Hyundai Sime-Darby Motors recently unveiled the new, 3rd generation Hyundai Tucson, featuring the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design direction in line with the rest of the lineup.  Two variants are offered, a 2.0 Elegance base variant and a range-topping 2.0 Executive model. As the moniker suggests, both variants are equipped with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated powerplant mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with torque converter. Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 is a well-received evolution of the original FS design, featuring a stronger fascia and overall more robust stance.

In more ways than one, the new Hyundai Tucson 2016 is reminiscent of the previous generation Hyundai Santa Fe, which is all good. I’ve always reckoned the 2nd gen Tucson to be a little too smiley up front and did not impress me much, compared to the superbly designed 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe which we reviewed a few years ago. Looking at the new Tucson brought me down memory lane to that superb big brother; in fact if you put the 2013 Santa Fe next to the 2016 Tucson you’d need to look really hard to tell a difference between the two, especially from the front. Notably, the Santa Fe is a much larger 7-seater full blown SUV while the Tucson is a more affordable, albeit smaller iteration of the former.

With the new launch, consumers impressed with the Santa Fe but aren’t willing to pay in excess of 170-Grand for it can now settle for a cheaper, less powerful and less well equipped baby brother with a much lower price tag, starting from RM126,101.00 for the Elegance and up to RM139,715.00 for the Executive (both prices quoted without insurance and rebates). Keeping engine options to just one keeps the Tucson firmly planted in the C-segment SUV offering, differentiating it by a good 20-40 Grand from its more established and opulent elder brother. In spite of the huge price difference and lower powered engine, the Tucson is a strong contender in its category, facing off against the new Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V in the similar price bracket and manages to hold its own against the competition, albeit slightly undercutting most of its rivals.

2016 Hyundai Tucson: New Skin

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This is the third iteration of the Tucson, with minimal to no mechanical changes to the power and drive trains, so most of the evolution is centered around a modern and much more stylish skin. The fascia puts up a good fight in its class with a robust stance centering around a Santa-Fe like hexagonal front grille, with the range topping Executive variant getting the chrome treatment while the more affordable Elegance variant makes do with silver paint. While both variants come with projector halogen headlamps, the Executive also gets daylight running lights as well as LED parking lights. Another point to justify the price premium of the Executive is the inclusion of fog lamps fore and aft, while the Elegance comes with just the rear ones.

Overall, the new Tucson looks tough yet refined, just enough brawn without appearing too aggressive. It would have been nicer if the cars were equipped with Xenon lights though, especially on the Executive with its sharp-looking LED DRLs.
Both variants come with 17” alloy wheels wrapped in Continental ContiMax Contact MC5 specced at 225/60 R17 offering plenty of wet and dry grip while remaining fairly comfortable over most road conditions. Part of the pliant and comfortable ride quality can also be attributed to the deployment of MacPherson struts in front and independent multi-links at the back. Tire well clearance is a good 3-4 inches, suggesting a long suspension travel which is good for plush highway cruising but not as stable in the corners. The flared wheel arches adorned in black plastic visually exacerbates the generous clearance.

The tailgate design is all new, with a higher boot line than before. To be brutally honest, I prefer the older styling more than the new one, in this respect. The new tailgate design seems a little too busy and hard to pin down to a singular, fluidic element, forgive the pun. Whereas in front where it takes after its older sibling, the rear design is a mish mash of contrasting elements which you either love or hate. Considering how gorgeous the front styling is, it is a little hard to comprehend the rear styling.

All is not lost though, as the new Tucson looks cohesive from the side, with an overall muscular stance that is a sight to behold, with its flared wheel arches and strong shoulder accent line that stretches from the front fender all the way to the rear. The rear overhang is considerably shorter than before, while the front overhang, although roughly similar to its predecessor, looks shorter owing to its more muscular frontal design with its bumper extending much lower than before, losing the Pikachu-like face of the former as a result. This new 2016 Hyundai Tucson means business, and looks the part.

