The Real Test of The Tucson

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson

Back in July, I partook in a rare Twin Cities-based media drive event. It appeared that I was the only one representing the local media in their program. An honor, if you ask me.

Hyundai came to town to show off the 2016 Tucson small crossover/SUV. We took these new vehicles onto the other side of the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. What we found was a highly competent vehicle that would compete well in a tough market segment.

Since this kind of vehicle is part of my beat, I figured I would bring one back later in the year to see if my conclusions were correct about the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. The key thing I walked away from this media drive was the fact that the Tucson is more competitive with others in the segment, including some of the leading sellers among crossovers/SUVs. Hyundai did a great job in transforming the Tucson into a utility vehicle that does a great job utilizing some of the latest technology and engineering available. This includes turbocharging, dual-clutch transmissions and active safety features usually seen on more expensive vehicles.

Months later, a 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited 1.6T AWD arrived for its follow-up. Instead of taking it out back on the road roads I encountered during the media drive program in July, I wanted to put it on my usual test loops – including daily commuting and a special little backroad I take sportier vehicles on.

How did the Tucson do this time around?

With every review, I always look on the outside. It is handsome, with Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture II" design language integrated onto the Tucson. Though some might mistake it for another brand's model, there are some telltale signs that distinguish the Tucson, even in a crowded parking lot. The huge grille is a welcomed sight, flanked by slim headlamps that emit a good light ahead. The profile is trimmer than the previous model – perhaps harkening back to the first generation Tucson, but with modern brand touches. Where the Tucson deviates from brand design is at the rear, with its lower license plate location offering a cleaner liftgate design.

My Limited tester adds huge 19-inch alloy wheels and chrome trimmings to give it a classy look without going over the top. However, any Tucson model will look good without the Limited trimmings. This is a huge plus in Hyundai's corner for those looking to spend less on looking good.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited 1.6T AWD

The same can be said about the interior. It follows the latest brand design attributes by being more contemporary, despite some conservative touches. It all actually worked very well, with its straightforward instrumentation binnacle, including an informative TFT screen in-between the two large dials. Controls are familiar, logical and good to the touch – from the steering wheel to the lower instrument panel switches. The center stack featured a large 8-inch touch screen for the infotainment functions and climate control readouts. Sightlines were excellent, which made driving the Tucson a very easy task for every driver.

The Limited model offered comfortable and supportive leather seating. For long drives, this was truly a nice place to be, especially with various power adjustments to fine tune that seating position. The driver also has a short throw-style gear lever for the 7-speed dual clutch transmission. A sporty touch that was welcomed, indeed. Rear seat room was actually quite good for adults. Let's not forget about that 31 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats – well shaped for many things worth carrying. Think of the kind of Christmas (or, after Christmas) shopping you can pack in the rear of the new Tucson.

Hyundai made sure to include the latest version of the BlueLink telematics system integrated with the new Tucson. Though you can do so much through a smartphone, BlueLink is now available using a smart watch, tablet or via the web. In all, it is very connected – and it works. There is more to the technology story. Audio options were great, especially using SiriusXM and HD Radio. You can also connect a device either through Bluetooth, a USB or AUX IN port.

Back in July, I concluded that the combination of the 1.6 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 7-speed dual clutch transmission is the best choice for this new Tucson. This has not changed, but some people might not be keen on getting a crossover/SUV with a turbocharger. Consider that Ford sells a vast majority of their Escape models with one. Those EcoBoosts work extremely well with their smallish crossover. The same is said about Hyundai's turbo wonder. With 175 horsepower on tap, the Tucson runs smooth as it is tasked to carry up to 3,710 pounds of vehicle on its back. This model featured a smart all-wheel drive system, with the option to lock the rear differential for better traction in extreme conditions.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited 1.6T AWD

At the onset of this review, I mentioned that I had a special test loop in mind for this full go-round with the 2016 Tucson, I plotted something that is more designed for the sportier cars I review than mere crossovers. My extended test loop took me along the Minnesota River in Carver and Sibley Counties. It is a great, curvy road that runs through some small towns, farmland and the bluffs alongside the river. Eventually, the Tucson merged onto US-169 into Mankato – and back. This route alone offers plenty of challenges for a variety of vehicles, while satisfying the enthusiasts with its entertaining elevations and turns. Sounds like a great test for the Tucson!

It fared well, showing some of the Tucson's strengths and weaknesses. The ride quality was good and solid. The suspension absorbed imperfections well, keeping everyone happy inside. In the turns, a softer feel was revealed as it showed some minute lean and roll. Steering did feel numb with some lack of feel and feedback from the road. The turning radius could be a bit better for its size, however. Braking was solid with good stops in normal and panic situations. Keeping things in order is the Lane Keep Assist that works the steering to ensure that the Tucson stays between the lines. Otherwise, it is a stable vehicle that should be fine for those who will own one.

One attraction to the Tucson will be fuel economy. This class had run the gamut of fuel consumption figures that ranged from disappointing to exceptional. The average consumption figure on this Tucson came to 25.3 MPG. It is a real world figure that was proven even with a backroads and highway run.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited 1.6T AWD

Hyundai has banked upon 90,000 Tucsons to be sold in a full year. To achieve this, it must be competitive in pricing. A Tucson SE with front-wheel drive starts with a base price of $22,700. On the opposite side of the scale is my Limited 1.6T AWD tester, exhibiting a sticker price of $32,510. In-between this almost $10,000 swath of pricing is the perfect model featuring the right mix of equipment and capability to fit your needs.

It is always good to revisit a vehicle I had the chance to work with on a media drive event prior to its on-sale date. What I found when revisiting the 2016 Hyundai Tucson was more confirmation of what I found back in the summer towards seeing this as a strong contender in one of the toughest segments in the American automotive scene.

The hardest question of all must be asked: Is the 2016 Hyundai Tucson good enough to choose from a crowded and highly contended vehicle segment? Some may argue over cargo space, second row room and performance, but the Tucson offers some standout features that are miles ahead of the competition. If those features sway your decision on getting the Tucson over everything else, you will not be disappointed.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America

All photos by Randy Stern

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