The last generation Hyundai Tucson was a pleasant companion, if not particularly flashy. If you're into softly contoured crossovers, very good. Drive what you like, but there was opportunity to make the little crossover bigger and sexier. And, loaded with all of the safety and infotainment technology today's drivers expect. I recently traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to sample the view from Tucson.
If you like the Santa Fe and Genesis, you'll lose yourself over the pumped and primped Tucson. Echoing its siblings, the crossover presents face with a bold hexagonal grille flanked by available corner-following HID headlamps and LED running lights. From broadside, there's a lot of BMW X5 in the design, but that just gives it an upscale feel. Deep side sculpting, gray fenderwell accents, and rising windowline anchor an aggressive stance. While the design is completely new and considerably more aggressive, you'll know it as a Hyundai. Spot on.
Hyundai says the dashboard was inspired by the spread wings of flight, exemplified by Saarinen's TWA terminal at JFK. Sure, and it flaunts sitched dash coverings and satin silver finishes. Choose an up-level model for an 8-inch touchscreen and padded doors. Go low rent, and you get neither. I'd spring for the heated and ventilated leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rear air vents. Better, the power rear gate opens automatically by standing a few feet from the rear, with fob in pocket, eliminating the need to hop on one foot while swiping your loafer under the bumper as with competitors.
Check the right boxes to get Apple Siri Eyes Free integration, Pandora, and Yelp. Music lovers can thump a 405-watt audio system, but forget the CD player. It doesn't have one -- and nobody will care, but more than one USB port would be nice. Hyundai's Blue Link system facilitates remote start/stop, Google destination search, remote door lock/unlock, and stolen vehicle recovery. You can even control many of these functions with Android Wear smartwatch tech.
But, how does it drive? Base SE models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that conjures 164 horsepower, 151 lb.-ft. of torque, and 23/31-MPG city/hwy. You don't want that -- not with a 1.6-liter turbo-four standard on the rest of the trim levels. The smaller engine taps 175 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft of torque, and 26/33-MPG city/hwy. It's not the difference in horsepower, but serious jump in torque, that allows for zipping onto freeways or hauling tail through the mountains without circus juggling gears. All-wheel-drive is optional.
All out power is not the point; it's a compact crossover. What you notice, especially when hot-hoofing it through the mountains or wide-open across prairie, is the turbo provides a much more relaxing experience. Clipping through tight switchbacks near Asheville put the suspension through a work-out, but Tucson stayed planted and resisted heaving over. Base models have 16-inch wheels for comfort; up-level editions trade up for sexy 19-inch alloys. Critical attention to eliminating noise, vibration, and harshness provides an interior that is tomb quiet.
Through smart engineering and copious amounts of high-strength steel, the 2016 Tucson is expected to receive a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS, facilitated by Automatic Emergency braking, Lane Departure Warning System, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Backup Warning Sensors, and standard rearview camera.
Hyundai aims the Tucson at "Pre-family" couples and singles while targeting the larger three-row Santa Fe at actual families. That's ridiculous. My husband and I have a 2-year-old daughter and the Tucson would be all the space we need -- especially living in Broad Ripple. Four adults can even ride comfortably with a week's worth of gear. If you live anywhere near a city, the Tucson's size is primo for weaving through traffic and wedging into tight parking spots.
Overall, the Tucson is a sexier ride with room to haul all one needs. Hyundai will sell heaps -- especially considering a $22,700 base price of near $35,000 with all the gravy. Competitors include the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan, Jeep Cherokee, and Ford Escape.
E-mail Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube and Twitter: @AutoCasey.
2016 Hyundai Tucson
- Five-passenger crossover
- Powertrain: 175hp 1.6-liter T4, 7-speed auto trans
- Wheels f/r: 19"/19" alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Fuel economy: 26/33 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Korea
- Must-have features: Style, space
- Base/loaded price: $22,700/35,000