2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X Review: Long-term report two

Rating: 8.0
$30,490 $32,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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A few months into our time with our 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X long-termer, both positives and negatives are making themselves ever more apparent...
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A few months into our 'ownership' experience with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X and the man spending the majority of time behind the wheel, CarAdvice CTO Cam Smith, is finding plenty of positives about the South Korean mid-size SUV.

As mentioned in our first long-term report, our early-build Hyundai Tucson Active X didn’t leave the dealership with the required functionality to support Apple CarPlay. To rectify this, we booked it into our local service centre at Yarra Hyundai to have the entertainment system updated.

Greeted at the dealership by the service manager, and offered a coffee, we chose to have a closer look at what updating the system actually involves – though, of course, regular owners could simply relax in the waiting area.

The process could not be easier or faster. A quick plug in of a USB stick, a download and install of the latest software and in no time, the service manager is giving us a crash course in how to use the new technology.

And that’s it. The whole exercise took less than five minutes and costs owners nothing. That said – as we highlighted in long-term report one – Android phone users keen for their Tucson Active and Active X to be Android Auto capable, will have to wait until later in the year when Hyundai Australia releases a second ‘update’, requiring another dealer visit.

For now, though, let’s check back in with Cam…

Cam: We’ve already praised the Hyundai Tucson for its ride, which makes easy work of Melbourne’s patchiest urban road network. After a few months behind the wheel, it’s that same self-assured footwork that remains the Tucson’s standout feature.

As the Victorian summer lingered on and we swapped city streets for coastal roads, I had a chance to put the Tucson through its paces over the Victorian surf coast’s un-groomed byroads.

Hitting the beach, I found that the Tucson retains its extremely user-friendly handling. Although the front-wheel-drive Active X won’t get you too far into the drift sand, it stays composed over the ditches and tussocks of beach car parks.

The roomy second row, and generous 488-litre boot, make loading up two kids and two body boards quick and effortless. There’s ample room for the dog too.

In cooler weather, we headed across to the local strawberry grower. A winding trip over some lumpy local roads and corrugated gravel, again, the Tucson impresses with how well it copes with less manicured surfaces.

The Tucson never becomes unsettled by repeated oscillations in the road surface and seems to invite you to throw a little more at it each time. Nor has this kind of treatment caused any bothersome squeaks or rattles to emerge - the build quality (so far) holding true to the observations we made in our initial long-term report.

What does require some discipline, though, is the throttle. The 121kW/203Nm naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine is fine if you accept its limits, and will reward a driving style that doesn’t ask more of it than it can deliver.

On a winding, hilly coastal road, it is admittedly easy to give it a little too much boot, at which point the six-speed automatic gearbox will drop you into a place you might not want to be.

It’s a bit harsh to say the four-cylinder petrol is underpowered, but I will say that when pushed out of its comfort zone, the 'power-to-noise' ratio is not to my liking. Again, it’s a matter of driving style and keeping the drivetrain within its preferred constraints – a point clearly reflected in our respective highest and lowest recorded fuel consumption figures of 14.1 and 7.6 litres per 100km.

In the first long-term report I called out the Active X’s apparent lack of features. As a result, a healthy debate within the CarAdvice office ensued as to whether the model’s equipment roster was in fact too bare for its $32,990 (before on-road costs), or simply realistic for its price point.

Since then, we’ve matched up our very own Tucson against its spec-level competitors in a three-car medium SUV comparison. And while the difference in features was admittedly slight, the Tucson was clearly the least well-equipped of the bunch.

Now, some of these creature comforts I can happily do without. The lack of a power tailgate and push-button start actually give the car a real feeling of immediacy, as you can quickly shut the boot, bung the key in the ignition and be on your way. There’s no hanging around cursing slow electric motors or sluggish ignition software.

And where electric motors have been deployed, such as the mandatory power windows, they are quick: 2.0 seconds flat to lower the front windows, 2.3s for the rear windows. Other omissions leave me wanting, however.

If you’re a tech geek like me, you’ll like to explore your car’s infotainment system – maybe discover a few hidden hacks. And while I’ve found the 7.0-inch touchscreen-driven system slow to boot up and slow to re-pair with mobile phones, I did find there is a surfeit of graphical equalisation for the Hyundai’s six-speaker stereo.

There are two sets of EQ controls, a three- and a seven-band, lurking in separate configuration screens. How they battle it out against each other isn’t exactly clear either. Repeated sorties into the configuration menus have also failed to unearth any settings that will improve the quality of the Bluetooth telephony system either, which – despite the latest workshop update – remains unutterably bad.

Unfortunately, there’s precious little else on offer – of particular note here, the omission of a stand-alone satellite navigation element from the infotainment unit (such as that included on the one trim level higher Elite model).

The geospatially-challenged among us need not fear though, as the lack of navigation can be remedied via the use of Apple CarPlay.

Thanks to our fresh software update, iPhone users, such as myself, can now access Apple Maps, Spotify, and Messages – along with other functions off the handheld computer – directly on the Tucson’s infotainment screen. Problem solved then, right? Well, kind of.

The use of Apple Maps requires both a data signal and a data bill – the former being something you might expect to be on the scarce side if you’re far enough away from home that you need a map. Ok, that’s not necessarily the case if you live in a big city, but the added reliance on mobile networks is certainly not ideal.

It’s true, you can download mapping data for use offline (with Google maps at least), however, you need to have decided, in advance, precisely where it is you’re going to get lost, and have pre-emptively downloaded maps for that area. And personally, that’s just a little more forward planning than I’m famous for.

Even more problematic for me, is something far more fundamental: use of CarPlay – in this iteration at least – requires you to physically attach the phone to the car via USB cable.

Besides requiring that I devote yet another $35 cable specifically to the car, having to plug my phone in seems to be a retrograde step in usability, compared with the now ubiquitous Bluetooth-based wireless connectivity. Yes, iOS 9 has introduced wireless CarPlay, but it’s not supported by the Tucson. And it’s for this very reason that the system has gone largely unused for day-to-day travels.

Whether the drawbacks we’ve highlighted here bother you, will largely be down to your own individual tastes and requirements. After a few months of use, though, what can confidently be said about the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X, is that it’s a well-proportioned, well-built SUV, with no unnecessary clutter. It’s simple, capable, and direct. And further, lays claim to best-in-class ride and near-top-of-class handling.

We look forward to bringing you our final report on the Tucson in the near future, and please, if you have any questions you’d like answered, let us know in the comments section below.

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: 11,670km
Travel since previous update: 6870km
Consumption since previous update: 10L/100km

MORE: 2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X Review long-term report one