Larger, More Loaded Tucson Stronger Competitor

A well-done interior and great real-world fuel economy offset a smallish cargo area and road noise infiltrating the cabin in the high-end Limited grade.

August 3, 2015

8 Min Read
3916 Tucson on sale now at US Hyundai dealers
'16 Tucson on sale now at U.S. Hyundai dealers.

MINNEAPOLIS – With the new third-generation Tucson arriving at U.S. dealers this month, Hyundai almost has the formula for success down pat in the compact-CUV segment.

And that’s a good thing, because as Hyundai executives will tell you, the automaker needs to sell more CUVs to Americans.

Some 80% of the new vehicles Hyundai delivers in the U.S. every year are cars, not light trucks, but light trucks this year have accounted for 54.7% of all new vehicles sold, according to WardsAuto data. Hyundai last year moved 47,036 Tucsons in the U.S. Honda CR-V sales? They totaled 335,019.

The new Tucson is closer in size to a midsize CUV than a compact CUV, a shift made long ago by its top competitors, and thanks to some rejiggering at its overseas plants, the Korean automaker says it can build enough of them to satisfy U.S. demand.

The biggest news with the ’16 Tucson is that it is bigger, 3 ins. (7.6 cm) longer than the outgoing second-gen model.

However, that jump in length still puts the Tucson behind the segment’s best-sellers, the CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. This could be a potential blockade to bigger market share in the segment, but Hyundai believes it has hit the sweet spot for maneuverability, which it says is a key selling point of C-size CUVs.

The length added from ’15 to ’16 benefits the cargo area the most. The space now is 5.3 cu.-ft. (0.2 cu.-m) bigger.

While Hyundai says the Tucson can accommodate more stuff than larger luxury CUVs such as the BMW X5, Infiniti QX70 and Porsche Cayenne, it’s smaller with the seats up than the CR-V, Escape and RAV4’s cargo areas.

Time will tell if potential buyers will penalize the short-ish Tucson.

Hyundai does claim to have the widest CUV in the segment, with the ’16 Tucson now measuring 72.8 ins. (1,849 mm), just edging out the RAV4 and Escape and more than an inch wider than the CR-V and ’15 Tucson.

The new width boosts rear hip room by more than an inch from the ’15 model, while shoulder room remains the same front and back.

New Tucson Stronger, Stiffer

As it has been five years since its last major redesign, the Tucson’s body wasn’t as stiff as many of its competitors.

That’s not true anymore, as the latest iteration of the CUV has 51% advanced high-strength steel content, up from 18% in the outgoing model.

Hyundai also has gone from zero structural adhesives in the ’15 Tucson to 335 ft. (102 m) of the material in the ’16 model.

The Tucson’s torsional rigidity rises 48% from ’15 and also outperforms the Volkswagen Tiguan, which Hyundai notes is a benchmark for torsional rigidity in the segment.

Various improvements have been made to lessen dreaded noise, vibration and harshness, including using what the automaker believes is an industry-first dual-member front wheelhouse structure to limit vibration.

A slew of sound-damping materials also are used, including fender and dash insulators, fender side covers and a few different underbody covers.

Hyundai claims the lowest decibels in wind noise, road noise and idle noise among the CR-V-RAV4-Escape competitive set.

The Tucson also now is a safer vehicle, Hyundai says, due to straightened A-pillars, C and D pillars that withstand more torsional forces and a load path added to the driver’s side foot well.

And, to meet CAFE and emissions rules, the Tucson is more aerodynamic than its predecessor, with a 0.33 coefficient of drag, down from 0.35 in ’15. Underbody covers as well as other add-ons (front-wheel deflectors, front-bumper lip, changed A-pillar curvature) are responsible for the improvement.

The light truck’s suspension setup is the same, MacPherson struts up front and a multilink design in the rear. In the front a hydraulic rebound spring stopper manages travel more accurately than the outgoing model’s rubber bump stop, Hyundai says, and in the rear 2-link lower arms replace a single-link design on front-wheel drive models. The rear suspension also now has a bigger-diameter stabilizer bar.

Not Limited Noise

A marked difference in NVH is immediately noticeable driving the high-end Limited grade and new mid-grade Eco model back-to-back.

The Limited’s larger 19-in. wheels and tires, while cool-looking, transmit lots of road noise to the cabin, and seemingly telegraph vibration to the accelerator.

The Eco, as well as the base Tucson SE, rides on 17-in. wheels that are less noisy, or if there is noise the CUV’s insulation easily quells it.

Both the Eco and SE have Hyundai’s Gamma 1.6L turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cyl., the same engine that powers the Sonata Eco sedan and Veloster Turbo, mated to Hyundai’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

While the Gamma delivers power relatively quietly in the Sonata Eco, in the Tucson Limited it has the same raucous temperament as in the Veloster Turbo. That’s a nice way of saying it’s pretty loud.

