Hyundai Tucson geared up to play with the big boys
WHEN folks tell me they’re looking for a new mid-sized crossover and ask for recommendations on what to test drive, the Hyundai Santa Fe often tops the list. Hyundai has been producing leading vehicles in this segment for years; in fact, my sister is on her second Santa Fe since 2007 and couldn’t be happier with her 2015 XL Limited.
Problem is, even though the Korean brand has been putting out very good products for more than a decade, many people have trouble digesting the thought of spending $40,000 or more on a Santa Fe. Or on any Hyundai, for that matter. It’s important to note Hyundai’s strategy has changed — and it’s taking some time for many consumers to come around. No longer is there a 15 per cent price advantage when buying a Hyundai. The value proposition is now to be competitive with other leading brands on quality and price, then throw in slightly more content for the same dollars. Hyundai has the goods, and to prove it they’ve just announced their own Genesis luxury brand that should have a full complement of premium vehicles by 2020.
What does this all have to do with the newfor-2016 Hyundai Tucson you see here? Let’s give away the ending right now: our all-wheel drive Limited 1.6T carries a sticker price of $36,649. And the top-line Ultimate model kisses the $40,000 mark. And remember folks, this is the Tucson. Hyundai’s entry-level compact crossover.
Hyundai’s third-gen Tucson starts at $24,399; some $2,400 higher than last year’s model. Which means that there’s a sizable hole in Korea’s No. 1 automaker’s crossover lineup — one that’s about the size of a subcompact crossover. Word has it there’s a new subcompact on the way to battle the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V (both of which start below $21K), but for now a Hyundai crossover starts in the mid-$20s.
That base price nets a front-drive model with a 2.0-litre engine. Standard equipment includes 17inch wheels, a six-speed automatic transmission, a touchscreen user interface, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, keyless entry, three 12V power points, map lights, fog lights and LED running lights. With 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, the base engine is fine, but it’s the 1.6T model that really piqued my interest.
Starting at $31,299, the 1.6T Premium AWD model benefits from the gutsier engine, 19-inch alloys, rear-view camera, heated seats front and rear, windshield wiper de-icers, and many other goodies. The Limited demands a further $5,350 and in return supplies its buyer with adaptive HID headlights, LED taillights, leather upholstery, upgraded audio with navigation and an eight-inch touchscreen, parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, hands-free power liftgate (just stand behind the Tucson and it lifts) and push-button start.
With all the kit of the Limited one might wonder what more the nearly $40K Ultimate could possibly offer. Not much more, it turns out: vented front seats, LED headlights, fog lights, chrome accents, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.
But it’s the advanced powertrain that I find to be particularly interesting in the higher-trim Tucson models. Tucson shares its 1.6T engine with the quirky Veloster Turbo. This direct-injected, forcefed mill pumps out 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Compared to last year’s 2.4 non-turbo, we’re down a few horses and up by a few pound-feet of twist. On paper, that’s not a big deal. But that slightly higher torque value is present nearly throughout the engine’s operating range, which makes a big difference in the daily drive. Fuel consumption improves too: 9.9 L/100 km on the highway and 8.4 in the city vs. 11.6 and 9.3 for the old engine.
Plus, 1.6T models get Hyundai’s new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). At its most basic definition, this is an automatic transmission. Just put the gear lever in D and drive around. But behind the scenes, a DCT is built more like a manual transmission with two computer-controlled clutches that do the legwork (literally) for the driver.
The benefits: no power-sapping torque converter of a conventional automatic, and faster, smoother shifting than a manual gearbox. These transmissions are currently battling those of the continuously variable variety as an alternative to conventional automatics, but for me it’s no contest: DCT all the way.
DCTs are not new on the market, but they are news for this segment and in the Tucson’s case the DCT makes for a more engaging drive.
Passenger volume has increased marginally in the new car; 2,894L vs. 2,885. But small families will appreciate that cargo volume is up from 728L to 877L with the rear seat up; a notable difference and one that allows the Tucson to creep closer to Santa Fe territory. Yet despite it looking very similar to the Santa, there’s enough of a size difference to prevent it from cannibalizing many of big brother’s sales.
The Tucson may not carry a premium nameplate, but it has the technology, performance and refinement (and price, don’t forget) to play with the big boys in the compact crossover segment.