The 2016 Tucson shows huge improvements across the board over the one it replaces. The new compact utility vehicle has adopted some of the styling of its bigger brother, the Santa Fe, and the result is a great looking “truck” with solid fundamentals.
Where the old model’s rounded corners and kinked black body mouldings resulted in what looked like an awkwardly high belt line and overall jellybean shape, the new car has very appealing proportions. The new model more or less the same overall size, but stretches and shrinks in the right directions. It’s 1.1″ wider, 3.0 inches longer overall, 0.4″ shorter, and sits on a wheelbase that’s 1.2″ longer. Those changes, along with a boxier and more wedge-like shape gives the 2016 Tucson a wider, more planted look. The new exterior styling is upscale and modern, and is arguably the best looking compact CUV on the road.
Climb into the Tucson without touching anything and you’ll be equally impressed by the interior. It’s clean, modern, and upscale looking. My Luxury-trim tester’s interior was highlighted by a sharp, large touch screen. Start getting handsy with interior and you can play the “find the soft-touch materials” game. I found a leatherette pad on the dash, and couple small pads on the doors where elbows would rest. The steering wheel is leather, as are the seats, but otherwise, the interior is made with plastic that might be more at home on a car costing $10,000 less than my $33,099 tester, which is no coincidence because the Tucson’s starting price is $24,399.
The interior of my “luxury trim” model had a few tricks up its sleeve, though. First, the glass roof was amazing; my son was in awe of it. Next, the heated steering wheel and seats were greatly appreciated; especially during the extra cold week that I had the Tucson. Hyundai has a knack for choosing great features to include in its cars.
How should I describe the drive of my 2.0L, 6-speed auto transmission-equipped tester? Honestly, I think I would describe it as “beige”. Nothing about it was offensive, but nothing about it was exciting. The Tucson is solid and sure-footed, and it remains relatively flat around corners. It doesn’t crash over bumps, nor does it totally absorb them. The engine does its job, but doesn’t do anything to make you want to run through the revs. Perhaps the sportier 1.6L turbo motor answers that need? The 2.0L naturally aspirated motor just quietly does a solid job of making its way around town, which, frankly, suits the vast majority of drivers very well. It doesn’t get great gas mileage like the Mazda CX-5 does, nor does it guzzle gas like some of its turbo-equipped rivals. I was averaging just under 10L/100km during my stint with the Tucson. Not great, not terrible, just ok.
So then, where does the Tucson fit in the Compact Utility universe? Mazda’s CX-5 sells on fuel economy and sporty driving dynamics. Ford’s Escape sells on technology and a powerful 2.0L turbo. Nissan’s Rogue has an available 3rd row and upscale interior. Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4 can sell on reputation alone.
It’s a busy segment, but Hyundai will undoubtedly find buyers with the new Tuscon’s good looks, nicely selected features, and solid fundamentals.