The same engine powers the Eco grade of the CUV, but in an unobtrusive fashion.

And while it isn’t vibration free, what vibration there is in the Tucson Eco seems to be intermittent and related to the roughness of the road surface.

The base grade of the ’16 Tucson, the SE, uses Hyundai’s workhorse Nu direct-injected 2.0L 4-cyl. from the outgoing entry-grade Tucson, the GLS, and the Elantra compact car.

Our schedule doesn’t allow for a lengthy highway drive in the SE, but taking it around the University of Minnesota campus reveals a character similar to the 1.6L-powered Eco, even though the 1.6L delivers more torque, 195 lb.-ft. (264 Nm) compared with 151 lb.-ft. (205 Nm), and much sooner: 1,500 rpm vs. 4,000 rpm. Likely this is due to the lively tip-in of both models.

All grades have a drive-mode selector, which tweaks torque and shift characteristics in a fashion that matches Normal, Sport and Eco modes. As with most of these systems, the differences are very subtle. Thankfully, Eco mode, with its delayed downshifts and early upshifts, is not too restrictive.

Other than the SE, which is only available in FWD, buyers can opt for AWD in all grades.

Both the Limited and Eco grades driven here have AWD, Magna’s torque-vectoring Dynamax system. We take the Eco grade off-road for a mile on gravel and it is remarkably composed despite numerous bends. Our tail breaks away only once.

Real-world fuel economy meets or exceeds EPA estimates in our test drives, with the Limited AWD model averaging 31.0 mpg (7.6 L/100 km), above its 26-mpg (9.0-L/100 km) combined estimate; the Eco model meets its 27-mpg (8.7-L/100 km) combined target.

Interior First-Rate

In recent years, Hyundai has been a high achiever in interiors, with the brand’s passenger cabins among the finest in the industry in terms of materials.

The ’16 Tucson’s is no exception.

No fit-and-finish flubs were discovered in any of the three vehicles we test here.

We could only find stuff to nitpick, such as the plastic pillar trim on the C and D pillars having a leather-look texture, not the texture of the A and B pillars that mimics the tiny squares of the circular-knit headliner. And the cupholders have retractable nubs, but they’re located in one area, not evenly spaced, meaning our water bottle wobbles in the well.

A few reviewers here note their disappointment with the largely hard-plastic instrument panel in the lower grade Tucsons. But Hyundai proves again it does cheap chicly with low-gloss plastics that are free of flashing.

The ’16 Tucson’s driver’s seat is great, firm and supportive, especially in the lumbar region.

Legroom actually shrinks in the rear, by half-an-inch, but it is unnoticeable and still a pretty roomy space.

The ’16 Tucson interior has good ergonomics, although it lacks seatback releases for the second row in the cargo area, as many competitors now have. They remove the extraneous step of walking back to the second row and putting the seatback down when loading a larger item in the cargo area.

The ’16 Tucson starts at $22,700 for the SE with FWD, up from $21,650 in ’15. Hyundai notes buyers of the ’16 model get more standard content, such as the drive-mode selector, Yes Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats and a 5-in. (13-cm) color touchscreen with rearview camera.

Other grades add content beyond their similarly priced competitors, with Hyundai noting the Tucson Sport, beginning at $26,150, has a standard power liftgate and leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob, features either not available or optional on the CR-V, Escape and RAV4.

The Tucson Limited is the most expensive among that competitive set but has LED taillights and an 8-in. (20-cm) touchscreen navigation system, the latter standard only on the similar grade of the RAV4.

Hyundai also factors in more premium interior materials to the Tucson Limited’s higher price. We can’t argue with that logic. The high-end Tucson clobbers the best-dressed CR-V and RAV4 cabins.

But, due to its engine and road noise, the Limited isn’t our favorite Tucson grade. Thankfully though, you still get a pretty darn nice CUV in the lower-priced Tucson SE and Eco models.

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'16 Hyundai Tucson Eco Specifications

Vehicle type

4-door, 5-passenger CUV


1.6L turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline inline 4-cyl., aluminum block, heads

Power (SAE net)

175 hp @ 5,500 rpm


195 lb.-ft. (264 Nm) @ 1,500-4,500 rpm

Bore x stroke (mm)

75 x 85.44

Compression ratio



7-speed dual clutch


105.1 ins. (2,670 mm)

Overall length

176.2 ins. (4,475 mm)

Overall width

72.8 ins. (1,849 mm)

Overall height

64.8 ins. (1,646 mm)

Curb weight

3,499-3,710 lbs. (1,587-1,683 kg)

Price as tested

$25,550, not incl. $895 destination charge ($22,700-$34,050 range)

Fuel economy

25/31 mpg (9.4-7.6 L/100 km) city/highway


Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan



Bigger than before

Still less cargo room than comps

Nicely done interior

Pricey Limited has most bling

Eco has quiet ride

Limited not so much


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