The Hyundai Tucson is all-new and slightly larger for 2016, with restyled sheetmetal, increased fuel mileage, sharper handling, and more interior space.
A compact crossover SUV, the Tucson is one of Hyundai’s most popular vehicles, competing with the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Chevrolet Trax.
Tucson comes standard with a direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic. Three driving modes (Eco, Regular, Sport) are standard.
Optional is a turbocharged direct-injection 1.6-liter that makes 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet, using a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
In Sport mode, we found the 2.0-liter engine to be peppier than the turbocharged 1.6-liter.
The Tucson is front-wheel drive, with four-wheel drive optional. The system is locked into place by the driver, and moves the power between the front and rear wheels as needed for traction. It includes torque vectoring, which improves cornering by braking the inside rear wheel and driving the outside rear wheel, giving the car a slight rotation.
The 2.0-liter engine is rated at 23/31 mpg City/Highway, and 26 mpg Combined, with front-wheel drive. The 1.6-liter turbo is rated 25/30/27 mpg in the models with 19-inch wheels and more equipment and thus more weight. In the Eco model with 17-inch wheels, the 1.6-liter gets 26/33/29 mpg.
With more high-strength steel in this redesign, the safety ratings are expected to be better than the last Tucson. Six airbags and a rearview camera are standard.
The new sculpted styling of the Tucson gives it an upscale presence that makes the old model look line an economy car. It’s a dynamic design, with a short greenhouse, and the 19-inch wheels on the Sport and Limited models make the car look restless, while giving it a sense of motion.
In the front, the hexagonal grille says Hyundai, with sharply geometric headlamps that are striking. The rear is recognizably Hyundai too, with muscular horizontal lines in the fascia.
The new Tucson looks like it should be expensive.
The Tucson dashboard and console have an elegant simplicity, and offer an excellent view of the road. The layout of the controls is superb. The analog gauges are free of fancy and hard-to-read graphics. The center stack combines buttons for main functions and an eight-inch touchscreen for other things, although the base SE model only gets a five-inch touchscreen.
On the Limited model, the interior materials are pleasing, with much soft-touch trim, and where there is hard plastic it’s not offensive. But the SE is full of hard plastic. SE seats are fabric, while the Limited’s thickly bolstered leather seats are plush.
The cabin is serenely quiet, and roomy with four adults, but there isn’t as much cargo space as in some other compact crossovers, for example the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape. The split 60/40 rear seats create 62 cubic feet of cargo space when they’re folded, and 30 cubic feet then they’re up. To accommodate taller items, the cargo floor can be lowered with a lever by two inches. The liftgate on the Sport and Limited opens with the key fob.
We got a few hundred miles of seat time in a Limited with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, and the power is adequate in most situations, but the response is sluggish under hard acceleration. Surprisingly, the three different driving modes don’t have much effect on performance. In any mode, the shifts by the 7-speed dual clutch transmission shifts are almost imperceptible.
We didn’t get much seat time in the SE model with the 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic, mostly in the city, but we got enough to say that it actually feels quicker and less hesitant from a standing start, when it is in sport mode.
The Tucson independent suspension uses MacPherson struts in front and multi-links in the rear. The ride is generally refined, although when pavement joints hit those available 19-inch wheels, they can jar the driver’s butt. The handling isn’t as sporty as the car’s looks suggest, but it is predictable, safe, and competent. The steering is similarly pragmatic; it communicates well but doesn’t encourage spirited driving. These driving dynamics are probably right on target for Tucson buyers.
The Tucson is redesigned for 2016, in an attempt to stay competitive in the popular compact crossover field. Its styling is fresh and its instrumentation clean, but its acceleration is off and its cargo space a bit tight.
Driving impressions by Christian Gulliksen. Sam Moses contributed to this report.