Auto review: Hyundai's next-generation Tucson crossover arrives for 2016 with a turbo engine option

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Hyundai has completely redesigned its compact Tucson crossover utility vehicle for 2016, giving it a sleek new look based on the company's "Fluidic Sculpture" design theme.

The re-do has made the Tucson a bit larger than the previous model, but also lighter in an attempt to boost fuel economy.

Prices for the new model begin at $22,700 (plus $895 freight) for the base SE six-speed automatic with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive; and $24,100 for the same vehicle with the optional all-wheel drive.

In the middle are the Eco and Sport models. The Eco with the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch automatic gearbox starts at $24,150 with front drive, or $25,550 with all-wheel drive.

The Sport model, with the same drivetrain configuration, begins at $26,150 with front drive, or $27,550 with all-wheel drive.

At the top-of-the-line are the two Limited models, both with the 1.6-liter engine and seven-speed gearbox. With front drive, the Limited starts $29,900, and with all-wheel drive, $31,300.

The manual transmission from the previous generation is no longer available, but the EcoShift transmission offers nearly the same experience without having to fool with a clutch.

It's essentially a manual gearbox shifted automatically by servos, and on our Limited front-drive tester, it felt as though someone else was shifting gears in a manual transmission for us as we drove down the road. With all due respect, though, I normally shift a bit more smoothly than the EcoShift transmission does on its own. It's sometimes a bit jerky, which takes a little bit of getting used to.

This minor annoyance isn't limited to this Hyundai transmission, though. It's a hallmark of virtually all of these new automatic-manual transmissions, which originally appeared in Porsche vehicles, and now are found in Volkswagens and Audis, where they are known as DSG or direct shift gearbox transmissions, and are beginning to appear in other brands.

The advantage is that this gearbox eliminates the need for a torque converter, which wastes power and fuel. The EcoShift gearbox helps give the Tucson slightly better fuel economy, especially when paired with the 1.6-liter turbo engine.

EPA fuel economy estimates for our front-drive Limited tester with this engine and transmission are 25 mpg city/30 highway/27combined. During our weeklong test, with about a 30-70 mix of city-highway driving, we averaged a respectable 27.9 mpg, even with my somewhat heavy right foot.

This is quite decent mileage for a roomy and comfortable crossover that can handily carry five people and their luggage (31 cubic feet of it). There are bucket seats up front and a three-person bench seat in the rear, and I was always comfortable in the driver's seat, even on a long weekend trip.

The base 2.0-liter engine is naturally aspirated, and has 164 horsepower and 151 foot pounds of torque. It's connected to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, and with front drive, has EPA ratings of 23 city/31 highway/26 combined. With all-wheel drive, the ratings are 21/26/23.

With the Eco, Sport and Limited models, you'll get the 1.6-liter turbo, which cranks out 175 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque. With the Eco model, the EPA ratings are slightly better than for the Sport and Limited: 26/33/29 for front drive, and 25/31/27 with all-wheel drive.

The Sport and Limited mileage ratings are the same, at 25/30/27 for front drive; and 24/28/26 for all-wheel drive.

On our Limited tester, power was impressive, which is a testimony to what automotive engineers are achieving these days with small turbocharged four-cylinder engines.

There was never a lack of power even when I needed bursts of acceleration to pass or merge with traffic from uphill freeway on-ramps. But I did need to use the cruise control to keep from inadvertently speeding once I got onto free-flowing highways.

The Tucson is based on the chassis of the Elantra sedan, and shares its architecture with the similar Kia Sportage. It competes in the popular compact crossover segment that includes the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, as well as the Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee and Volkswagen Tiguan.

With this newest Tucson, Hyundai continues its practice of offering more value than most of its competitors.

It has an "edgy" new exterior design, Hyundai boasts, and that's true. It's the next generation of Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design theme � 2.0 whose first version was included on the previous generation of the Tucson, which arrived for 2010.

It's not at all boxy or station-wagon-looking. But it's not entirely original, either � it looks a lot like the RAV4, CR-V and Escape. I wonder sometimes if the designers for vehicles such as these all work together in the same room.

The large hexagonal grille is impressive, though, and helps make the Tucson stand out from the crowd. It's similar to the grille on the newest Infiniti vehicles. There were chrome accents on the grille, door handles and the dual exhaust outlets of our Limited model.

