Hyundai Tucson: Redesign Packs Versatility and Refinement, But Lacks Power

By Mark Maynard

August 23, 2016 8 min read

Size matters for a compact crossover, and the Hyundai Tucson makes the most of small spaces to give the owner big returns.

The Tucson was re-engineered for 2016. It was made 3 inches longer and a little more than an inch wider, and the wheelbase was made 1.2 inches longer. Size adjustments were made for a roomier cabin, more cargo space and a smoother ride.

The Tucson is a technology showcase of the latest conveniences and safety features, the new turbocharged engine and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

It is sold at a bargain price and is protected by warranties that most luxury brands won't provide.

The 2016 Tucson is sold in four trim levels with two engine and transmission choices in front- or all-wheel drive. The entry SE model — with a 164-horsepower, 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission — starts at $23,595, including the $895 freight charge from Ulsan, Korea. Add $1,400 for AWD. Warranties include five years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper with unlimited mileage for roadside assistance, and 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain.

The Eco, Sport and Limited models get the techno 1.6-liter, direct-injection and turbocharged four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. The seven-speed dual-clutch (explained simply as an automated manual) is a first in this segment, Hyundai says, but I'm sure more will follow — and some with more gears.

Today's tester was a Tucson Limited AWD that cost a reasonable $35,070. It included one factory option, the Ultimate Package, $2,750, which grouped conveniences and technologies. Among them are a panoramic sunroof, high-intensity discharge headlights with low beams that turn a few degrees with the steering wheel, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, vented front seats, heated rear seats and more. Charging $125 for carpeted floor mats seems selfish when Hyundai doubles up on everything else.

The vehicle has premium-quality fit and finish with attractive leather stitching. There is storage galore, and there are all the necessary (and convenient) charging options. The controls are simple to reach and use. Sightlines are unobstructed, and the 8-inch touchscreen and rearview camera are driving assets.

The back seat is raised and comfortable enough for children, but not adults, despite 38.2 inches of legroom. A low center tunnel helps three-across footroom, and the fold-down console is padded and has two cup holders. Additionally, there is door storage with bottle holders, as well as seat-back pockets and grab handles at all doors.

There is an easy-fold 60-40 second row to create 5.5 feet of cargo length. The cargo area is wide with a low liftover and a two-level floor. Hyundai has a smart liftgate that opens automatically when someone stands at the rear of the vehicle with the key for a few seconds.

As much as I loved the features, styling and usability of the Tucson, I did not enjoy the powertrain. It's a three-part process that feels underpowered. When starting out from a stop, there's too much delay between pressing the accelerator, feeling the dual-clutch transmission engage a gear and then waiting for the turbocharger to gather enough engine revs for all three to join hands and move the 3,710-pound vehicle.

In low-stress driving situations the power is no concern. The start-off and shift points are adequate and an asset for fuel economy. But when quick power is needed, such as for evasive actions or just guarding your line on the daily commute, there is too much delay. I'm not a heavy-footed driver, but I often put my foot to the floor to get the response I was seeking, and then the little engine would light up and launch, and then I'd lift.

Consequently, my combined fuel economy average was below Environmental Protection Agency expectations. The EPA cites mileage of 24 mpg city, 28 highway and 26 mpg combined. I averaged 23.3 to 23.8 mpg.

The dual-clutch transmission can also struggle with continuous low-speed cruising and shifting. I was making a pickup at Los Angeles International Airport and had to loop the arrivals area for 45 minutes. But well before then, a warning light came on that the transmission was hot and that I should safely stop. The air temperature was 77 degrees, which was not extreme. But the occurrence was not acceptable for such a common driving condition.

The Hyundai Tucson Limited is a proud statement for $35,000, but the powertrain will be disappointing for some.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

—Body style: compact, five-seat crossover, front- or all-wheel drive

—Engine: 175-horsepower, direct-injection and turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder; 195 foot-pounds torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm

—Transmission: seven-speed DCT

—Fuel economy: 24/28 mpg city/hwy.; 87 octane

SPECIFICATIONS

—Fuel tank: 16.4 gallons

—Cargo space: 31-61.9 cubic feet

—Front head/leg/shoulder room: 39.6/41.5/57.1 inches

—Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 39.2/38.2/55.1 inches

—Length/wheelbase: 176.2/105.1 inches

—Curb weight: 3,710 pounds

—Turning circle: 34.9 feet

—Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds

PRICING

—Base price: $32,195, including $895 freight charge; price as tested $35,070

—Options on test vehicle: Ultimate Package, $2,750, includes a panoramic sunroof, high-intensity discharge headlights with low beams that turn a few degrees with the steering wheel, rear parking sensors, 4.2-inch color display, front and rear LED map lights, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, vented front seats, heated rear seats; carpeted floor mats, $125.

—Assembled in Ulsan, Korea.

—Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper with unlimited mileage for roadside assistance; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain

 The Tucson is sold in front- or all-wheel drive models with two choices for engine and transmission.
The Tucson is sold in front- or all-wheel drive models with two choices for engine and transmission.

Mark Maynard is online at [email protected] Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage. To find out more about Mark Maynard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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