By Derek Price
No car company is hotter than Hyundai over the past five years. They just can’t seem to make a dud.
Now this Korean brand is continuing its unlikely string of home runs by hitting another one out of the park: a redesigned Tucson crossover for 2016 that’s one of the most refined and sporty-looking vehicles in its segment.
In fact, if Hyundai were a baseball player, opponents would be screaming for it to take a random drug test. It doesn’t seem right for one company to be so strong so consistently.
Yet here I sit in a $31,110 crossover that feels in many ways like a $40,000 entry-level luxury ride. It’s obviously designed to be a good value at that price, with features like a touchscreen navigation system, blind spot detection and sensors that warn you of oncoming traffic when you’re backing out of a parking spot. Those are all upmarket features at a downmarket price.
But the crazy thing is this isn’t a vehicle you’d buy because it’s a great value. You’d buy it because it’s great, period.
None of the Japanese brands that once seemed untouchable can match the quality of the interior in my Tucson Limited tester. The best come close, but they always leave me feeling like, “I wish they would have replaced the hard plastic right there.” I didn’t have those little gripes in the Tucson, which seemed to put soft-touch materials in all the right spots and was screwed together tight enough to withstand a nuclear blast or, even worse, children.
The version I tested also came with something pioneered on $100,000 Porsches: a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. That’s unheard of in the world of small crossovers, particularly those with a starting price of $22,700.
You have to pay $24,150 for the Eco model with that fancier, faster-shifting, more fuel-efficient transmission. Still, that’s a steal for a technology that not too long ago was only the stuff of supercar dreams.
My lone complaint about the new Tucson is that the driving feel doesn’t match the sporty body. It’s one of the sleekest, sexiest crossovers on the road — which isn’t saying much considering how boring most of its cookie-cutter competitors look — but even with the dual-clutch transmission and turbocharged engine, it lacks a certain oomph that would make it more fun.
If you’re a driving purist like me, take a look at the Mazda CX-5. It’s the only crossover that I think is really, truly fun to drive. Otherwise, the Tucson offers enough sensory engagement to feel lively for most drivers. And — let’s face it — most people buy crossovers because they’re great for hauling a family from place to place, not for carving corners on switchback mountain roads.
Despite my irrational wishes for more spirited performance, I spent most of my week driving the Tucson with my jaw dropped. It gets so many things right, from the highway comfort to the body styling and practical, easy-to-configure cabin layout, that it just doesn’t seem fair for the competition.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited FWD ($29,900). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($125), cargo cover ($190). Price as tested (including $895 destination charge): $31,110
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 176.2 in.
Width: 72.8 in.
Height: 64.8 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder (175 hp, 195 lb.-ft.)
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Mileage: 25 city, 30 highway
2016 Hyundai Tucson
Why buy it?
An all-new design for 2016 makes it more refined than before. It’s one of the quietest, best-riding vehicles in its class and feels like a more expensive car in many ways.