Hyundai Tucson 2016 Review

Test Drive 2016 Hyundai Tucson

© Simon Bayliss 2015

The Tucson is back, and in a big way!

While the name may have been in mothballs since early 2004, Hyundai never lost faith in the small SUV, and continued that line by morphing the ‘ugly duckling’ that was the MK1 Tucson into the more ‘attractive’ ix35, which in turn has now morphed into the beautiful swan that is the new 2016 Tucson.

With ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer on board, the Tucson has a more stylish and European look to it; gone are the angular lines of the ix35 that polarised many prospective buyers. At every angle, it is now a very attractive SUV.

The 2016 Tucson is bigger than its predecessor and now firmly sits in the small/medium SUV category and clearly has the market leading CX-5 in its sights. While Hyundai are sensibly coy on discussing projected sales figures, or how close they will come to the CX-5, there is however, a definite determination to take the fight to Mazda and to knock the CX-5 from its perch.

hyundai tucson simon bayliss

Bigger and Stronger

Compared to the ix35, the new Tucson is longer (65mm), wider (25mm) and higher (5mm) with a slightly wider track. Its wheel-base has also been lengthened by 30 mm. Of particular interest for SUV buyers, the boot capacity is up by 42L and overcomes the issue of limited luggage space typical of many small and medium SUVs.

While size isn’t everything, safety is for the modern SUV buyer. The new Tucson has 51% of its body constructed from high-strength steel as compared to only 18% for the ix35, and yet the Hyundai have still managed to reduce the weight of the Tucson.

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That added strength and lower weight also goes a long way to much better driving dynamics which have been extensively developed locally through the work of the HMCA (Hyundai Motor Company Australia) team including the internationally renowned suspension ‘guru’, David Potter.

HMCA tested over 100 different combinations of damper, spring, stabiliser bar and tyres, to maximise the ride and handling balance; as well as road noise.

First Impressions

On entering the new Tucson, the first impression is that the cabin and seat fully envelops you to such an extent that you feel part of the vehicle. That is what a driving experience is all about. While it has high sills and dash that gives the impression of sitting low, you actually have a commanding cockpit view. Add to that, the higher roofline, the Tucson provides an openness and visibility very different to its cousin, the KIA Sportage, where one can feel a little detached from your surroundings.

The front seats are very comfortable and supportive with a plethora of adjustments up, down, forward, back, and tilting, as well as a very good lumbar adjustment which can make or break a long trip. Combining this with tilt and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, means it is easy to get the perfect driving position. This is a real advantage for taller drivers like me (I am 6ft). The only slight issue I found was, with everything perfect from a comfort position; I could not see the bonnet.

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The dash is very well laid out with everything in easy reach and visible. The touch screen is also a good size and easily readable. The much anticipated Apple Drive and Android Auto will only be available in models without the in-system navigation (Active and ActiveX). Android integration will be available in early 2016, and can be retro-activated as it is already installed. The Apple and Android systems basically extend your smart-phone functionality to the in-car system for easy touch and voice functionality of phone, messaging and selected apps.

The new Tucson is available as AWD or 2WD with, four engines configurations (2.0 MPi, 2.0 GDI, 1.6T GD, and 2.0T CRDi), and four trim levels (Active, ActiveX, Elite, and Highlander)

The Drive

The drive from Canberra to Thredbo followed the bitumen; we then headed back to Berridale and took in some of the off-bitumen tracks around Adaminaby.

First up was the AWD Elite 1.6-litre petrol turbo with a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, returning an impressive 130kW and 265Nm, and using the same engine as the Veloster SR Turbo.

Out of Canberra, along the Monaro Highway, we sat nicely at 100 km. The climb up the long hill out Tuggeranong was impressive with the engine and transmission working smoothly with no searching for gears or notable revving; just a nice and reassuring pull up the hill.

In fact, the gear changes along the whole route were very smooth and quiet; it was only a variation in revs that gave any indication of a gear change up or down.This was mirrored when using the manual option too.

The steering is well weighted and provides excellent manoeuvrability around town and also great feedback. On the open road, it feels precise and without any of the fluffiness that can be associated with some power steering options.

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The first good handling test came on the road between Berridale and Jindabyne. A wonderful driver’s road with a series of winding bends. Again, the AWD Elite displays very good road manners with clean, precise, predictable changes of direction with no load-up under braking and is very neutral under acceleration out of the corners.

This section also revealed the real masterstroke of the vehicle, in that of the suspension setup, which is not just ‘tuned’ for local conditions but engineered for local conditions. The work done by HMCA and the suspension team was evident and takes this SUV to a whole new level.

Back to 2WD

First up for day two was the 2WD naturally aspirated 2.0. As I was grouped with the AWD petrol and turbo diesels, my initial thoughts were that they might be waiting a while for me at the next change over. But this was not the case as it was as spritely and sure-footed as the others, helped by the lighter weight and wonderfully tuned suspension. The engine did have to work a lot harder and at a noticeable higher rev range, it also hunted through the gears a bit, but for the entry level 2WD it was good. Keeping up with the pack was only really a challenge when it came to acceleration, so a bit of ‘momentum’ driving was required, but it certainly was not left behind.

AWD Turbo Diesel

The second section was what I was waiting for, with my pick for an Adventure SUV. The turbo diesel AWD and unsealed bush tracks. WOW! Is all I can say. The Tucson gripped well on the wet unsealed section without a hint of losing traction or control.

The package worked perfectly over the hills as well as through the ‘slow in fast out’ bends. It could really be pushed confidently and with no doubt it was going to go where it was pointed. The suspension was well balanced under braking and the engine pulled nicely though the corners, with the turbo coming in smoothly as you accelerated out. Truly exhilarating! Even with road tyres it handled very well.

Conclusion

So does the Tucson have what it takes to unseat the CX-5? Most definitely yes! Handling and road dynamics make it a leader in the field as does fit and finish. Add to that it’s higher equipment levels and 5 year unlimited km warranty (Mazda’s is only 3). The Tucson is a real standout against the competition.

Even more so, when you take into account its competitive pricing.

It is the real deal, from the ground up.