The sleek new styling of the redesigned 2016 Hyundai Tucson incorporates what Hyundai calls “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” design language, which suggests it’s more of an evolutionary product than a revolutionary one. After all, version 2.0 of anything is just an outgrowth of the original; it’s derivative by definition. But under the new Tucson’s stylish skin, there’s something closer to a revolution going on. With its sprightly and fuel-efficient turbocharged engine, roomier interior and cutting-edge safety and technology features, the latest Tucson is a real threat to disrupt the compact-crossover status quo.
All Tucson models have a newly adult-friendly backseat and enhanced cargo capacity that closes the gap with segment leaders. The Tucson is 3 inches longer and 1.1 inches wider than before, and that’s enough to make it considerably more competitive without diluting its endearingly maneuverable feel. There are a lot of new upscale features as well, including Hyundai’s latest 8-inch touchscreen interface, LED headlights and safety features like lane departure warning and a frontal collision intervention system.
Lest you conclude that this Hyundai can do no wrong, though, we should note that the new turbocharged engine isn’t available on the base SE trim, which trudges onward with a forgettable 2.0-liter engine from the previous-generation Tucson. Moreover, a number of those headline-grabbing features are reserved for the top-of-the-line Limited trim, which might test the limits of what you are willing to pay for a compact crossover SUV. But if you don’t mind paying for the Limited, you’ll enjoy one of the best-equipped crossovers for the price. And if you can live without those extras, the midgrade Eco and Sport trims are still nicely equipped, with the former topping out at a solid 33 mpg highway and the latter offering more creature comforts.
The 2016 Tucson occupies an interesting niche between the compact and subcompact segments. Despite the stretched dimensions this year, it’s still a few inches shorter than compact stalwarts like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, which — like Hyundai’s own Santa Fe Sport — offer more interior space but less verve. Yet the new Tucson is significantly larger than the new breed of subcompact crossovers like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3, so if those models feel too cramped, the Tucson could be a sensible compromise. We also recommend the Ford Escape as a roomier option that’s fun to drive, too. On the whole, though, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a compelling new crossover that’s more of a revolution than you might think.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV offered in four trim levels: SE, Eco, Sport and Limited.
The base SE comes standard with the 2.0-liter engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED headlight accents, heated mirrors, privacy glass, a rear spoiler, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer, stain-resistant cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks with recline, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 5-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack and satellite radio.
The Eco adds the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, LED daytime running lights, foglights, roof rails and an eight-way power driver seat (with lumbar).
Step up to the Sport and you get 19-inch wheels, a hands-free power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a few new safety technologies (see Safety section below).
The Limited throws in LED headlights and taillights, upgraded interior trim with additional soft-touch surfaces, leather upholstery, a six-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air vents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics, an 8-inch touchscreen, a navigation system and an eight-speaker audio system.
Note that the SE can be equipped with a handful of the higher trims’ basic convenience features via a pair of packages (the Preferred package and Popular Equipment package). Offered exclusively on the Limited is an Ultimate package that includes adaptive xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, an upgraded gauge cluster with a color trip computer, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, lane-departure warning and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson SE is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). EPA-estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg combined (23 city/31 highway) with FWD and 23 mpg combined (21 city/26 highway) with AWD.
The Eco, Sport and Limited trims step up to a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that generates 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The transmission here is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual that works just like a regular automatic. The Eco features smaller tires with less rolling resistance, so its fuel economy is estimated at 29 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway) with FWD and 27 mpg combined (25 city/31 highway) with AWD. The hefty 19-inch tires on the Sport and Limited knock those models down to 27 mpg combined (25 city/30 highway) with FWD and 26 mpg combined (24 city/28 highway) with AWD.
Standard safety items on the 2016 Hyundai Tucson include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, hill-hold assist and hill descent control.
All trims provide a rearview camera as standard, while the Sport gets standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The Limited features all of those items plus standard rear parking sensors and a couple optional items via the Ultimate package (lane-departure warning and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking and pedestrian detection).
The Blue Link telematics suite is standard on the Limited but unavailable on the other trims. It includes emergency safety assistance and other smartphone-based features via the Blue Link mobile app. If you upgrade to the Remote package, you also get stolen vehicle recovery, a car finder and electronic parameter settings (geo-fencing, speed/curfew alerts and valet alert) and remote ignition and accessory operation via a smartphone or even smartwatch.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson’s interior has a more grown-up look than its predecessor, featuring a restrained dashboard design with sensibly arrayed controls. The materials aren’t optimal, however, as hard plastic surfaces remain the norm. That’s fortunately less of an issue for the Limited, which gets upgraded trim that includes padded dashboard and door inserts with accent stitching. In any event, the Tucson has plenty of storage nooks for your stuff, particularly for front passengers.
On the technology front, the standard 5-inch touchscreen won’t blow you away with its size or resolution, but it’s quite user-friendly thanks to readily accessible virtual buttons and an intuitive layout. Not surprisingly, the Limited’s 8-inch version is both more capable and prettier to look at; pity it’s not offered on at least one of the other trims. On the bright side, USB connectivity, Bluetooth and satellite radio come standard on every Tucson, so there’s no shortage of musical fun to be had.
Front seat comfort is satisfactory, and it’s worth noting that the Tucson stands apart from other compact crossovers by offering a power passenger seat (Limited only). The rear seat doesn’t slide fore and aft, which strikes us as a missed opportunity in this segment, but it’s mounted higher than before and can now accommodate a couple of 6-footers without issue.
Cargo capacity has also improved. With 31 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 61.9 cubes with those seatbacks folded down, the Tucson is close enough to the CR-V (35.2 and 70.9 cubes, respectively) to provoke thoughts about how important that maximum number really is. Sweetening the deal is the hands-free power liftgate that comes standard on Sport and Limited. Unlike the Ford Escape’s version of this technology, which works via a foot sensor that you need to kick at, the Tucson employs a proximity sensor that opens the liftgate automatically if it senses you’re standing in the vicinity with the key in your pocket.
Although the base SE trim has an enticingly low price, the 2.0-liter engine it’s saddled with is reason enough to upgrade. This was also the base motor in the previous Tucson, and we didn’t especially like it then, either, finding both its refinement and its performance to be lacking. The turbocharged engine, on the other hand, is peppy and smooth, and it gets better gas mileage to boot. Plus, the turbo’s exclusive automated manual transmission has impressed us with its smooth shifts and quick responses, so there’s no downside.
The base and Eco trims predictably have a more composed ride with their 17-inch wheels, but the 19s (standard on Sport and Limited) are eminently livable. Impacts are well suppressed even on rough blacktop, giving the Tucson a supple, sophisticated feel in everyday driving. Around turns, the Tucson isn’t as sporty as, say, the Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5, but it acquits itself well enough for a vehicle of this type. Its compact dimensions also make it easier to fit into tight parking spots.