What Is It?
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a fully redesigned compact SUV that is bigger in most dimensions than the model it replaces, yet still slightly smaller than top-selling segment rivals. It is available in four trim levels (SE, Eco, Sport and Limited), each of which includes plenty of equipment for their respective price points. The base SE starts at $22,525 while the Limited starts at $30,975. There are two four-cylinder engines offered, but the powerful and efficient turbocharged engine that is standard on the upper three trims is your best bet.
How Much Bigger Is It?
The 2016 Tucson is 3 inches longer, 1.1-inch wider and has a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase compared to its predecessor, which was one of the smallest vehicles in the compact SUV segment. The additional width and wheelbase is especially noteworthy, as it brings those dimensions on par with competitors like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The result is a more passenger-friendly cabin, especially for those in back. The 60/40-split rear seat is mounted high, providing ample thigh support, and there is plenty of legroom even with a 6-footer up front. An additional 11 degrees of seatback recline is welcome as well.
Even with its larger overall dimensions, the Tucson still falls a bit short in terms of cargo capacity. Its 31 cubic feet of space with the rear seats raised and 61.9 cubic feet with them lowered is considerably more than before, but on paper, the cargo area remains among the smallest in the segment. Numbers can be a bit deceiving, however. Compared to the likes of the Ford Escape or Jeep Cherokee, the Tucson's cargo area is wider and easier to load, with the added bonus of a floor that can be lowered an additional 2 inches for some extra space.
What Engines Does It Offer?
The entry-level 2016 Hyundai Tucson SE trim comes with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in the outgoing base model. It's rated at 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are once again standard, with all-wheel drive optional. Its EPA rating is up one notch to 26 mpg combined (23 city/31 highway) with front-wheel drive. Opting for all-wheel drive drops that number down to 23 mpg combined.
New to the Tucson is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine, along with its standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (DCT), makes stepping up to the higher trim levels a tempting choice. With 175 hp and, more importantly, 195 lb-ft of torque, it accelerates to highway speeds with more confidence than the base engine.
In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive Tucson Limited reached 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is quick for cars in this class. In terms of foot-to-the-floor acceleration, the Tucson may have edged out rivals, but in everyday driving conditions it comes up a bit short. There's a noticeable delay between applying pedal pressure and forward motion. Gear changes also produce inelegant lurches on occasion. Coming to a stop from 60 mph required 120 feet, which is a few feet shorter than competitors.
Despite the increased power, the 1.6-liter is the more efficient of the two available engines. How efficient depends on trim level, though. Not surprisingly, the Eco trim is the most economical choice, as smaller wheels and low-rolling-resistance tires help yield an impressive 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 27 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. These numbers make the Tucson Eco roughly equal to the segment-best Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 2.5 and Subaru Forester 2.5i.
Opting for either Sport or Limited trim lowers fuel economy to 27 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 26 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. This still tops the Ford Escape and its turbocharged engines, and is certainly well within the definition of "economical" for an SUV, especially given this powertrain's level of performance.
How Does It Drive?
Hyundai has made extensive improvements to the Tucson's steering and suspension. The latter includes more robust suspension components, upgraded dampers and new hydraulic-type bump stops. Plus, when it's equipped with all-wheel drive, an Active Cornering Control system not only sends power rearward while turning, but also applies the inside rear brakes to reduce the vehicle's tendency to push wide through turns.
It definitely doesn't possess the driver-engaging verve of a Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5, but short of those standouts, the Tucson's ride and handling are in keeping with expectations for the segment.
One distinction of note is the standard Drive Mode Select system that alters steering effort, transmission shift programming and throttle response according to one of three settings: Normal, Eco and Sport. This feature is increasingly typical on luxury cars, but the Tucson is the only vehicle in the compact SUV segment to offer it.
Even with the big 19-inch wheels found on the Sport and Limited trims, the Tucson didn't seem to possess the sort of impact harshness the outgoing model had on rough pavement. There is a level of refinement present that wasn't there before, which further contributes to the new model being a more complete, competitive offering in the segment.
What's the Interior Like?
Unlike the exterior that is both more stylish and grown-up than its predecessor, the interior design is just more grown-up — as in a khaki pants, business casual sort of way. The materials are just average, with prominent stretches of hard, scratchy plastic spread throughout the cabin that make the Tucson's cabin feel midpack at best.
