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First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

The All-New Tucson Is Hot!

Gregory R. Whale
Jul 20, 2015
Photographers: Hyundai Motor America, Gregory R. Whale
This is the '16 Hyundai Tucson. Pick any adjective and add "er"—It's longer, wider, and lower and offers more power, better EPA ratings, and more safety features, with styling fits the Santa Fe mold per corporate policy. If you poke around, you won't find anything to suggest they couldn't make a unibody pickup out of it like the old Rabbit, Rampage, or Brat.
Photo 2/16   |   First Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson Passenger Side Rear Quarter View
Wheelbase is up by 1.2 inches and overall length by 3, yielding a package that's typically more wheelbase, less overhang, wider, and lower than primary competitors. Styling echoes the larger Hyundai crossovers and carries large wheel arch plastic frames, smaller glass-to-panel proportions, wheels up to 19 inches, and a more upright windshield more appropriate to a pickup.
It's a lot more rigid too, with Hyundai claiming it's 48 percent stiffer with a big bump in high-strength steel and reinforcement panels at many suspension hard points. That rigidity works well with the new rear suspension—dual lower links and revisions to antiroll bars, geometry, bump stops, subframe mounts, and Sachs shocks to deliver a firm, yet compliant, ride, even on generous 245/45R19s (which knock 2 mpg off the combines fuel rating compared to the Sport and Eco's 17s) and gravel roads.
Both engines are undersquare, all-aluminum, twin-cam direct-injection units. The 2.0L naturally aspirated "Nu" engine is offered only on base SE models with a six-speed automatic. The second engine offering is a turbocharged 1.6L with seven-speed dual-clutch. The 1.6L is stronger than the 2.0L in any regard, idles quietly, and falls off passing 6,000 rpm, 400 short of the 2.0L's peak. We won't say there's a surfeit of power, but it gets the job done, and at full tilt, the 1.6L's dual-clutch transmission feels quieter and equally potent compared to the more-horsepower CR-V with a CVT. Under near-ideal conditions we posted 30 mpg on a gently rolling two-lane.
Photo 6/16   |   First Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson Taillight
Hyundai's dual-clutch transmission rolls off smoothly for the most part—only uphill reversing caused some of the jerkiness some dual-clutches exhibit. It shifts seamlessly but not as quickly as other dual-clutch units we've driven, whether up or down, manual or automatic. Although it has seven speeds, the emphasis is still economy as it runs to about 65 mph in second.
Tucson offers three drive modes: Normal, Eco, and Sport, selected by a button aft of the shifter. They do just as you'd expect, including adding more effort to steering rather than feel, but Sport isn't particularly aggressive, and we'd wager few owners would ever select it.
Photo 10/16   |   First Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson Driver Side Front View
Naturally it's packed with thoughtful features that vary by trim: The cargo cover can be mounted for reclining rear seats or stowed under the bi-level load floor; the big moonroof shade is opaque; SiriusXM is standard and you can replay if you miss the beginning of a favorite tune; a locked hatch that opens as you approach; a cargo capacity of 31 cubic feet with the seats up (62 cubic feet with them folded); a BlueLink telematics suite with Apple and Android smartwatch apps; and blind-spot warning with lane-change assist and full-stop, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. LED headlights come on the Limited, but the Ultimate trim swaps them for curve-illuminating swiveling HIDs.
On straight-up price comparisons, the Tucson may not appear the big-value player Hyundai's history suggests, but it includes bits competitors might not. And while the Tucson will sell on its styling, cabin, and fair level of refinement, it still carries that impressive warranty.
Photo 11/16   |   First Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson Engine
Engine: 2.0L I-4
HP: 164 @ 6,200
Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 4,000
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Econ: 21/26/23
Photo 12/16   |   First Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson Cargo Area
Engine: 1.6L I-4 turbocharged
HP: 175 @ 5,500
Torque: 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
EPA Fuel Econ: 26/33/29
Suspension (f/r): MacPherson strut, antiroll bar / multilink, coil springs, antiroll bar
Brakes (f/r): 12.0-in vented disc / 11.9-in solid disc
Steering: Electric-assist rack & pinion
Wheelbase: 105.1 in
Track (f/r): 63.3/63.8
Length/width/height: 176.2/72.8/64.8 inches
Ground clearance: 6.4 inches
Weight: 3,325-3,710 pounds
Max Tow Rating: 1,500 pounds
MSRP: $23,595-34,945
Photo 16/16   |   First Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson Driver Side Rea Quarter View