To say that Hyundai is working quickly to improve their product line would be an understatement. As many awards have shown, the quality of the Hyundai has continued to climb from the day Hyundai Motor Company started selling cars in the US in 1986. First-time car buyers such as college students and young families were the initial target market with affordable, value-equipped cars. For 2016, the all-new Tucson is still value-equipped but also made to be comfortable to live in, competent on the road, and last far longer than the payments.
The new platform, also used in the newest Kia Sportage, is longer and wider but much more rigid. I felt the difference in handling over the previous Tucson, immediately. Tucson’s wheelbase was increased by 1.1 inches which gives a smoother ride over highway pavement. Tucson feels like a larger CUV inside but still very maneuverable. The 2016 Tucson is only 3.0 inches longer and 1.1 inches wider. Yet, the interior cargo space of 31.0 cubic feet is up from 25.7 cubic. Interior designers and engineers have added a dual-level rear cargo floor for better storage flexibility.
My Tucson Limited test vehicle came with a new Gamma 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder engine. Even with the small displacement, this little powerplant applies the power just after 1,500 rpm with 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. It is surprisingly spirited all the way to 4,000 rpm, but with some turbo lag off the line. Hyundai claims that the turbocharger features “low-inertia turbo-spooling response and an electronic wastegate control for more precise control of manifold pressure.” Even so, the driver can notice the lack of displacement when the Tucson is loaded with people and gear.
Shifts under hard acceleration are noticeable but not abrupt. Hyundai has developed a completely new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The shifts are quick and frequent. However, it is more fun to drive than the competitive CUV’s with Constant-Variable Transmissions. Switch the ECO button off, hit the gas, and feel shifting through the gears with the precision of a manual- only much quicker than a human foot and hand.
EPA fuel economy for this powertrain is quite good, as one would expect. A trip across the Central Coast of California produced 31 mpg, set on ECO and using FWD. Hyundai and the EPA have rated the Limited FWD model at 25 (city), 30 (highway), and 27 (combined). This represents a 3-mpg improvement over the former Tucson 2.4 liter engine.
Hyundai has also stepped up the level of electronic safety features with a Lane Departure Warning system, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Backup Warning Sensors and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB). Other electronic wizardry is more show than go. There is a host of more efficient LED lights throughout- including twin-projector headlights, LED headlight accents and integrated LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs).
Luxury in modern automobiles includes things like LED door handle lamps that light the sides of the CUV as you walk up. The LED taillights really set off the rear of the new Tucson. The light show continues inside the interior with a new wide instrument panel and additional LED lighting. All the materials look and feel upscale compared to the previous Tucson and Santa Fe vehicles. The interior is also quieter at highway speeds. The seats are more comfortable for longer commutes. Even the switches and dials have a more tactile feel. The rear seat still does not have enough legroom for taller passengers. A sliding rear seat would be helpful in this model.
Several of the new crossovers have a raised “beltline” that sweeps upward to the tailgate, decreasing the rear visibility- including the past generation Tucson. This new model has better visibility out the rear seat windows and out the rear hatch. Even the rear gate opening is larger for easier access. The optional full-length panoramic sunroof sure opens up the sky to all 5 passengers.
The overall ride is very controlled and exact for a CUV sitting higher off the ground than a sedan and closer to the ground than a truck. Hyundai has used a new SACHS® damper more substantial stabilizer bars. The elongated wheelbase makes room for longer rear suspension control arms which minimize camber and toe changes throughout the suspension travel range. With some other tweaks to the suspension and engine sub-frames, the whole package is very solid on the road without a harsher ride. I swallowed up 800 miles in the 2016 Hyundai Tucson without much fatigue, even with rain and in high winds.
For those living in the snow-belts of America, the 2016 Tucson offers the option of an AWD system developed by Hyundai in conjunction with Magna Powertrain. According to Hyundai, “The system includes a driver-selectable AWD lock that allows a differentiated torque split between front and rear wheels, for off-road and extremely slippery road conditions. The system also includes Active Cornering Control, which automatically transfers torque to the wheels with the most traction. The system reduces understeer and enhances cornering performance by braking the inside rear wheel and delivering more torque to the outside rear wheel, providing a torque-vectoring effect.”
All this is fine, but for those living in warmer climates, the 2016 Tucson with FWD and the 1.6 liter turbocharged engine matched to the new 7-speed automatic is a nice package, with good economy, and will not break the bank. Expect the newest Hyundai Tucson Limited FWD to start around $30k.