First Drive: The 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited improves upon itself in every single way

Note: All interior photos provided by Hyundai North America

When I was flown out to the media launch event for the all-new 2016 Hyundai Tucson, in Minneapolis, all I could think of was: oh, jeeze–here we go again with reviewing another crossover SUV. Why “here we go again?” Because reviewing crossovers can be just as overwhelmingly redundant as shopping for them. They all seem to drive the same, act the same, and do the same thing.

Crossovers are the purest definition of mainstream and are simply the hottest topic in the worldly automotive market by sheer sales volume figures, far surpassing the previous mainstream offering–the typical, normal four-door sedan. That’s because, well, crossovers have been taking over the world by popularity and demand, multiplying like bunnies and relentlessly invading our streets like a horde of zombies, like white on rice, or brown–ok, you get the point, regardless. There are more options available in the crossover segment than there are smartphones.

They’re so viral in fact, not only can they spotted on the roads of the world several times a second, manufacturers are even struggling to keep up with the relentless demand. Through Hyundai’s market research, they found that one in every three cars sold today is a crossover.

Decades ago, when the car was still a bit primeval, people actually bought multiple cars for different purposes. Needed to haul something? You’d buy a pickup. Wanted to have personal fun while driving? You’d get a convertible, whether it was sporty or not. Needed to take your high-end business clients to work? Hey, that’s what giant luxobarges are for.

But in a quest to build that quintessential all-in-one automobile, in an effort to simplify the ownership of an automobile, does the 2016 Hyundai Tucson make life a little easier for compact crossover shoppers? Read on to hear our first impressions.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited 1.6T AWD

Style: Compact Crossover
Seating Capacity: Five Passengers
Base Price: $22,700 (Base 2.0 SE w/ FWD)
Price As Tested: $35,175
Engine (As Tested): 1.6L DOHC GDI Gamma Turbocharged Inline-Four – 175hp and 195 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
0-60: 7.5 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: N/A
Curb Weight: 3,710lbs
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined): 24 / 28 / 26 w/ 16.4 gal. tank

Fluidic Sculpture 2.0: Tucson Style

2016 Hyundai Tucson (2)
2016 Hyundai Tucson – Photo by C Squared Photography

If you’ve been living under a rock or behind closed doors, you’d be intrigued to know that Hyundai makes cars that just don’t suck anymore, making us long forget that Hyundai once produced cars that anyone would “hope you’d understand nothing’s driveable and inexpensive.” The story of perpetuating success is no different with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, since the outgoing model was more than competent in every single way, providing a solid alternative to the already preexisting staples in the compact crossover segment. Such staples include the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, the most ideal choices for your grandmother in-law’s casual transportation to and fro to church and the local flea market on Sundays.

Part of this success can easily be attributed to the fact that Hyundai focused their efforts where it really mattered by becoming a serious mainstream automobile competitor, and thus, crossovers. Though like its larger sibling, the current Santa Fe, Hyundai has proven that mainstream need not be as stylistically featureless as a bucket of spackle.

The outgoing Hyundai Tucson was always a much more attractive alternative to the compact SUV competition. The new Tucson takes the previous generation’s style into the new age with Hyundai’s latest Fluidic Sculpture 2.0+ design philosophy, a theme clearly modeled after the Santa Fe. It’s overall profile is significantly more upright, kind of like a clown shoe. Exterior features include familial trends like the upside trapezoidal chrome grille, a design cue found on the latest and greatest Hyundai Genesis sedan, and the generous use of curves and subtle angles, though in a sleek manner that somehow avoids being over- or understyled. Everything about the 2016 Hyundai Tuscon’s exterior is just proportionally right–it’s a very handsomely styled crossover to a point beyond obscurity.

The Tucson in fact is so striking, over the course of the entire media drive route, it was very apparent to see onlookers and bystanders glance at the Tucson in curiosity as to what crossover hath bestowed their presence and vision. And that’s important in a segment that’s generally as exciting and eye-catching as a generic brand washing machine.

More Upmarket Than Mainstream Ought To Be

2016 Tucson
2016 Hyundai Tucson – Photo provided by Hyundai North America

The same could be said about the inside of the new Tucson. Long gone is the unforgiving theme of round, featureless shapes. Like Hyundai’s of recent past, all the materials were bang up-to-date where none of them felt as if they belonged on your baby cousin’s Little Tikes toy set. The ambiance of the cabin was very spacious and comfortable, exuding the feeling that the Tucson is just as good at being a long-distance cruiser as a an excellent choice to haul a bunch of youngens for the early baby-boomer crowd. But altogether, it’s clear that Hyundai’s making ever so slight moves upmarket, nudging their way up into the more luxurious nooks and crannies of the market, just to see how far they can go with elevating their brand identity.

