It’s always more exciting when a test drive vehicle arrives and it really is an all-new model. That’s the case this week as we review the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, featuring an all-new exterior, 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, way better fuel mileage, new turbo engine and beautifully revamped interior. Thus, I’ll tell you up front the new Hyundai Tucson is a much improved crossover compared to the previous generation.
With emphasis on more room and better fuel mileage wrapped in a new motif, Tucson still delivers its easy to drive nature we’ve come to expect. Notable is the entry Tucson SE starts at just $22,700 in front drive or $24,100 for the AWD version, both very attractive entry points. However please remember no one actually pays retail and Hyundai dealers are known for generous discounts and/or enhanced trade-in values.
Built in Ulsan, Korea, and classified as a compact by the EPA, every 2016 Tucson is a five-passenger crossover/wagon built on a car-like unibody chassis. Tucson for 2016 now comes in four flavors instead of three, including the aforementioned SE; the new for ’16 economy ECO model at $24,150; Sport at $26,150; and top line Limited at 29,900. The AWD versions cost approximately $1,400 more and feature Hyundai’s “Active on Demand” four-wheel drive system with an AWD lock feature.
The SE relies on the proven 2.0-liter 164-horse, 151 torque, inline four and six –speed “Shiftronic” automatic and is the only past generation engine carried over to the new model. The ECO, Sport and Limited models now feature Hyundai’s more powerful 1.6-liter turbocharged four that delivers 175 horses and 195 lb. ft. of torque. Transferring the turbo four’s power is a new 7-speed Eco-Shift dual-clutch automatic that helps in delivering better fuel mileage. Last year’s 2.4-liter inline four has been discontinued and replaced by the turbo four that delivers better fuel mileage and more power.
Drivetrain aside, Tucson's most noticeable changes for 2016 are its new aerodynamic exterior and beautifully tailored interior. You’ll be impressed with the numerous upgrades and standard amenities including an 8.0-inch touch screen with NAV display, new dash design, easy to operate entertainment and climate controls, comfortable seating and a bit more rear legroom for taller passengers. Our tester only had one option, a $125 carpeted floor mat kit.
Although Tucson used to be the shortest wheelbase compact Crossover in class, the additional 1.2-inches of wheelbase positively impacts interior and cargo room while delivering a less bumpy ride. As for safety, when you buy the Limited model, you receive everything a modern day vehicle offers including ABS four-wheel discs, rear view safety camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, traction and stability control, electronic brake force, all the airbags, hill descent control and downhill brake control.
SE fuel economy is good at 23 city and 31 highway for the front drive and 21 city and 26 for the AWD. The ECO 1.6-liter turbo, however, is the best of the Tucsons for fuel mileage, delivering 26/33 front drive and 25/31 in AWD dress thanks to more aggressive economy management engine and transmission controls. The AWD Sports and Limiteds are listed at 25/30 and 24/28 city/highway, respectively. In comparison, a 2015 AWD Tucson Limited with the more powerful and now discontinued 2.4 engine delivered just 20 city and 25 highway EPA. (Well done Hyundai).
The top line Tucson Limited features so many standard features we don’t have the room for a complete list. Notables are 19-inch polished alloy wheels on Kumho tires, roof side rails, Bluetooth telematics, HomeLink, chrome accent grille and door handles, keyless ignition and entry, leather interior, dual-zone climate control, hands free/smart power rear lift gate, tilt and telescopic steering, heated seats, leather steering wheel/shifter and so much more.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 105.1-inches, 3,710 lb. curb weight, 31.0 to 61.9 cu. ft. of cargo space (up from 25.7 to 55.8 cu. ft. in the previous generation), 34.9 ft. turn diameter, and a 16.4 gallon fuel tank. Notable, too, is Hyundai’s famous 100,000-mile, 10-year powertrain warranty that is still a major selling point.
Overall, we especially like Tucson’s major fuel mileage improvement and final aesthetic presentation. Although neither Tucson engine has power to spare, the turbo-enhanced version does indeed make a difference. So, with a week of driving under the belt, I’ll recommend as a starting point the Hyundai Tucson ECO, which costs near $6K less than the Limited and just might be your best of the bunch selection. Your Hyundai dealer will gladly explain all model features, along with current buyer incentives and lease specials.
2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD
Likes: Overall new design, turbo engine, lots for the money.
Dislikes: Seven-speed automatic a bit sluggish, more horsepower would be nice.
Entry Price: $22,700
Price as Tested: $32,320
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)