As with most of the newer vehicles on the market, the redesigned Tucson is offered with a host of advanced, high-tech safety features previously found only on luxury vehicles. These include Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Backup Warning Sensors and Automatic Emergency Braking. All of these came at no extra charge on my Limited model.

The only things lacking among the newest electronic gear were adaptive headlights and radar cruise control, which are not offered on the Tucson.

The Limited model comes with just about everything you can get on a Tucson. Our tester was loaded with features, including navigation and 19-inch alloy wheels, and had no options except for carpeted floor mats ($125) and a cargo cover ($190). Total sticker price was $31,110, including freight.

Our vehicle's window sticker said we also had the Hands Free Smart Liftgate, which Hyundai has been promoting heavily in TV ads. It's supposed to open automatically when you get within a few feet of it with the key fob in your possession. It never worked on our tester, though, so I suppose someone had turned it off before it was delivered to us, and I never bothered trying to read the manual to find out how to turn it back on.

It did open automatically when I touched the rubberized button under the handle on the liftgate, and closed with the touch of another button at the bottom of the gate.

The Limited also makes proficient use of light-emitting-diode technology. It comes with LED twin-projector headlights, headlight accents and integrated daytime running lights. It even had LED approach lights in the door handles. The front fog lights were not LEDs, though.

Our tester's premium interior included leather seats, and there were some special touches, such as the stitched, soft-touch pad near the driver's right knee for "better comfort during long commutes or spirited cornering," Hyundai says. The interior surfaces are mostly covered with soft-touch materials.

My grandson loved the full-length panoramic sunroof, which allowing both front and rear passengers day or night skyward visibility. We enjoyed it while stargazing on a nighttime drive in the country, and also when watching some spectacular fireworks.

Although our tester didn't have the optional all-wheel drive, that's something I would add if I were buying this vehicle. It includes a driver-selectable differential lock for limited off-road use, as well as for slippery roads.

The system also includes Active Cornering Control, which automatically transfers torque to the wheels with the most traction; and both Hill-Start Assist and Downhill Brake Control, which are valuable off-road and in places like San Francisco.

Automatic climate control was standard on our tester, along with ventilated front seats.

The Tucson also has the next-generation of the Hyundai Blue Link system, with enhanced safety, service and infotainment telematics.

Navigation and audio were combined, with a 405-watt, AM/FM/satellite radio premium audio system with eight speakers. It included SiriusXM Travel Link with traffic, sports, weather, stocks, fuel prices and more. The SiriusXM Tune Start feature allows for replay of a song from its beginning whenever a preset is selected.

The Tucson is offered in eight exterior and three interior colors. Six of the exterior colors are new: Chromium Silver, Coliseum Gray (included on our tester), Ruby Wine, Mojave Sand, Sedona Sunset and Caribbean Blue. Carried over are Winter White and Ash Black.

Interior choices are black, beige and gray with cloth seats, and black or beige with leather. Our Limited had the black leather.


2016 Hyundai Tucson

The package: Compact, five-door, four-cylinder, front- or all-wheel-drive, five-passenger crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: Hyundai's entry-level crossover got a complete makeover for 2016 to enter its third generation, with a new, more-powerful turbo four-cylinder engine option, a roomier interior and better fuel economy.

Negatives: No third-row seat offered to expand passenger capacity.

Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, normally aspirated (SE); 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder, turbocharged (Eco, Sport, Limited).

Transmission: Six-speed automatic (SE); seven-speed direct-shift automatic (Eco, Sport, Limited).

Power/torque: 164 HP./151 foot-pounds (2.0-liter); 175 HP./195 foot-pounds (1.6).

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock, with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Electronic stability control: Standard, including traction control.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted and roof-mounted side-curtain for front and rear, standard.

Length: 176.2 inches.

Cargo capacity: 31 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 61.9 cubic feet (rear seat folded).

Curb weight: 3,325-3,499 pounds.

Fuel capacity/type: 16.4 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city/31 highway (SE, 2WD); 21/26 (SE, AWD); 26/33 (Eco, 2WD); 25/31 (Eco, AWD); 25/30 (Sport, Limited, 2WD); 24/28 (Sport, Limited, AWD).

Major competitors: Honda C-RV, Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Rogue.

Base price range: $22,700-$31,300, plus $895 freight.

Price as tested: $31,110, including freight and options (Limited 2WD with carpeted floor mats, cargo cover).

On the Road rating: 8.9 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.


ABOUT THE WRITER

G. Chambers Williams III has been an automotive columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1994. He can be reached at chambers@star-telegram.com.



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