The Hyundai Tucson has embarked on a remarkable transformation in just the span of 12 years. Looking back to the first generation model and comparing it to the current third generation, you know it’s come a long way. From the ugly duckling it once was, today’s Tucson doesn’t have a single hair out of place. Perfectly styled with all the right angles and curves, it’s one of the best looking compact crossovers around. The question beckons though: how does it compare to the competition?
If there’s anything the Tucson gets right, it’s the styling. The Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 tweaks the Hyundai design language to something more mature and familial. There’s a heavy dose of Sonata and Santa Fe in the Tucson and that’s all for the better. The large hexagonal grille, slimmed down headlights, squat stance, and thinner tail lights all work in the crossover format; even down to the two-tone high-luster 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s only one thing that sticks out: the pole-type antenna. Not only does it ruin the otherwise sleek roofline, it doesn’t feel solid. It can be nudged whenever you’re giving the Tucson a good scrub.
Stepping inside, the initial impressions are good. The design and execution are a step up compared to the previous Tucson. All the tangible touch points feel luxurious, all the controls are intuitively arranged and clearly labeled, the gauges are the best one fitted to any mainstream vehicle, the seats are well-bolstered, and the steering wheel’s a joy to hold. Plus, thanks to the repackaged interior, it’s spacious front or back, with the rear occupants enjoying their own air conditioning vents. Mind you, these are all in the first 30 minutes.
After that though, the fault finding begins. First, the seats: though initially supportive, they lack lumbar support. It’s adjustable, yes, but finding the best seating position is difficult. You end up sitting a bit higher and more upright than usual causing some slight discomfort during a long drive. Second, there’s still a large expanse of hard plastic inside. The touch points have all been improved, but move an inch or two from there and it becomes as luxurious as your office cubicle. The consistent graining helps, but it’s nonetheless distracting. Third, that swoopy style has affected ingress/egress. You end up either hitting your head on the A-pillar or scuffing the door scuff plate whenever you go in or out. Finally, that same sleek body causes huge blind spots. Thankfully, back-up sensors and a rear parking camera are standard.
Previous models are infamous for being bare; thankfully, Hyundai is moving away from that way of thinking. Priced at P 1,538,000 for this, the just-below-the-top-of-the-line 2.0 S VGT 2WD, you get features commonly reserved for crossovers priced at about 30 percent more. Things like leather seats with power adjustment and cooled for the front, a passive entry system with push-button start/stop, a power tailgate, and a gigantic moon roof are all standard. In fact, all that’s missing is the all-wheel drive system itself.
Speaking of performance, if you’re in the market for a Tucson, opt for the one loaded with this, the R 2.0-liter CRDi engine. Though carried over largely unchanged from the previous generation, the 185 horsepower and 402 Nm of torque outputs are nothing to complain about. Smoothness largely depends on how well you modulate your right foot. Slamming on the gas results in an abrupt on/off feel where a split-second of nothingness is replaced by an uncomfortable surge of power. The best response is achieved with partial throttle application. When done properly, power comes in smoothly and immediately with gobs of torque. It’s at home whether in the city or highway though at higher speeds, there’s a tinge of vibration. Still, it’s largely quiet and refined—easily one of the best diesel engines around. It has driver-selectable driving modes, but that feature is largely academic for as long as you can train your right foot.
The accompanying 6-speed automatic is just as good as the engine. Despite the absence of paddle shifters, it’s responsive, though engine braking is quite heavy during deceleration. Downshifts aren’t as quick as upshifts, but it’ll nonetheless keep up a good rhythm. The big bonus to the Tucson’s well-tuned drivetrain is the fuel mileage: 9.80 km/L in the city (average speed 17 km/h), 20.83 km/L highway (average speed 71 km/h).
Built on a stiffened platform, the Tucson is more refined and comfortable than the model it replaces too. In fact, it’s easily one of the most comfortable compact crossovers currently out there. It manages all sorts of road imperfections with ease and big impacts are muted by the time they reach the cabin. In addition, it’s remarkably quiet, even at high speed.
Of course, by prioritizing plushness, it does affect the handling. In the city, the Tucson is largely impeded by the non-linear steering. Near the center, it’s slow and numb, almost unwilling to tell the driver where the driven wheels are pointed. As you add steering angle, it then becomes a more willing dance partner, being quicker and more responsive. This means having to constantly correct steering angle mid-corner repeatedly, causing you to either under or over compensate for corners. What’s more, give the throttle enough pressure and the front wheels will screech in protest. As the speeds go up though, the Tucson strengthens its resolve. Cruising on the open road is what it does best. Coupled with the nice, stable ride, the steering is also nicely weighted.
The compact crossover genre is easily one of the most hotly contest segments in the market right now. Seen as the de facto replacement for the compact sedan, there are at least a dozen choices around; and that’s not even including the mid-sized pickup-based SUVs, whose prices are precariously knocking at this segment’s door. In that ever crowded segment, the Tucson has always stood out because of its stellar engine and good value for money. And this all-new model can add eye-catching design and impressive NVH to its CV as well.
That being said, although the Tucson is better both objectively and subjectively than the model it replaces, Hyundai needs to move their goal post further from this point on. They’ve managed to still stand out, but it’s hard not to see that it barely registers a pulse now, especially compared to its competition. Yes, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is fashionable, well-equipped, and undeniably high-quality, but just about any new crossover is.
2016 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 S VGT 2WD
|Ownership||2016 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 S VGT 2WD|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Common Rail, Variable Valve Timing, Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||185 @ 4,000|
|Nm @ rpm||402 @ 1,750 - 2,750|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,593|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Kumho Crugen Premium 225/55 R 18 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (front)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual, with Rear Vents|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|