By Kevin Harrison
Hyundai has a bit of a problem on its hands. It seems a lot of the time, its customers are forced to make a tough decision: do I buy the Tucson or the Santa Fe?
The latter usually seems to seal the deal with its larger (albeit not by much) dimensions matched usually generous discounts. It’s a bit like how most people will upgrade from a medium to a large pizza because it’ll only cost a buck or two more.
The decision is made even easier when you look at the tiring looks of the old Tucson, once lauded as having among the boldest styling in the Hyundai line up.
To keep it fresh and to keep its business case for the Tucson, Hyundai has gone for a complete redesign for the 2016 model year.
Hyundai Canada sent one along to try for a week to see what I thought.
In terms of styling, it hits the mark. In fact, I would hazard to say it may even best big brother Santa Fe in this department. The bold styling has been replaced with tamer, albeit attractive and classy exterior looks. The Tucson borrows from big bro’s stylish grille, but then it takes on its own personality from there with LED daytime running lights (something the Santa Fe doesn’t have), more angular headlights, long tail lights on the rear and a side profile which exudes classic CUV styling. I can’t find anything particularly wrong with is exterior other than the 17-inch wheels, while nicely styled, do look a tad small on the vehicle. You can get 19-inch wheels but only with the 1.6 litre engine.
Inside there is little which can be faulted as well. When you enter, you can’t help but think the top of the line trim level for the 2.0 litre engine lives up to its name. It does look luxurious. However, whether or not it feels luxurious is up for debate. I’ve always found Hyundai’s leather to feel a bit off (except in the Genesis sedan – great car by the way), as in it doesn’t really feel like real leather. And it’s not that it feels bad, it just feels different from any other leather I’ve encountered. Hyundai does have a good reputation for having interiors with an airy feel which is likely attributed to the optional panoramic roofs. My tester had this feature and it did brighten things up significantly.
The gauges are clear and easy to read, while the infotainment system takes care of most functions with little fuss and a lot of straight forwardness. Hyundai does have tangible buttons too; something that seems to be in decline on newer cars these days.
The Tucson isn’t the biggest in its segment, but you won’t be left wanting for more room. Interior rooms is quite good no matter which seat you are relegated to. If you’re designated spot is the rear, the good news is you’ll be treated to seats that can recline.
As you may have guessed, my tester came with the 2.0 engine which produces 164 horsepower and 152 pound feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic. The end result is an engine which produces adequate for most in practice, but to be honest could use a bit more oomph. And it could also use a bit more refinement as it sounded buzzy around town. The automatic seemed to like to hang on to gears more so than modern automatics which is good for a bit of extra power but it also increased buzzy-ness. While I have yet to experience the 1.6 litre turbo, I would guess that its extra torque provides a more spirited and fun driving experience. The 2.0L provides a duller driving experience though I’m sure most prospective buyers would be just fine with that. On the highway, the 2.0 litre mill did just fine. Once highway speed is reached, it seems to hunker down and mind its own business.
Like most CUV’s handling isn’t the Tucson’s forte but it isn’t as if it can’t take a corner either. There’s a bit of body roll and the steering feel doesn’t convey any sort of feedback that would be helpful for this kind of driving, but the Tucson doesn’t ever really get too out of shape. I’m thinking the 19-inch wheels with lower profile tires may help out a bit in cornering, but then again, I’m not sure how many Tucson owners are cornering like they’re on a track. For more realistic driving, that is to say around town, the Tucson delivers a comfortable ride though I would stop short from calling it luxurious. It is able to handle bumps and potholes decently well. And I’m pleased to report that the ‘hollow’ feel of the suspension which has plagued a lot of newer Hyundai’s seems to be scaled back.
Despite a bit of a blip with fuel consumption figures a few years back Hyundai still touts most of its lineup as being to notch for fuel efficiency. The Tucson with the 2.0 litre engine is officially rated at 11.0 L/100 kms city and 9.0 L/100 kms highway. My real world mostly city driving results were 10.4 L/100 kms city. That handedly beats out the official figures. A nice change from a few years ago.
So is the Tucson different enough from the Santa Fe to make its own case? In short, yes. Sure the competition has grown their offerings making the Tucson the among the smaller in the class, but a lot of people actually like that. I have a friend who used to own a 1997 Toyota RAV4. She has owned a lot of different cars in between but has since decided to go back to the RAV. But now that she has the new RAV4 she sometimes complains about how big it’s gotten. While the Tucson has grown as well since its inception in 2004, it still hasn’t reached the size level of the current RAV4 or the Honda CR-V. So, if you own a late 90’s model of either of those vehicles, and you want to get something newer but don’t want to sacrifice, well much of anything, the Tucson may very well fit the bill.
Base Price (including freight): $26,194
Price As Tested (including freight): $34,894
- Updated styling for classier look
- Luxurious looking and quiet interior
- Typical Hyundai value
- Hollow feeling suspension finally sorted out
- 2.0 litre is buzzy, could use more low end torque
- Leather still has non-luxury feel
- Er, the Santa Fe is still good and still isn’t much more $$
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Ford Escape
- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Jeep Cherokee
- Kia Sportage
- Mazda CX-5
- Nissan Rogue
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Subaru Forester
- Toyota RAV4
- Volkswagen Tiguan