2016 Hyundai Tucson A Winning Compact Crossover Utility

Every carmaker will stress that a new product is instrumental to the company’s success. It’s usually hype, but it may not be with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. Cars sales are down while crossover sales, especially compact crossover utility vehicle sales, are up. The company needs this compact crossover to be a winner.

Fortunately, Hyundai has a strong contender when measured against the competition. The 2016 Hyundai Tucson checks all the boxes, especially with its attractive design and roomy interior. After all, comfort and looks are two important reasons to buy a car (in spite of what automotive enthusiasts say to the contrary).

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The Tucson is a winner in the looks area. The bold hexagonal grille on the front combined with the more athletic overall stance, including a more upright windshield, low profile roof rail, chrome tipped exhaust ports, and strong hood, are all evolutions of Hyundai’s design philosophy. The Tucson manages to distinguish itself against competition like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Jeep Cherokee.

Also helping the Tucson immensely are its longer length and increased wheelbase. The latter stands at 105.1 inches, which puts it only second in its class to the Ford Escape. This is a roomy interior both front and back. Hyundai accomplishes this with a vehicle that at an overall length of 176.2 inches is among the shortest in its class. That makes it more maneuverable in tight parking lots.

Yet the Tucson is also a winner in terms of performance thanks to the new 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Base models offer the 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder with 164 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque, coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Where the 1.6-liter really shines is in its fuel economy. In the Eco FWD models, it is 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway for 29 mpg combined. That’s a 5 mpg improvement over the former 2.4-liter engine. Sport and Limited FWD turbo engine models are rated at 25 city and 30 highway for 27 combined, for a 3 mpg improvement.

The Tucson doesn’t lack for performance. On-ramp acceleration and highway passing with three adults onboard were seamless. There was no sense of turbo lag and the Tucson clipped its way through all seven gears smoothly in an extended drive during the media introduction from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Wisconsin and back.

As Hyundai describes it, and this is important for New Englanders, the Tucson has an advanced AWD system developed in conjunction with Magna Powertrain. It includes a driver-selectable AWD lock that allows a differentiated torque split between front and rear wheels, for off-road and extremely slippery road conditions.

The system also includes Active Cornering Control, which automatically transfers torque to the wheels with the most traction. The system reduces understeer and enhances cornering performance by braking the inside rear wheel and delivering more torque to the outside rear wheel, providing a torque-vectoring effect. Finally, the system incorporates both Hillstart Assist and Downhill Brake Control to assist drivers facing sharp incline or decline situations.

There were some nice gravel roads on our 200-mile drive route. One particular curve I hit a little hard but the system kicked in and kept us on track.

Other areas Hyundai is focusing on with the Tucson include: efficient performance and dynamics, advanced safety, and technology. The 2016 Tucson offers several compact CUV segment firsts, including ventilated front seats with stain-resistant materials. Fortunately, I didn’t spill anything, but I did find the ventilation a nice touch on a hot day of driving. The new Tucson also offers an available Smart Power Liftgate with auto-open. With the smart key in your pocket, you just approach the Tucson and stand by the rear. The gate will pop open automatically.

A host of advanced safety features are available, including a lane departure warning system, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, backup warning sensors, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The new Tucson, when equipped with AEB, is expected to receive a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Fortunately, there was no opportunity for me to try out the AEB with pedestrian detection.

The lane change assist also has a brilliant feature. It detects all lanes of traffic. Say you’re in the far right lane of a three-lane highway. If you signal to go into the center lane (as if to pass someone), it will monitor the center and far-left lane in case someone decides to enter the center lane at the same time you do.

Pricing starts at $22,700 for the front-wheel-drive SE model. Frankly, the model you’ll want to start with is the Eco trim with FWD. It costs $24,150. The next trim level up is the Sport with FWD at $26,150. A top of the line Limited will run you $29,900. Dealer prep for all models is $895 and all-wheel-drive is available on all trim levels for an additional $1,400.

There’s so much more to say about the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. It’s really an outstanding compact crossover that could make a strong impression in the segment. It’s definitely going to help Hyundai make up for the overall decline in car sales. Just consider the Tucson a more upright compact sedan if you’re in the market.

2016 Hyundai Tucson

THE BASICS

Price, base (with destination for 1.6-liter turbo): $25,145. Fuel economy: 26 city/33 highway/29 combined. Drivetrain: 1.6-liter turbo: compact crossover.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 175 @ 5,500 rpm. Torque: 295 @ 1,500-4,500 rpm. Overall length: 176.2 in. Wheelbase: 105.1 in. Height: 64.8 in. Width: 72.8 in. Curb weight: 3,325 lbs.

THE GOOD

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a roomy, quiet compact crossover that delivers strong performance and good fuel economy.

THE BAD

The automatic liftgate opening can be temperamental if the locks aren’t set properly.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Hyundai is responding well to the strong demand for compact crossovers with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, an outstanding vehicle in its class.

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