One of the first vehicles that truly surprised me when I started writing about new cars was the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Since then I’ve continually found Hyundai vehicles to be surprisingly comfortable and competitive entries into their respective segments. The Tucson had recently fallen a few steps behind the rest, the 2014 and 2015 models I reviewed were not nearly as refined or as well finished as the rest of the Hyundai line. Clearly, the compact crossover was a little overdue for an update and 2016 would be the year.
After a long day of travelling my colleague and I rolled into the Hyundai parking lot to pick up the 2016 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Luxury I’d be reviewing. It was dark, cold, the snow fell at an increasing rate and I simply wanted to get into the Tucson and get home. We noted the AWD badging and winter tires – perfect. I jumped in, pushed the start button, turned up the heated seats and steering wheel and hit the highway to head home. Settling in, I noticed how comfortable the soft beige leather seats were and the powerful heated seats were a welcome treat after a long day. I immediately found the perfect driving position and the large windows with narrow A-pillars made for excellent outward visibility. Despite the icy roads and blowing snow, the Tucson’s AWD kept me on track, arriving at my doorstep effortlessly.
That’s why this type of smaller crossover has become so popular; it’s just so easy in almost any situation. The modern CUV offers the driving confidence, comfort and space that many people need in an easy-to-live-with package. Things like styling, performance and excitement, while important factors, all take second place to the simple ease of getting you, your family and your stuff from point A to point B. In my example, I didn’t notice the color, the styling or even the trim level of the Tucson until the next day – it just got me home without having to give it a second thought.
On day 2, I took a good look at the Tucson and decided that it is actually a fairly handsome little crossover. It looks a bit like a mini-version of the Santa Fe, but tougher and more aggressive-looking. The long horizontal grill bars give the front end a misleadingly wide look, and the black plastic body cladding adds a touch of ruggedness to an otherwise refined urban look. It’s not traffic-stopping good looks, but it’s far from ugly. My Ruby Red tester came in mid-range Luxury AWD trim, meaning it sports tasteful 17” alloy rims and a P225/60R17 tire. Compared to the huge 19” rims on the Limited and Ultimate models, the 17” tires will be more affordable to replace when the time comes, and the extra sidewall height will make for a more comfortable and compliant ride.
The Luxury AWD trim gives you pretty well everything you could want in a reasonably priced CUV, without going overboard. It includes heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, a massive panoramic glass sunroof, soft leather seats, dual automatic climate control and an 8” touch screen with navigation. Priced at $33,099, my tester represents what I’d expect to be a volume seller and proof that Hyundai knows their market – this is a well-featured CUV for the money. All these features are packaged in an extremely well planned out interior. The controls are all easy to reach and understand, including those on the steering wheel, and I absolutely love the amount of trays and storage compartments that have been seamlessly integrated into the cabin.
The Tucson’s center console alone has two huge cupholders, three big storage trays, and of course a big storage bin under the armrest. With the amount of electronics and other modern necessities folks carry with them these days, abundant storage is an absolute must in a vehicle like this. Interior materials are nice looking and soft-touch in many areas, but it’s clear that Hyundai made some sacrifices where they could – the door panels and the lower portion of the dash are particularly cheap-feeling. Entry and exit is extremely easy due to the tall doors and relatively low floor, as is loading the rear cargo area, thanks again to the low floor height. Speaking of which, the cargo area itself is a very generous size and the rear seats fold flat for even more versatile space.
What the Luxury package does omit is the hot little 1.6L turbo engine and dual-clutch seven-speed transmission. Those who opt for this package will get the naturally aspirated 2.0L inline four-cylinder, mated to a 6-speed automatic. Now, I haven’t spent more than a few minutes behind the wheel of a 1.6L turbo version, so I won’t say much to compare the two. However, I will tell you that the 2.0L was the weakest point of the Tucson for me. Its 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque feel sluggish when pulling the weight of the all-wheel-drive crossover. Throttle response lags and is met with noise as the four-cylinder strains to bring the Tucson to highway speed. The lack of available power also forces the transmission to downshift frequently.
If you resolve yourself to drive slowly (think hybrid-style) though, the Tucson is actually a fairly nice place to be. Its ride is soft, compliant and aside from occasions where the 2.0L can be heard straining, is relatively quiet. The electronic steering is light and doesn’t require effort, but offers little feedback, which the typical buyer won’t mind at all. The AWD system also seems fairly well suited for typical urban duties; it can transfer up to 50% of the power to the rear wheels when necessary, working to keep the power to the wheels with the most grip. There is an AWD lock button which locks a 50/50 split for situations where the terrain is particularly slippery. For a crossover I did experience decent fuel economy – my weekly average came out to 9.8L/100kms, almost all of that in rush hour commuting.
The bottom line on the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Luxury is that it is not exactly a driver’s CUV – if you’re looking for something that prioritizes excitement, look at something like the Forester XT (review here). What the new Tucson offers is ease of use and comfort. It’s easy to drive in all weather, it’s smooth, packed with the latest features, and it’ll efficiently get you where you need to be without any imposition. The night I picked up my tester I was that buyer – I didn’t care about anything other than getting home in safe comfort, and the Tucson delivered. The truth of the matter is that this is what many CUV buyers are looking for. Know your market – Hyundai does, very well.