2016 Hyundai Tucson Review

Will the new Tucson become the best mid-sized SUV in Australia?

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is bigger, better and finally in contention to take on the best selling SUV in the country.

As a replacement for the second-best selling SUV in the country, the Hyundai ix35, the new Tucson (too-sun) has a lot to live up to and starting at $27,990 plus on-road costs, it’s a $1000 price increase over its predecessor. Is it justified?

From the outside the 2016 Tucson resembles a mini Santa Fe with a sharper and more modern look. It’s a cleaner design than the edgy and overdone ix35, now presenting smoother lines and cleaner surfaces.

It’s the first car that former Audi designer, Peter Schreyer – who has been responsible for the look of sister brand Kia’s models over the past few years – has overseen in his new role at Hyundai.

On the inside the Tucson presents a pretty reasonable cabin, though there’s still plenty of hard plastics and the infotainment buttons, of which there are plenty – almost too many – can feel a little underwhelming to touch and use.

The higher-end models, which gain an 8.0-inch screen infotainment system, lack the simplicity and usability of their main rival, the Mazda CX-5, which employs a BMW iDrive clone called MZD Connect. The main issue, at least for us, is the lack of a rotary dial, which makes doing things on the fly a lot easier and less distracting than touching the screen.

On the plus side, the Active and Active X models (7.0-inch screen) get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, meaning your smartphone will be the main driver of the car’s infotainment system. Watch our video demo on that here.

This is a huge advantage as the car’s screen basically becomes a dumb terminal for your phone to run and as you update your iPhone or Android device, the improvements are felt in the car. It’s a great idea and helps future-proof the vehicle for features and map data. Other variants are expected to gain the feature in early to mid 2016.

There are four engine choices available, two of which will power the front wheels only (and be available in both manual and auto) and two of which will be available in all-wheel drive automatic only.

The base spec 2.0-litre four cylinder MPi petrol (available only in Active and Elite trims in 2WD) won’t make it to Australia until September, so if you want a Tucson now you’ll have to do with the more powerful 2.0 GDi (ActiveX variant in 2WD only) that delivers 121kW of power and 203Nm of torque. Prices for that start from $30,490 (add $2500 for auto).

We started our drive in that model, which is coincidentally the only Tucson variant that comes from Hyundai’s home factory in South Korea. All other variants are sourced from a plant in the Czech Republic, where the ix35 SE was previously manufactured.

Hyundai has done an amazing job of tuning the Tucson’s suspension for Australia’s generally unreliable roads. Where the previous car suffered from a jittery ride at times, the new Tucson is smooth and only on the biggest potholes did we feel the road surface through the cabin.

Surprisingly, the car’s dynamic ability is not too compromised as a result. Hyundai Australia says it went through 104 different suspension settings before deciding which is best for our market and it has deliberately allowed the car to lean when pushed in corners to reduce its tendency to understeer.

This can feel a little discomforting at the limit – where’s, say, a Volkswagen Tiguan sits flat and planted (until it understeers) - however for the 99 per cent, it’s the perfect balance.

Similarly for most, the difference between a front and all-wheel drive model is unnoticeable, especially if all you intend to do is drive around town. But even on icy roads, we found the front-wheel drive Tucson more than capable thanks to the electronic stability control system, which seems far better tuned now than in the ix35.

In saying that, if you frequent dirt or country roads or can see yourself taking the Tucson on soft sand, you’ll be looking to pay at least $38,240 for the Elite 1.6-litre turbo AWD.

The 1.6-litre petrol turbo – with 130kW and 265Nm – is coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and it’s the same engine and transmission combo in the Veloster SR Turbo. But thankfully in the Tucson the gear changes are far smoother and less prone to sudden jerks.

We found its drivetrain to be an excellent compromise between sportiness and family needs – essentially what a Sports Utility Vehicle is meant to be. Hyundai claims it will use 7.7 litres of fuel per 100km, though being a turbo, that’s almost entirely dependent on your right foot.

We drove this variant all the way from Canberra to Thredbo and it never lacked pace. Nonetheless we found the all-wheel drive system, which is an ‘on-demand’ setup (pushing power to the rear-wheels only when required) can be a little laggy at times unless you press the AWD lock button, which despite the sign visually staying on permanently (which it shouldn’t, as to not lure you into a false sense of security), only works at speeds below 30km/h.

From there your only other choice is the AWD 2.0-litre turbo diesel, which starts from $40,240 in Elite trim. You’re paying $2000 more for the diesel over the petrol turbo or a massive $5000 more compared to the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre GDI in the same trim.

If you’re looking at the 1.6-litre petrol turbo, then sure, perhaps the additional cost for the diesel makes sense but if you don’t need AWD, whatever fuel economy saving (6.6L of diesel per 100km) you think you’ll get from it, is not worth the extra cost.

It does have a bucket load of torque, though, with 400Nm from 1750rpm, and peak power isn’t too bad at 136kW. The standard six-speed automatic is smooth too, so it’s certainly the best Tucson variant, but also the most expensive.

On all models the power steering system is a big improvement over the ix35, though we feel the CX-5 still remains the ‘driver’s’ pick in the segment with a more direct sense of drive.

In terms of a family friendly SUV, the Tucson is pretty darn good. Is it better than a Mazda CX-5? It’s hard to say (we are doing a full comparison at this very moment) nonetheless it will happily suit families of four and there is 513L of space in the boot, which is enough to take a large pram and other necessities.

The Tucson’s biggest selling point is that it’s better equipped than the CX-5 and hence presents better value. It also comes with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, as opposed to a three-year one offered by the Japanese manufacturer.

Check out the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Specifications for a full breakdown of what each variant gets.

Overall the 2016 Hyundai Tucson range is certainly a little confusing with nine different models on offer. Our advice? The sweet spot is by far the front-wheel Active X while the variant that seems to make the least sense is the European-sourced Elite, which costs almost an extra $5000 for not all that much, not to mention it misses out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 1.6-litre turbo petrol with a dual-clutch transmission remains the variant with the biggest question mark in terms of longevity, so if you don’t want to take even the slightest unnecessary mechanical risks (though, you can of course rely on the warranty) go for any of the two petrol or the single diesel engine models, drivetrains which have been around and proven their credentials for some time.

The overall range score is 8/10, however for us the Active X would be a 9/10, while the Elite models would be around the 7.5 mark. It would have been ideal if Hyundai offered an Active X variant with AWD for those that are happy with that car's spec, but require better traction.

Pricing (before on-road costs):

Tucson Active

  • 2.0 MPi petrol 2WD – six-speed manual – $27,990
  • 2.0 MPi petrol 2WD – six-speed auto – $30,490

Tucson ActiveX
  • 2.0 GDi petrol 2WD – six-speed manual – $30,490
  • 2.0 GDi petrol 2WD – six-speed auto – $32,990

Tucson Elite
  • 2.0 MPi petrol 2WD – six-speed auto – $35,240
  • 1.6 T-GDi petrol AWD – seven-speed DCT auto – $38,240
  • 2.0 CRDi diesel AWD – six-speed auto – $40,240

Tucson Highlander
  • 1.6 T-GDi petrol AWD – seven-speed DCT auto – $43,490
  • 2.0 CRDi diesel AWD – six-speed auto – $45,490