First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited

Crossovers don't have to look confused, and Hyundai's Tucson cracks the code

Hyundai’s brand image continues to improve every year, and cars like the ambitious 2016 Tucson are exactly why.

If vehicle classes were music genres, crossover SUVs would be the pop stars of the lot. Designed for mass appeal, CUVs are an amalgamation of several types of automobile — think about the melodies of a station wagon with the bass of a 4×4, mixed with the steady beat of a car platform.

In recent years, Hyundai has allotted the bulk of its resources to upscale sedans and economy cars, somewhat overlooking the CUV segment in favor of reinforcing brand image. But one in three new vehicles sold in the U.S. is a crossover or SUV, so the Korean brand must strengthen its ties with the burgeoning market to establish itself as a global player. To do that, the company has ramped up production and advertising budgets for the category significantly.

The dividends of this move have paid out in the stylish 2016 Tucson, which is more exciting and well-equipped than ever for its third generation. Will it be enough to take on the CR-Vs, RAV4s, and Mazda CX-5s of the world? I jetted to the vehicle’s first drive event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to find out.

First impressions

For a $1,050 premium over last year’s model, the $22,700 base Tucson has been fitted with a sharp new body that is more angular, attractive, and geometric than before. My $31,300 Limited AWD model added 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, and chrome accents among other things, which caught the eyes of several bystanders outside our hotel.

“That is a great-looking car,” one woman said succinctly. I have to agree.

2016 Hyundai Tuscon Limited back angle full

Andrew Hard/Digital Trends

I shuffled over to my test vehicle through the warm Minnesota air and took a look inside. The vehicle’s interior was inspired by the sleek and modern Terminal 5 at JFK airport, combining premium elements such as ventilated leather seats and a huge panoramic roof with a clean, simple layout and attractive controls. It’s not as bold as the cabin of the larger Santa Fe, but the Tucson’s cockpit is definitely a comfy place to be.

The 2016 Tucson may very well be the best-looking car in its class.

Hopping around to the back to stow my things, the hands-free liftgate sensed my key fob and popped open automatically, a nice touch whether you’re a grocery-carrying parent or just haven’t had your coffee yet.

I didn’t need the extra space, but I was pleased to see that the dual-level floor could be lowered by two inches for tall items like shrubs and furniture. The Honda CR-V still has more cargo volume though, with 70.9 cubic feet of seat-down room compared to the Hyundai’s 61.9; the Toyota RAV4 posts even better numbers with 73.4 cubic feet. The Hyundai’s passenger volume is rated at 102.2 cubic feet however, which is more than a well-equipped CR-V or RAV4, but slightly less than the fun-to-drive CX-5.

Does it drive as well as it looks?

Trip odometer zeroed and drive routes locked in, we were off. A 1.6-liter turbo with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque lies under the hood of every Tucson save the base SE trim (it gets the 164-hp 2.0-liter from last year), and it’s mated to a new 7-speed dual-clutch that was developed in-house. The engine is smooth but not particularly impressive from a performance standpoint (it is pulling 3,710 pounds after all). The dry-clutch gearbox is quite adept at finding the optimal gear, however, and the dual-clutch system gives the car a more sporty acceleration feel than a continuously variable transmission. Don’t look for paddle shifters, though, not even on the $26,150 Sport trim.

Crossover buyers prioritize fuel efficiency, and my AWD tester returned 24 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. With just the front wheels receiving power, those numbers jump to 25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined, although there is an Eco version ($24,150) with 17-inch wheels, less weight, and more aero with figures of 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined.

The Hyundai’s passenger volume is rated at 102.2 cubic feet, which is more than a well-equipped CR-V or RAV4.

On the road, the Tucson is comfortable and planted over a variety of surfaces. The AWD system shifts torque to whichever wheel has the most grip, and we tested its mettle over a section of loose gravel and dirt. We emerged from the dust cloud covered in a layer of silt, but we did so confident in the car’s abilities in light off-pavement conditions. It felt good.

Thanks to an alloy of high-strength steel, the Tucson’s chassis is 48 percent stiffer for 2016, yet its multi-link rear suspension and front-mounted MacPherson struts mitigated Minneapolis’ bumps, potholes, and other imperfections splendidly. That’s with 19-inch rims, mind you. That said, it is a crossover. There’s a fair amount of progressive body roll and the electric steering feels quite numb, but it’s no worse than the other vehicles in the segment.

More impressive yet is the cabin noise. Despite the stiffer body and more vertical windshield, increased sound dampening and insulation mean the Tucson is actually quieter than the CR-V, RAV4, and Ford Escape.