Just to factor in some numbers for the magazine racers, the new Tucson is larger than the outgoing model by about three inches in total, 1.2 of which are added to the wheelbase for more interior space. It’s also wider by 1.1 inches, though it has a lower roofline by almost a half an inch, contributing to the lower, sleeker profile. When compared to its competition, however, the 2016 Tucson remains the shortest by total length in the whole segment, though it manages to have the second longest wheelbase behind the Ford Escape.

New Looks, New Interior, and New a Mill Too

2016 Hyundai Tucson (4)
2016 Hyundai Tucson – Photo by C Squared Photography

Besides the all-new sheet metal and construction, which collectively contribute to lower NVH ratings and improved aerodynamics, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson also gets a new mill, with the base engine being carried over from the previous Tucson.

That base engine would be the same 2.0L Nu GDI gasoline four-banger with 164hp and 151 lb-ft of twist. Though, being a driving enthusiast, I was definitely more interested in the latest Gamma 1.6L GDI turbocharged and gasoline direct-injected four-pot. Factoids would point out that this motor first debuted on the new 2015 Hyundai Sonata. In the new Tucson however, it produces around 175hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. That’s pretty much the same amount of horsepower as the top-spec engine for the previous Tucson, though torque is given a major boost from the last model’s figure of 168 lb-ft of twist from the 2.4L naturally-aspirated Theta four-banger. The difference is easily observable.

Aiding the new 1.6L turbocharged mill’s ability to delivery much quicker forward progress, the Tucson also benefits from an additional gear ratio, tallying up to a total of seven forward gears. This box first debuted on the Veloster Turbo, meaning it’s actuated by a new dual-clutch setup as standard kit. The result is a far more engaging power- and drivetrain than the previous 2.4L-equipped top-spec Tucson with its traditional six-speed automatic. With the old motor, the throttle needed a good prod in order to get somewhere occasionally and often felt overwhelmed on even the slightest of inclines. So is not the case with this new pairing.

The base 2016 Hyundai Tucson still receives the same six-speed auto with its 2.0L naturally-aspirated four. Hyundai hasn’t published any official acceleration times, but when compared to the last model’s 2.4L liesurely 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds, it’s reasonable to assume the new figure with the 1.6L turbo four dips well-below that previous time because it certainly felt quick.

Fuel economy estimates also benefit from the new setup with an overall 21% calculated increase when compared to the last Tucson, with front-wheel drive models ringing in results at 26 (city) / 33 (highway) / 29 (combined) mpg for the Eco model, while the Sport and Limited get rated at 25 / 30 / 27 mpg, for the front-wheel drive models. All three are equipped with the 1.6L Turbo four. The base front-wheel drive Tucson returns 23 / 31 mpg.

Much like the other crossovers the Tucson competes with, handling isn’t much of a jimmy rustler, which is totally expected since crossovers are the last things to be considered sporty and high-performance. Though it’s a far better driver than say, the borring-riffic Toyota RAV4 or the plebian Honda CR-V. As with the competitors, the steering leaves much to be desired for feel, though accuracy was never an issue with Hyundai’s electrically-assisted mill. The brakes were solid, grabby, but refined for those who decide to quicken the pace just a tad, in the event one’s late for soccer practice or the typical run to pilates class. And body control was up there with the class leaders in addition to sporting a more than competent ride and handling compromise.

A High Chance at Being the Best All-Around Package

2016 Hyundai Tucson (5)
2016 Hyundai Tucson – Photo by C Squared Photography

It’s not very easy to standout in the crossover SUV crowd because they all pretty much drive the same, to appeal to the masses, and to sell to such a broad market that almost anyone will accept it. As a result, differentiators come only in the details, the fine details where every little bit adds up to defining the whole package. Besides just being another crossover SUV in compact segment pool, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson does well to stand out from the rest of the crowd with handsome looks, compelling driving characteristics, and excellent kit and caboodle. Sure, it may not be the most spacious, the most economical, the cheapest, or the most fuel-efficient. But the 2016 Hyundai Tucson manages do everything it’s supposed to with little to no fault, all for an affordable and practical price for anyone looking to get a solidly-packaged, well-rounded compact crossover SUV.

– By: Chris Chin

Editor’s Note: Hyundai Motor America provided travel and hotel accommodations for this trip to provide the media with a first-drive glance for the all-new 2016 Tucson. All remarks here are my own.

Follow Chris Chin on Twitter @SirChrisChin and Instagram @CSquaredPhotography or @egmCarTech

Exterior Photos Copyright 2015 © C Squared Photography for egmCarTech.

Chris Chin

Chris Chin is the Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech and is a regular contributor to Automobile Magazine.

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