstanding the increased power, the 1.6-liter is the more efficient of the two available engines. However the efficiency depends on trim level, though. Not surprisingly, the Eco trim is the most economical choice, as smaller wheels and low-rolling-resistance tires help yield an impressive 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 27 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. These numbers make the Tucson Eco roughly at par with rivals in the segment best Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 2.5 and Subaru Forester 2.5i.
Choosing either Sport or Limited trim lowers fuel economy to 27 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 26 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. This still tops the Ford Escape and its turbocharged engines, and is certainly well within the definition of “economical” for an SUV, especially because of this powertrain’s level of performance.
Hyundai has recorded extensive improvements to the Tucson’s steering and suspension. The suspension is inclusive of more robust suspension components, upgraded dampers and new hydraulic-type bump stops. Plus, when it’s equipped with all-wheel drive, an Active Cornering Control system not only sends power rearward while turning, but also applies the inside rear brakes to reduce the vehicle’s tendency to push wide through turns.
It definitely doesn’t possess the driver-engaging verve of a Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5, but short of those standouts, the Tucson’s ride and handling are in keeping with expectations for the segment.
One distinction of note is the standard Drive Mode Select system that alters steering effort, transmission shift programming and throttle response according to one of three settings: Normal, Eco and Sport. This feature is increasingly typical on luxury cars, but the Tucson is the only vehicle in the compact SUV segment to offer it.
Even with the big 19-inch wheels found on the Sport and Limited trims, the Tucson didn’t seem to possess the sort of impact harshness the outgoing model had on rough pavement. There is a level of refinement present that wasn’t there before, which further contributes to the new model being a more complete, competitive offering in the segment.
Unlike the exterior that is both more stylish and grown-up than its predecessor, the interior design is just more grown-up — as in a khaki pants, business casual sort of way. The materials are just average, with prominent stretches of hard, scratchy plastic spread throughout the cabin that make the Tucson’s cabin feel midpack at best.
There are padded and stitched leather surfaces covering the instrument panel and driver-side center console, as well as squishy door trim, but these elements are only offered on the top-of-the-line Limited trim. Even then, they don’t look all that impressive. A more appreciated materials choice is the stain-resistant fabric used in models with a beige interior.
It is hard to fault the Tucson’s cabin from a functionality standpoint, however. There is an abundance of storage up front and the center armrest bin and smartphone holder are usefully large. Hyundai also continues to design and place its controls very well. We tested both a loaded Limited trim and a modestly equipped Eco, both of which had climate and audio controls that are easily reached.
The 5-inch touchscreen audio interface found on the SE, Eco and Sport isn’t especially attractive or high-tech in appearance, but the layout is refreshingly simple, with easily pressed virtual buttons sharing space with song data from the radio or media player. The Limited’s 8-inch touchscreen greatly expands functionality, but we experienced some slow reactions and the added features tend to complicate some menus. Whether you’re tech-averse or an early adopter, the Tucson’s electronics interface should meet with your approval.
Thick roof pillars and a small rear window reduce rear visibility, but thankfully a rearview camera is standard on all trims. The addition of rear cross-traffic alerts and parking sensors on higher-trimmed Tucson models further remove the guesswork out of backing into a tight spot.
In total, you get more equipment for your money in this new Tucson than before. With its base price of $22,525, the 2016 Tucson SE comes standard with alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, Drive Mode Select and the 5-inch touchscreen interface and satellite radio. These items are frequently optional among similarly priced competitors. Typical features like a rearview camera, height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity and iPod/USB/auxiliary audio inputs are also standard.
Besides its more powerful and efficient engine, stepping up to the Eco ($25,045) mainly adds some exterior aesthetic improvements. The Sport trim ($27,045) adds 19-inch wheels, a hands-free and height-adjustable power liftgate, push-button start, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic warning systems, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Finally, the Tucson Limited is the top of the line, boasting several features not available on even the priciest of its competitors. These include standard LED headlights, a power-adjustable passenger seat and Blue Link emergency telematics, as well as options like an enormous panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats (all included in the Ultimate package). Leather upholstery, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded interior materials and the bigger touchscreen are also standard on the Limited.
Available Safety Technology
The Tucson earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The “+” is the result of the Automatic Emergency Braking system optional on the Tucson Limited. Although that technology is available on many competitors, only the Honda CR-V can match the Tucson’s pedestrian detection technology.
Standard safety features include the usual assortment of airbags and stability control, plus a rearview camera and a driver-side blind-spot mirror. Standard on the Sport and Limited are a blind-spot warning system, a lane-change assist function that essentially extends the blind-spot warning system, and a rear-cross-traffic alert system that comes in handy when backing out of parking spots. A lane-departure warning system is available on the Limited, but we found it overly sensitive to pavement seams.
Also standard on the Limited is Hyundai Blue Link 2.0. Like other emergency telematics systems, it gives automatic crash notification; an SOS emergency assistance button, upgraded road side assistance, stolen vehicle tracking system and remote door lock/unlock. However the optional Remote package upgrade also allows you to use a smartphone (or smart watch) to start the car remotely, adjust the climate control, lock or unlock the doors, honk the horn and flash the lights. It also notifies you if the alarm goes off.
Why Consider This Car?
You are looking to step up from a compact or midsize sedan into a small SUV, but don’t need (or want) something clearly intended for moms and dads. Or maybe you place superior value at the top of your list of priorities. Either way, the Tucson delivers a compelling package.
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