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FIRST DRIVE

Driving the all-new 2016 Hyundai Tucson

This small SUV goes from the back of the pack to contender status

Last updated: July 20, 2015 04:01 AM

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The Hyundai Tucson spent the last decade mired in mediocrity, but the redesigned 2016 model may have broken free of that cycle, shouldering its way forward among the crowded herd of small SUVs.

Based on the Tucson and recent products, it seems Hyundai has learned a thing or two about styling and giving their vehicles a premium feel.

For a fee, we borrowed two 2016 Hyundai Tucsons—a base model and a Limited.

The base 164-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gets a conventional six-speed automatic. It does the job without drama, but the engine can get a bit raucous.

It sounds odd, but the Limited trim actually gets a smaller engine. This 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbo is mated to a seven-speed automated manual. This gearbox feels like a conventional automatic, which is a good thing. Power is readily available, and acceleration feels effortless.

Ride comfort also takes a big step forward. Over rough roads, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is settled and absorbs impacts well. Wind and road noise are well contained for this class.

Handling is responsive, notably more so with the uplevel 19-inch wheels. An added bonus is that they don’t make for an overly-stiff, uncomfortable ride.

While built on different platforms, the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson comes across as a smaller Santa Fe by virtue of its substantial feel, good interior fit and finish, and more than a passing family resemblance. Cabin space is impressive. Tall passengers can easily sit behind a like-sized driver, and headroom is plentiful.

The Limited’s power leather seats have a wide range of adjustments, and they are more supportive and comfortable than the cloth seats in the base version.

Controls are simple and intuitive to use, and Hyundai’s digital layout is mercifully logical. The base Tucson features a smaller touch screen, while the Limited employs an easier-to-read eight-inch screen.

The Limited trim that we tried included the Ultimate package. Its massive sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and hands-free power tailgate are premium features uncommon in this class.

Pricing starts at $22,700 for a front-drive SE with the 2.0L engine. Step up to AWD and the turbo 1.6L engine for $25,550, with the range peaking at $31,300 for the Limited, before options.

So far, the third-generation Tucson comes across as a very competitive player in this increasingly popular segment. We’ll dig deeper when we buy our own to test.

Jon Linkov

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