By Matt Degen
The Hyundai Tucson enters its third generation for 2016 as an all-new compact crossover SUV. Long a competent but rather uninspiring competitor to best-sellers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, the 2016 Tucson has reinvented itself to pose a credible challenge to such stalwarts. Along with an eye-catching exterior design, this 5-passenger SUV now boasts some of the latest technology and safety aids available, such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The Tucson's new 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder still isn't the strongest in its class, but it does earn up to 33 mpg. With a starting price of under $24,000 and improvements upon its former self in almost every category, the new Tucson is ready to take on the segment's best.
If you want a small SUV with style, sophisticated technology and great fuel economy, put the 2016 Hyundai Tucson on your consideration list. Another big draw is Hyundai's excellent powertrain warranty that's good for 10 years/100,000 miles.
The Hyundai Tucson is totally revamped for 2016. Slightly larger than its predecessor, it has fresh sheet metal that is both stronger and more stylish, a larger interior, and loads of new tech and safety features. A 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder replaces the larger and less-efficient 2.4-liter 4-cylinder.
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson has made great gains in terms of overall comfort. Most appreciated are its well-insulated cabin that keeps outside sounds at bay, a new suspension setup that...
... yields a more composed ride even on gravel, and steering that feels less artificial than past models. The 1.6-liter turbocharged model we tested had adequate power for most duties, but we would have requested a few more ponies under the hood for passing situations. A new drive mode selector that includes a Sport setting does help when you need more verve, however, as it makes the Hyundai's throttle, engine and shifting more responsive. Regarding the latter, the 1.6-liter Tucson is the only SUV in its class to use a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. The new setup grants smooth shifts, is eager to kick down when needed, and helps attain fuel economy of up to 33 mpg in Eco trim.
SMART POWER TAILGATE
While competitors offer motion-activated power tailgates that lift with, say, a kick of the foot, Hyundai uses proximity to sense your intentions. Stand for a few seconds near the tailgate with the key in pocket or purse, and the Tucson will automatically raise the rear door while you leave both feet on the ground.
YES ESSENTIALS STAIN PROTECTION
The interior of a small SUV can be a busy, potentially stain-inducing place. That's why Hyundai Tucson models with cloth seats come with YES Essentials fabric technology. In addition to fighting stains, the seat fabric helps repel foul odors and even reduces static electricity.
The Tucson's 2-row, 5-passenger interior has improved in both size and sophistication. While base SE models make do with a 6-way manual-adjust driver's seat, even climbing one trim brings the more comfortable 8-way power-adjust version with lumbar support. We applaud the use of buttons and knobs for climate and audio functions even in higher-spec models to complement the touch screen. Also noteworthy are the Tucson's near flat-folding rear seats and dual-level cargo floor. A particularly thoughtful feature is the ability to store the cargo tonneau cover underneath the floor. The optional panoramic sunroof is huge, but rear-side visibility is hampered by small, narrow windows.
The 2016 Tucson's new suit will likely be one of the first things you notice – and among the biggest initial draws to Hyundai's compact SUV. Treated to the automaker's latest "Fluidic Sculpture 2.0" design, the Tucson now looks like the rightful little brother to the Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. The new Tucson has a sporty, forward stance, sharp creases below the side windows, and Hyundai's large trapezoidal grille. Just as impressive is what you cannot see: The Tucson's new chassis now uses more than 50 percent high-strength steel, vs. 18 percent for the former model.
The 2016 Tucson is available in four main trims: SE (base), Eco, Sport and Limited. If you go with the least-expensive model, you'll still get an automatic transmission (an added cost in some rivals), backup camera, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and a 5-inch touch screen AM/FM/CD 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, and USB and auxiliary inputs. Stepping up to the Eco model brings the more efficient yet more powerful 1.6-liter turbo engine, roof rails and LED daytime running lights, while the Sport model adds blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, push-button start, and a power liftgate with the proximity open feature.
At the top end of the Tucson food chain is the Limited trim that comes with leather seating, LED headlights and taillights, a chrome grille and door handles, a power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. That model also gets an upgraded infotainment system with 8-inch touch-screen command module, 405-watt/8-speaker audio system, and Hyundai's Blue Link 2.0 smartphone interface. If this still isn't enough, there's the Ultimate Package that includes ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, lane-departure warning, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, and automatic emergency braking system with pedestrian detection.
Two drivetrains are available in the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. The base SE model uses the carryover 2.0-liter naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic transmission, while the rest come with the fresh 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 7-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available with either engine in lieu of the standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) setup. The AWD Tucson has a "lock" feature that grants up to a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels for better traction in slippery or off-road conditions. While you may equate turbocharging with speed, the application here is more for fuel economy, which allows the Tucson's smaller engine to be rated up to 33 mpg, a 5-mpg gain over the past 2.4-liter engine. In other welcome news, this turbo engine does just fine running on regular gasoline.
164 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg (FWD), 21/26 mpg (AWD)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
175 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/30 mpg (FWD), 24/28 mpg (AWD), 26/33 mpg (Tucson Eco, FWD), 25/31mpg (Tucson ECO, AWD)
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $23,595 for a base SE. The more efficient Eco model begins just over $25,000, while the well-equipped Tucson Sport trim starts just over $27,000. A top-line Limited edition bows at $30,795. Adding all-wheel drive to any model is an additional $1,400. Go full boat on a Limited Ultimate and you can reach the mid-$30,000 mark. At these prices, the new Tucson starts just below the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV and Nissan Rogue, and is nearly identical to the Ford Escape. The Hyundai Tucson's cousin, the Kia Sportage, begins a few hundred below the Tucson. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Tucson. Because this model is all-new, we have yet to predict the Tucson's residual value. In general, though, Hyundai's star has lifted in recent years.