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2016 Hyundai Tucson Roadtest and Review By Thom Cannell

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2016 Hyundai Tucson
Delivering the good

By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Bullet Points: No attempt at completeness, simply comments on one week’s driving experience—balanced against decades of experience and hundreds of comparisons.

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It’s an annual family requirement to maintain or improve Mom’s home in Florida. Each year we tote ladders and paint or tile and toilets from big box store to home. This year we were delivering three butcher block countertops. While we could have paid delivery, it was an opportunity for a week-long test of the all-new 2016 Hyundai Tucson.

If your family is in the market for a small crossover, a CUV, you should consider Tucson. The all-new 2016 Tucson has had its styling dialed down several notches; once brash, now sophisticated with the face remaining distinctively Hyundai. As in our original report, the Tucson is easy to enter, easy to sit into. Overall it is pleasingly quiet from the command driving position and everywhere you look you’ll see luxury touches far beyond what the price would suggest. Like the double sewn real leather surfaces on the seats, door controls that appear to be solid aluminum, and a fully equipped audio system with all the BlueTooth goodness.

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From the command position you’ll find proper drive ability created by that tall position and excellent seating comfort for everyone. We quickly got to know the white on black instruments and declared them nearly in a class with recently tested Audis, they were clear and bright. The Driver Information System—DIC—between speedometer and tachometer delivered more information than you’d ever want. Thus information is divided into pages, changed by a single button-press from a compass, to fuel economy and remaining distance, to radio stations and CD tracks, an echo of the navigation system, and more. It is useful. We were impressed by the quality of Hyundai’s standard sound system. A bit of tweaking and it was more than good. Our Tucson didn’t have Apple Car Play or Android Auto though it soon will via a dealer upgrade or owner download.

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During our week we repeatedly tried the lane-alert system (it beeps if you cross or get very near a painted line without an activated turn signal) and still don’t enjoy this kind of “back seat nanny” regardless which car company offers it. That said, on a long, boring, late-night drive we might turn the system on for safety, or anytime there’s abundant fog. In contrast we absolutely love the cross-traffic alert and appreciate that it is very aggressive in observing and detecting oncoming traffic when backing out of a parking space. Florida deserves its reputation for clueless drivers. Continuing with the safety technologies offered, we were surprised there is no radar-based cruise control to alleviate long journeys. A feature we didn’t test, on purpose, is AEB or Automatic Emergency Braking which tries to keep you from rear-ending the car ahead.

Another features we appreciated was the excellent air conditioning. In the 90° humidity our glasses would mist over every time we exited the vehicle. And did we mention Tucson’s massive moon roof? It reaches from the plane of your forehead to beyond the rear passenger’s ears. It’s an aircraft carrier deck big.

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Now to our intended purpose, hauling cargo. While the capacity for luggage is excellent, especially with one or more rear seat backs folded down, we were concerned by our large and long cargo. The main task we’d set was picking up two six foot countertops, another a full eight feet long. Eight feet was a struggle—we had to remove the passenger head rest and both lower and fold the front seat—but it fit! The six footers? No worries, they just slid in. And we used the available Smart Power Liftgate, to automatically open as we lurked, key fob in pocket, at the rear. That saved us from putting down our end of the 150 pound counter top. It was good, unloading, to have push button trunk closing.

In total, the load added over 300 pounds, which the Tucson totally disregarded, accelerating as normal. All Tucson except for base SE model is equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo engine and 7-speed DCT, dual clutch transmission with manual shift mode which you’d never use except in a snow storm. The motor, from a standing start, is more than adequate and two-lane or freeway passing is good, but nothing to activate your inner racer.

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The turbo engine delivers good fuel economy in the city, we used less than 1/4 tank in the first 94 miles. On the down side we thought getting the right amount of acceleration difficult. It seemed either too abrupt or too slow. This could have been a result of previous drivers repeatedly testing acceleration; the transmission and engine control learns how you drive. Regardless we did find acceleration often more aggressive than wanted and requiring a soft throttle application.

Something you’ll never notice unless you are keenly aware of vehicle dynamics, the 2016 Tucson is largely constructed of high strength steels for lighter weight, more rigidity, and greater crash resistance. Changes like this make the car feel better to drive. As do excellent headlamps, among the best we’ve seen and far better than Tucson’s price class would suggest. Think German exotics, bright and wide to illuminate the night and our Limited model had bending headlamps to shine into corners as we turned. That’s a feature you never knew you needed.

Here’s our bullet points:

  • Handsome, with modern and sophisticated styling.
  • Comfortable, with a quiet interior far beyond its price point regardless model choice.
  • Abundant connectivity features, like SirusXM, CD, Blue Tooth, and soon-to-come Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
  • Heated and ventilated seats, huge overhead moonroof.
  • Sturdy and responsive chassis, excellent to steering and braking, all the active safety goodness needed in daily commutes and soccer field deliveries.

Needs improvement:

  • As on our first report, we dislike the tires. Noisy on blacktop, twitchy and lacking traction in the rain, disappointing launch feel as well.
  • The turbocharged Direct Injected engine works flawlessly, but has a bit of injector noise directly attributable to the direct injection process itself. Hyundai is not alone, it is an artifact of the fuel sipping intake system.