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2016 Hyundai Tucson Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2016 Hyundai Tucson

A fresh face for a popular CUV

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

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We had a close look at, and a first drive in, Hyundai’s thoroughly refreshed Tucson compact CUV this week at the company’s tech center near Ann Arbor along with a half-day drive through the verdant back roads of southern Michigan. The new Tucson is a tad larger than the outgoing model, with fresh styling outside and in. Both standard and optional content get a boost bringing it up to date with all the other great products in the compact CUV class.

Outside we find more distinct character lines all around. The bolder, hexagon grille, LED daytime running lights and available door handle lights provide an updated look. The rear view, while freshened, provides little extra drama. Hyundai’s design language has officially been called “fluidic sculpture” since the full redesign of the Sonata some years ago. Now they refer to it as “fluidic sculpture 2.0” building on the swoopy, crisp lines with enough complexity to be distinctive. This new Tucson adds asymmetrical wheel arches you might not notice if not pointed out but they give the car a more forward-leaning look. We will also be able to get 19-inch alloy wheels for the first time on Tucson. Coefficient of drag is improved with underbody cladding and other tricks but at just 0.33 it’s nothing to write home about.

With the addition of 1.2 inches of wheelbase, 1.1 inches of width and 3 inches in overall length the inside gets incrementally bigger. You might be surprised how much difference a few inches can make. The cargo area behind the second seat measures a good 31 square feet, up 5.3 from the last model. Hyundai will offer an optional hands-free, adjustable-height rear lift gate (just stand near it with the fob in you pocket for 3 seconds for it to open) and an adjustable cargo floor.

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Inside, the refresh is less obvious. You would almost need the old and new side by side to see the changes. The top trim level gets leather and stitching in the IC brow. Higher quality materials are used through out the interior and they’ve added a nice center knee panel for the driver. The design remains simple, functional and reasonably attractive. It reminded me of the Mazda CX5 inside.

The bottom-level Tucson SE gets a carryover powertrain – the 2.0-liter, direct-injected, 4-cylinder making a modest 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. They’ve wrung one more mpg out of that combination for 2016 at 23- mpg in the city, 26 on the highway and 23-mpg combined. The other three trim levels get a new engine and transmission – a 1.6-liter turbo and a 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic. This combo makes a stronger 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The maximum torque, we’re told, is seen at an impressively low 1,500 rpm. In addition to adding more power this one gets 3 mpg better than the outgoing 2.4-liter premium engine at 25-city, 30 highway and 27-combined. The fuel tank is 1.1 gallon bigger for more cruising range.

The new seven-speed makes selectable driving modes possible– Eco, Normal and Sport – that can maximize efficiency or driving dynamics, whichever you prefer. It does this primarily by changing the shift algorithms and steering characteristics.

Also new with this update is the use of more high-strength steel – now 50% compared with 18% for the outgoing model. Most auto companies increase the percentage of this material to reduce weight and strength of the chassis at the same time. Hyundai has a bit of an advantage in that they founded their own steel company about 10 years ago to both R&D and production of the steel. Our friends at Hyundai say the A-pillar is stronger and the B- and C-pillars are tied together improving rigidity. The disadvantage is for first responders who might have to cut someone out of the car. It’s tough to cut through the high-strength steel.

Under the skin we find more sophisticated suspension dampers and stabilizer bars, bigger brakes, better bushings and a bunch of other enhancements too esoteric to detail in this forum. Also we’ll be able to have a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system with this new model along with proactive systems like hill-start and downhill brake control.

Finally, Hyundai will offer lots of new collision intervention and other safety stuff we find on many vehicles today, like lane departure warning, emergency brake intervention and pedestrian detection that will be on all models and optional blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic assist.

Four trim levels are offered – SE, Eco, Sport, and Limited – beginning at $22,700 for the SE and ranging to $31,00 for the very-well equipped Limited. You will see them begin to show up at dealers by the end of August 2015.

All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. come with a full 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty and powertrain coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles along with 5 years of complimentary roadside assistance.

So, what did we think of the new Tucson on the road?

My drive partner and I agreed it is a competent, good-looking, high-content compact CUV that will continue the Korean automaker’s reputation for providing a good value. If you compare feature-for-feature with all its competitors you’ll probably conclude it should be on your shopping list. While the untrained eye will struggle to distinguish it from its predecessor this represents a major advancement for the model in just about every way.

On the fun-to-drive quotient, even in sport mode, it won’t get your attention. Everything works well together dynamically. Power is pretty good but not impressive and the 7-speed automatic shifts very smoothly and quickly, but not quite as quickly as some of the (way more expensive) German competitors. Most folks looking for a compact CUV are not expecting something with a particularly sporty character so that is probably not an issue.

We'll have a more detailed and more accurate report on the new Tucson once we’ve been able to spend more time with it. But, it sure makes a great first impression.

PS: Next from Hyundai, look for more news on a potential truck – not a “pickup,” they insist, rather an “open bed CUV.” After showing the concept at last year’s Detroit auto show to overwhelming enthusiasm – they insist – they’ve decided to enter this popular segment. More on that later.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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