Tech and safety

According to Hyundai, the average Tucson buyer is an active and stylish pre-family customer, a modern demographic that yearns for infotainment, safety tech, and unique design. In that category, the Tucson does quite well, though there are a few key elements missing.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking (for vehicles and pedestrians), a 4.2-inch gauge cluster display, and an 8-inch touchscreen are all available on the Tucson, the latter of which boasts the Blue Link 2.0 telematics system. Blue Link includes Google-based point-of-interest searches, navigation, and collision detection, and with the Blue Link app, customers can start their car, operate the door locks, flash the lights, call roadside assistance, and locate the car via smartphone or smartwatch.

As for the touchscreen, I found it relatively intuitive to use, and it splits down the middle to display navigation and entertainment functions simultaneously. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility should show up a bit later down the road, but Apple Siri, Pandora, and Yelp are already onboard.

That said, neither adaptive cruise control nor lane keep assist are available on any trim. Hyundai admitted that the sensors for those functions are already in place on the car, but a $300-$400 increase in price could be detrimental to the car’s value. If they don’t make it into the 2017 or 2018 model year Tucson, I’d be very surprised.


The 2016 Tucson may very well be the best-looking car in its class, and it’s nice to see the excellent aesthetic design spill over into other areas. Compared to the top dog CR-V, it falls just a hair short. Minor complaints like numb steering and underpowered engines are forgivable for this type of vehicle, but the lack of adaptive cruise control and relatively low cargo volume are not.

However, with its strong value point, refined ride, and bounty of available features, Hyundai’s striking crossover is without a doubt a strong player in the segment. And if Hyundai’s upward moves brand-wide are any indication, the automaker’s entry-level CUV is a good sign of things to come.


  • Attractive from every angle
  • Cheaper than CR-V and RAV4
  • Quiet ride
  • Up to 33 mpg highway with FWD Eco model
  • Optional full-length panoramic roof is sublime


  • Engine lacks grunt
  • Adaptive cruise and lane keep assist aren’t available
  • Numb electric steering

Drywall or kayaks? The 2020 Toyota Highlander is ready for your weekend plans

Toyota introduced the 2020 Highlander ahead of its public debut at the 2019 New York Auto Show. The fourth-generation Highlander is bigger than its predecessor, and it comes with more tech features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The 2020 Subaru Outback wants to take you to (and teach you about) the outdoors

The Outback is one of Subaru's most significant models, so the Japanese firm couldn't afford to make a mistake when it overhauled the model. The sixth-generation Outback is still rugged but more user-friendly than ever before.

2020 Nissan Versa sedan strives to be more than just basic transportation

The 2020 Nissan Versa sedan aims to deliver more style and tech than its forgettable predecessor did. Its restyled exterior borrows the look of the larger Altima sedan. But will the new Versa be more than just a pretty face?

The 2020 Hyundai Venue argues small and affordable doesn’t mean basic

Hyundai unveiled the 2020 Venue at the 2019 New York Auto Show. It's a city-friendly car that stands out as the smallest and most affordable member of the company's crossover and SUV lineup. Small doesn't mean basic, however.

Bored with stock? The best tuner cars are begging to be modified

Modification has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. Here are 25 of the best tuner cars you can find, ranging from American muscle standouts to Japanese drift cars.

21 charged in Chicago carsharing heist; 100+ cars stolen, many still missing

More than 100 Mercedes-Benz vehicles belonging to carsharing service Car2Go were stolen in Chicago. Police are still working to recover all of the cars, which are equipped with GPS, and 21 people have been charged.

The VR goggles you wear to shoot alien ships is helping Magna design car parts

Canadian automotive supplier Magna has started using virtual reality in its research and development department. The technology helps engineers get a better view of what they're working on, whether it's an interior part or a powertrain.

From rugged wagons to hot sports cars, the 2019 NY Auto Show brought it all

From city cars to supercars, anything goes at the New York Auto Show. Automakers from all over the globe traveled to the 2019 show to unveil their newest concept cars and production models.

Toyota leads $1 billion investment in Uber’s self-driving tech division

In a move that has been a long time coming, Uber filed its S-1 documents, which sets the stage for the company to finally go public with an initial public offering. The company could be valued at more than $100 billion.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Samsung Galaxy Fold woes, zombie pigs, and more

Today's topics: Samsung Galaxy Fold, Facebook A.I. voice assistants, YouTube comes to Fire TV, facial recognition on airline flights, the SpaceX DART program, Yale's zombie pigs, and much more!

Electric car buying guide: What you need to know before you buy

EVs are better than they've ever been, but buying your first battery-powered car can be an intimidating experience. Digital Trends has compiled a comprehensive guide that walks you through the process of buying an EV.

Carbuying can be tiring: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.

Apple’s interest in self-driving cars reported to be revving up

A new report suggests that Apple is in talks with a number of suppliers to purchase lidar sensors, an essential tool for self-driving cars. The news is once again spiking rumors that Apple might be building vehicles.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!