2016 Hyundai Tucson Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
Two years ago, I needed to replace the wife’s aging Hyundai Santa Fe. Since the new Santa Fe models had grown considerably in size, and she still wanted a small SUV, I went to the dealer to buy the Tucson. We were a Hyundai family, as both daughters and a son-in-law owned Hyundai various models, and everyone was happy with their vehicles. But I found the generation II Tucson was the first Hyundai I had ever been disappointed in. So disappointed, we wound up with a Nissan Rogue, which we’ve been happy with.
Now the new third generation Tucson has arrived for 2016, and this one is quite an improvement over the previous model. It’s 3” longer and 1.5” wider, and the extra room is welcomed, but the biggest difference between old and new model is refinement in ride quality and cabin noise. The previous model had a choppy and buckboard-like ride quality over many road conditions, and the noise from the engine while under mild acceleration was too much, and other ambient outside road noise was too noticeable. Not so with the 2016 version.
The 1.6-liter, turbocharged engine feels peppy and provides plenty of power, with 175 hp and 195 ft.-lbs. of torque. Hyundai is seldom at the top of its class in gas mileage, but this motor is rated at 25 mpg City and 30 Highway. I actually experienced 33 mpg on the highway, traveling at 60 to 65 miles per hour, so I was delighted. Some of the excellent gas mileage numbers can be attributed to the new 7-speed dual clutch transmission, with manual shifting with the gear shift lever, but no paddle shifters. The 7-speed is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that it changes gears very smoothly, but the bad news is that it’s programmed to short shift into a higher gear as quickly as possible to increase gas mileage. That means it harms drivability somewhat.
If you accelerate away from a stop, the Tucson will accelerate smartly and keep pulling all the way up to 60 mph or more. But when you’re in traffic and accelerate to 35 or 40 miles per hour and then level off, the tranny will put the car into 5th gear to lower the revs for better mileage. Trouble is when you want to pull out to pass, or dart into an opening in traffic, you’ll have to count to 2 before the transmission will kick down 2 gears, and get past the slight turbo lag, before you’ll get much punch from the engine.
Fortunately, there is a push button Drive Mode switch, for Eco, Normal and Sport. The switch changes throttle and transmission mapping as well as electronic steering feel. I spent most of my time in the Sport mode around town, and it makes the Tucson much more enjoyable to drive.
The new Tucson also has a comfortable ride quality due to a longer wheelbase and more attention to suspension settings and set-up. It’s a tallish vehicle, and it looks like is should feel top heavy, but it’s built off a modified Sonata chassis, so leaning into turns and off- ramps, feels more sedan-like. It has good brakes, and the power steering feels responsive. The steering is very light in parking lots, but on the road the variable assist does its job, and stiffens up the feel nicely, especially in the Sport mode.
As we stated before, the cabin is a very quiet and a comfortable place to spend long hours in. Our test vehicle was finished in beige and black interior, and it looked great. Yes, there is some inexpensive plastic on the door panels, and the door sills are covered in stiff materials as are the sun visors. But the center console, and door armrests are better upholstered. You can tell the Tucson is built for a budget, but the money saved on the less important interior materials are put into other areas and features not standard on other vehicles, so it’s a worthwhile trade-off. The leather seats feel great, are nicely bolstered, and are both heated and cooled.
The two tone dash is very well laid out, and the driver gets 2 large dials with big info screen between. The thick leather wrapped steering wheel has controls to toggle between info screens, radio, cruise control, and phone controls. The voice recognition has a limited range of commands, and I’d rate it as fair. It’s not easy to speak addresses into the Nav system, but most systems are that way. It’s fine for basic commands for radio, phone, etc. But the large 8” touch screen is easy to operate, and the buttons for radio, and HVAC controls are all easy to use and are not distracting. A large storage bin at base of center stack has two 12-volt outlets, a USB port, an Aux input, and room for 2 phones.
The larger dimensions means more leg room for rear seat passengers, who also can recline their 60/40 split seatbacks. Headroom is also good, despite the huge panoramic moon roof, and that roof bathes the cabin in light, making it seem larger than it is. The cargo space is a generous 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 61.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded flat. And to get into that cargo area, just have the key fob on your person, and it opens when you approach the liftgate.
Styling is contemporary Hyundai, with an aggressive face with sharp creases and a bold hexagonal-shaped grille. That grill is large enough to provide a visual presence, but not grotesquely large as the Lexus “spindle grills” are which ruin the front ends of so many of their SUV’s and cars. The rest of the Tucson’s design follows Hyundai’s fluidic 2.0 design scheme, where the bodywork creases are sharp but understated. The side windows are a bit smaller, the wheel wells are filled with 19 rubber, and the stance is forward leaning as a cat ready to pounce. It works.
A couple of things I didn’t like? The car took an unusually long time to warm up and get heat from the vents. The seats warmed quickly, but when the Chicago temperature gets into the single digits, you want heat blowing as soon as possible.
Also, the electric front seats don’t move back as much as they should. It didn’t affect me because I’m short, but I can see that it may cramp folks who are 6 feet and taller.
It is unusual for press cars not to be loaded up with option packages, but this vehicle only had carpeted floor mats and a cargo cover, totaling a measly $315. So for the very reasonable MSRP of $29,900 you get the following list of standard equipment:
Downhill brake control and Hill Assist, 19” wheels, Premium Side and Door sills, Heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, hands-free liftgate, roof rails, LED headlights w/ auto control, LED tail lights, LED DRL’s, Fog lights, Rear Spoiler with LED brake lights, Chrome accent grill, door handles and exhaust tips, Proximity Key with push button start and Blue Link Telematics, Leather heated/cooled power front seats, Dual Auto Temp, tilt and telescope wheel, Bluetooth Phone, 8” touchscreen Nav system with back up camera, and rear cross traffic alert, premium Audio system, Auto Dimming rear view mirror with Home Link and compass, Blind spot detection system, Lane Change assist, Illuminated front door handles, and even more. The bottom line on the window sticker came to $31,110.
Now that’s a long list of standard features, which is what Hyundai has built its reputation on . . . a lot of value and content for the money. And if you need all-wheel-drive, that will only cost $1,400 more.
The Tucson competes with the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CRV, Ford Escape, and Nissan Rogue, and it holds its own with all of them. And it won’t be an easy choice among any of these fine vehicles, but you just may find that you’ll get more amenities with the Hyundai for the same money.
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman has been a motor journalist for over 30 years, reviewing automobile, as well as motorcycle ride reviews and accessory reviews.
His car articles have appeared in Robb Report Magazine, Autoguide.com, Car-Revs-Daily.com and other media. His work has also appeared in Road Bike Magazine, Motorcycle Tour and Cruiser, SpeedTV.com, MotorcycleUSA.com and others.
As motorcycle columnist for The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, the paper became the only major circulation newspaper in the country to have a separate weekly section devoted to motorcycles. Later he wrote a weekly column for Cyclefocus Magazine.