2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X Review: Long-term report three and farewell

$26,730 $31,790 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    7.9L
  • Engine Power
    121kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    185g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

After six months with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X, the CarAdvice Melbourne team says farewell...

And that's it. Our time with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X is up. So, after six months of the mid-sized South Korean SUV kicking around the CarAdvice Melbourne garage, what do we think of it?

CarAdvice CTO Cam Smith has been at the helm of our Ara Blue Hyundai Tucson Active X for the majority of its time with us, leading the charge in our first and second long-term reports. As such, while a variety of team members have shared their thoughts on the upsized ix35 replacement for this final long-term report, we’ll let Cam open proceedings…

Cam Smith: Context is important, and for the majority of my time with the Tucson it was cast squarely as an urban family workhorse. Rush-hour commuting, school drop-offs, supermarket sorties, and the like.

Given this particular application, my lasting impression is that the Hyundai Tucson is a car of extremely solid fundamentals. Things like ride, manoeuvrability, cabin space and build quality really matter when you use a car this way day in and day out - and the Tucson makes a confident show in every one of these areas. The ride, in particular, we’ve singled out as being perhaps the best in the class.

During my time with the car there wasn’t a pothole I didn’t hit, nor cobblestone I didn’t traverse, yet the car always seems to remain confidently composed, without ever feeling harsh or unsettled.

The fact that the Active X package has been weighted toward those simple fundamentals also gives this specific model a real point-and-shoot simplicity.

So, if an uncluttered, uncomplicated driving experience is a priority for you, you’ll appreciate the decision making that’s gone into this specification.

Still, that’s not everyone, and I admit that there were times when I was wanting to engage with the vehicle beyond those mere fundamentals. Yet the feature set is so minimal, and the interior so unadorned, that there seemed to be no deeper relationship to build.

Particularly sparse is the technological feature set. Perhaps owing to my professional predisposition toward technology, I expected more than others, yet, the execution of the communication and infotainment system I found sorely wanting.

Overall, I think the Tucson is a great looking car that's spacious inside without being unwieldy outside. And it does very little wrong in everyday urban driving conditions. It’s comfortable, immediate, and insanely practical. And if that’s the extent of the remit you put on your mid-sized SUV, you’re likely to be very satisfied.

On the other hand, If you’re looking for a little bit of excitement, be it through highway acceleration, interior flair, or electronic componentry, you might find yourself left a touch short. Perhaps though, if that’s your bag, you may be willing and able to investigate one of the higher specced and higher priced variants, where these requirements are better answered.

James Ward: My first run in the Tucson was a typical mid-afternoon dash to school pick-up , via the post office.

I barely made it 400 metres before I rang Cam to praise the Hyundai’s ride. It is honestly the most comfortable and urban-compliant vehicle I have driven for a long time, and certainly so for its price bracket.

Its settled comfort is something larger and more expensive vehicles strive to achieve. Sure, I didn’t throw the Tucson through a tight hillclimb, but neither will the majority of buyers.

That said, it did take me about two minutes to realise there was no start button, or in-house navigation unit, or pretty much any other gadgetry accessory – which I found surprising. Perhaps the Tucson looks more upmarket than it is? That’s rarely a bad thing though.

Mike Costello: As was clearly demonstrated in our three-way medium SUV comparison – where we pitched the Tucson against the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5 – the Tucson’s headline act is the way it rides.

The Australian-developed suspension tune gives the Hyundai a remarkable ability to flatten out road bumps, while retaining good body control and handling. In terms of balancing road comfort with dynamism, it's a new benchmark for the class.

What lets it down is the sparsity of its cabin. Not only is some equipment missing when compared with key rivals – sat-nav being one item (only partly covered-for by the inclusion of Apple CarPlay) – but it's also a fairly austere place to hang out. Ergonomic, sure. But, exciting? Not even close.

Mike Stevens: My thoughts are fairly basic, as always. I'm a simple guy.

I quite like the styling, although I'm not sure the Tucson is going to age as well as the Santa Fe (which I believe is still among the most handsome SUVs on the road). And although I poo-pooed it initially, I think the the Tucson's platform mate, the bravely styled fourth-generation Kia Sportage, is the better-looking unit.