2016 Hyundai Tucson: All New Interior

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Along with its more upmarket aspirations, the interior of the new Tucson receives a full makeover and overall looks and feels more pleasant. Even though I personally still find the 2013 Santa Fe more desirable within and without, the Tucson has grown up considerably and matured well with this new iteration. Previously, the older Tucson looked like it shared its interior design with the Ford Focus, with a lot of flair evident throughout, but with no practical advantage.

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The new Tucson’s interior however, takes on a more matured demeanor with classy but more conventional looking dials and a standard, non-gated type of gear lever. The steering wheel has also lost a lot of its original Hyundai flair, with a more business-like 3-spoke design and much less silver accents overall. A welcome addition in our test car, an Executive variant, is the inclusion of an 8-inch Android-based infotainment unit replete with navigation.

Perhaps as a reflection of the times, and to keep prices affordable, even the Executive variant comes with only a standard air-conditioning system with none of that fancy climate control features. Having said that, you lose some but you get something else in return. In the case of the Executive, you get an 8-way powered driver’s seat, electronic parking brake with auto brake hold, photochromic rear view mirror, rear air vents, smart entry system with push start/stop, cruise control, front proximity sensors and six airbags.

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The test unit also came with an optional red leather seats option (RM1,288), which would otherwise have been standard black leather. There’s also a white Nappa leather option (RM1,988) for those wanting a smooth and more luxurious interior space. Either option is definitely worth the little bit extra as it helps to elevate the interior aesthetic aspect of the car. Seating is generous enough for 5 adults , with enough head and leg room for most Asians and will most likely fit 5 NBA players in a pinch.

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2016 Hyundai Tucson: It Drives Well

Featuring Hyundai’s own 2.0-liter Nu engine rated at 158PS @ 6,200rpm and 192Nm of twist at 4,000rpm mated to the company’s own 6-speed torque converter automatic, the drive is quite similar to the car before. There is ample torque, thanks to the clever spacing of the 6 forward ratios to better take advantage of the engine’s power band. The engine revs quite freely, but it does take some time to reach cruising speeds owing to the bulk of its kerb weight and heavy SUV tires.

This engine for the most part, allows enjoyable and relaxed cruises but does seem a little out of scope when ferrying 5 or more passengers; uphill climbs can be slightly arduous. Thankfully, it has a 6-speed automatic tranny which somewhat masks the engine’s modest aspirations. It is sad that our country’s regulatory systems do not favor high capacity engines, otherwise this car would’ve aced this crucial aspect. It is also sad that we aren’t getting the latest 1.6-liter direct injection turbocharged engine with the company’s latest 7-sp EcoShift dual clutch transmission that is available in some other parts of the world.

Going over humps and undulations reveals a well thought out chassis and excellent fit and finish, as the new Tucson rarely squeaks or rattles. The ride is pliant and comfortable, bordering on taut but not harsh. In return for this taut response, the driver is rewarded with an SUV that handles more like a car than a boat. In this respect, I find the Tucson more capable than the larger and heavier Santa Fe, as that car tends to wallow a bit when punted hard. Then again, the modest naturally aspirated 2-liter four in the Tucson wasn’t subjected to as much punishment as the more powerful 2.2-liter turbodiesel in the Santa Fe, so do take this comment with a pinch of salt.

In-cabin sound-proofing is surprisingly good, reminiscent of Continental offerings. Undulations and tire roar are much lower than expected for its price point, and certainly quieter than many of its rivals. This aspect alone puts the Tucson quite high up on our list. As a result, the decent sound quality of its in-car entertainment system was able to impress us on the move.

Closing Remarks

These days, there are plenty of offers abound thanks to the weakened global economy. Properties and cars alike can be had for much less than their initial asking prices, and I do believe the 2016 Hyundai Tucson can be had for a good bargain as well. Indeed, the Tucson lineup is already a bargain to begin with, thanks to its modest asking prices. A 300,000km/5-year warranty comes as standard along with a 50,000km or 3 years’ worth of free servicing to alleviate ownership costs. Considering that the 2nd gen Tucson received quite a considerable response from the buying public, this new model will surely become more common on our roads in the coming months and years. And with 7 color choices (Pure White, Sepia Topaz, Platinum Silver, Ruby Wine, Ara Blue, Phantom Black and Pepper Grey), you are bound to find one in a color that your missus would approve.