It’s too early to call it a trend, but the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a turning point of sorts in the global auto industry.
Besides being Hyundai’s entry in the U.S. compact crossover market, the all-new Tucson ($23,595, including destination) replaces a European Hyundai known as the ix35. The Continent’s mix of crowded cities, high-speed motorways and curvy country byways favors small, well-handling cars optimized to accommodate passengers and their possessions.
Cars just like the Tucson.
Meanwhile, our fixation with coffee means Europeans will get more cupholders.
Score: Tucson. On both counts.
There’s more, of course. The new Tucson is a bit larger this year. It’s quieter, has a longer wheelbase and feels more substantial. Its interior vibe is grown-up and purposeful. Its touchscreen infotainment controls are neatly integrated into a stylish and low-key dashboard layout.
A growth spurt (three inches in length, one in width) brings grown-up dimensions to Tucson’s second-row seats.
In all but the base SE trim, a new turbocharged and direct-injected four is paired with the segment’s first double-clutch automated manual transmission, a seven-speed unit. The little four makes 175 horsepower and a robust 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Last year’s 2.0-liter four (164-hp/151 lb.-ft.) powers the SE via a six-speed automatic.
Per Hyundai tradition, the 2016 Tucson is well-endowed. Standard-equipment highlights include automatic headlights, heated mirrors, privacy glass, A/C, full power accessories, cruise control, height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 5-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio and more.
Seventeen-inch alloys are standard.
Size-wise, Tucson splits the difference between the new subcompact crossovers (Honda’s HR-V, Mazda’s CX-3) and the true compacts (Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4).
Passenger space rivals the compacts but, despite an increase of nearly five cubic feet (from 25.7 to 31 cf) — Tucson’s cargo hold gives up several cf to its larger (and slightly more expensive) competitors.
A longer wheelbase and greater concentration of high-strength steel in the unibody boost ride quality and increase stability. Not-so-little extras, such as four-point bushing mounts and hydraulic transmission mounts, add to comfort levels and cut road noise.
Despite its 19-inch wheels, our top-of-the-line Limited ($30,795) tester rode smoothly and quite and felt nimble, if not overly athletic. Body lean in corners is well controlled and the steering system is nicely weighted, with good on-center feel, but offers minimal feedback. The 1.6-liter turbocharged engine develops more torque than the competition and spools it up quickly. With the DSC making clean, unobtrusive shifts, the Tucson accelerates from 0-60 in the mid-7-second range.
Comfortable and supportive seats and excellent ergonomics and sight-lines produce a pleasant driving experience. Storage caches (and cupholders) abound.
Available safety features include lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change Assist, backup warning sensors and automatic emergency braking (AEB).
Unfortunately, first-year pricing reserves many of the most desirable features exclusively for the Limited.
Nevertheless, Hyundai nails it with its little bi-continental crossover. Here’s hoping the Europeans enjoy their cupholders; we’ll enjoy the ride.
2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD
Vehicle base price: $22,700
Trim level base price: $31,300
As tested: $35,070
Options included panoramic sunroof; high-intensity discharge bending headlights; lane-departure warning; automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection; rear parking sensors; LED map lights; LCD electroluminescent gauge cluster; ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; carpeted floor mats.
EPA ratings: 26 combined/24 city/28 highway