There are padded and stitched leather surfaces covering the instrument panel and driver-side center console, as well as squishy door trim, but these elements are only offered on the top-of-the-line Limited trim. Even then, they don't look all that impressive. A more appreciated materials choice is the stain-resistant fabric used in models with a beige interior.
It is hard to fault the Tucson's cabin from a functionality standpoint, however. There is an abundance of storage up front, and the center armrest bin and smartphone holder are usefully large. Hyundai also continues to design and place its controls very well. We tested both a loaded Limited trim and a modestly equipped Eco, both of which had climate and audio controls that are easily reached.
The 5-inch touchscreen audio interface found on the SE, Eco and Sport isn't especially attractive or high-tech in appearance, but the layout is refreshingly simple, with easily pressed virtual buttons sharing space with song data from the radio or media player. The Limited's 8-inch touchscreen greatly expands functionality, but we experienced some slow reactions and the added features tend to complicate some menus. Whether you're tech-averse or an early adopter, the Tucson's electronics interface should meet with your approval.
Thick roof pillars and a small rear window reduce rear visibility, but thankfully a rearview camera is standard on all trims. The addition of rear cross-traffic alerts and parking sensors on higher-trimmed Tucson models further remove the guesswork out of backing into a tight spot.
What Features Come Standard?
In total, you get more equipment for your money in this new Tucson than before. With its base price of $22,525, the 2016 Tucson SE comes standard with alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, Drive Mode Select and the 5-inch touchscreen interface and satellite radio. These items are frequently optional among similarly priced competitors. Typical features like a rearview camera, height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity and iPod/USB/auxiliary audio inputs are also standard.
Besides its more powerful and efficient engine, stepping up to the Eco ($25,045) mainly adds some exterior aesthetic improvements. The Sport trim ($27,045) adds 19-inch wheels, a hands-free and height-adjustable power liftgate, push-button start, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic warning systems, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Finally, the Tucson Limited is the top of the line, boasting several features not available on even the priciest of its competitors. These include standard LED headlights, a power-adjustable passenger seat and Blue Link emergency telematics, as well as options like an enormous panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats (all included in the Ultimate package). Leather upholstery, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded interior materials and the bigger touchscreen are also standard on the Limited.
What Kind of Safety Technology Is Available?
The Tucson earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The "+" is the result of the Automatic Emergency Braking system optional on the Tucson Limited. Although that technology is available on many competitors, only the Honda CR-V can match the Tucson's pedestrian detection technology.
Standard safety features include the usual assortment of airbags and stability control, plus a rearview camera and a driver-side blind-spot mirror. Standard on the Sport and Limited are a blind-spot warning system, a lane-change assist function that essentially extends the blind-spot warning system, and a rear-cross-traffic alert system that comes in handy when backing out of parking spots. A lane-departure warning system is available on the Limited, but we found it overly sensitive to pavement seams.
Also standard on the Limited is Hyundai Blue Link 2.0. Like other emergency telematics systems, it provides automatic crash notification, an SOS emergency assistance button, upgraded road side assistance, stolen vehicle tracking and remote door lock/unlock. The optional Remote package upgrade also allows you to use a smartphone (or smart watch) to start the car remotely, adjust the climate control, lock or unlock the doors, honk the horn and flash the lights. It also notifies you if the alarm goes off.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
Given the 2016 Tucson's smaller size and emphasis on style, we recommend that you compare it to compact SUVs that are geared more toward singles or couples without children. If you are looking for something more family-friendly, a Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester offers more space.
The 2016 Ford Escape lines up well with the Tucson given its interior space and energetic turbocharged engines. It has a leg up on the Tucson in regards to its driving dynamics and interior quality, but its electronics interfaces and interior storage aren't as appealing.
The Mazda CX-5 is an Edmunds "A"-rated compact SUV that offers engaging driving dynamics, thrifty fuel economy and a well-made, spacious and comfortable interior.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
You are looking to step up from a compact or midsize sedan into a small SUV, but don't need (or want) something clearly intended for moms and dads. Or maybe you place superior value at the top of your list of priorities. Either way, the Tucson delivers a compelling package.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
It's not the most efficient SUV in the class, nor is it the most spacious. You also might not find the driving experience and interior ambience as refined as some of the class leaders.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.