The Tucson cabin, likewise, loses out to the Sportage. It’s a very dull design – austere, but not in a good way like an Audi or, yes, even a BMW. The dash looks very design-by-numbers for mine.

Infotainment technology is respectable, but it hardly pushes the game forward, and I do tend to expect that. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is relatively small and looks aftermarket. To Hyundai's credit, though, and in contradiction to myself, they were one of the first to promise Apple CarPlay for Australia and, in fact, anywhere in the world.

The cabin is spacious, though. I liked that, and overall it's comfortable. It rides very well, in my book – Hyundai's Australia-specific tune remains a highlight of its local operation. The engine is hardly a heavy-hitter, but it has the right amount of go for me, and the well-calibrated six-speed automatic proves there's still sense in the now seemingly outdated gear count.

James Wong: Coming from a previous third-generation Kia Sportage Si Premium, I was very interested to see how the closely-related Hyundai Tucson would stack up against my daily-driver – a car I’ve lovingly named ‘Wanda’.

One of the first things I noticed was the Hyundai’s bold exterior design: the angular lines and bright blue paint make the Tucson a very attractive and upmarket-looking SUV. Once inside, the black-on-black interior may be slightly boring, however, everything feels solidly put together and most of the touch-points are finished with soft-touch or nicely-textured plastics that give the cabin a feeling of quality and durability.

Over the older Sportage (my own family car), the Tucson scores a 7.0-inch touchscreen and 4.2-inch TFT screen between the dials, and its front seats are particularly comfortable, offering great support and plenty of adjustment.

The Active X’s ‘premium’ steering wheel is nicely finished and feels good in the hands, with plenty of buttons to control the audio and driver information displays. It does, however, miss out on the steering wheel-mounted Bluetooth phone controls found on the higher spec Elite and Highlander models.

Once on the road, some of the similarities between my Kia and the long-term Hyundai become more apparent. Both are front-wheel drive, both employ a six-speed automatic transmission and both are powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – my Sportage producing 122kW of power and 205Nm of torque, the Tucson 121kW and 203Nm.

Both engines also sound similar, although, the Hyundai feels a little more sluggish and holds onto gears for longer, while the Kia feels lighter and smoother in its power delivery.

At highway speeds the Tucson feels solid and well-planted and is well insulated from road and wind noise.

The Tucson’s steering is fairly light and could probably do with more feedback, and the brakes feel a little spongy at times – however, after getting used to them, the latter is not a big problem.

Tom Fraser: Following its in-dealership update to Apple CarPlay compatibility, the Tucson's infotainment system was greatly improved. And although the idea of needing to visit your nearest Hyundai service centre to action the update drew criticism from some, the update formula is a great way to boost a car’s features and functionality without increasing its price.

Looking at the positives, the Tucson is really nicely damped around town and over speed bumps, its light steering is nice to use at lower speeds but a little short on feel, visibility is decent (important for a small SUV), the air conditioning handles hot days well, there’s plenty of boot space, and overall build quality is good.

Unfortunately, the engine and gearbox combination is noisy, lethargic and lacks the punch of some of the Tucson’s turbocharged rivals. The leather-appointed upholstery feels sub-par to the touch, the boot carpet has worn rather quickly and easily, and the audio quality of any Bluetooth phone conversation is terrible.

In short, for me, there's just nothing truly special about the Hyundai Tucson. It’s just a car that goes places – merely transport. I wouldn't buy one because, although it is quite good at what it does, it simply feels a bit too much like a bright blue appliance.

Over our six months together, ‘our’ Tucson has helped run behind-the-scenes support for a variety of projects, including our Mazda MX-5 Old v New comparison, and we’re pleased to say that each and every time, it proved its value, providing plenty of comfort, flexibility and overall fuss-free transport. The 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X, one we will truly miss…

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X images by Tom Fraser.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X
Date acquired: November 2015
Odometer reading: 13,026km
Overall distance travelled: 8226km
Overall fuel consumption: 10.1L/100km