The compact crossover market is a hot one for Canadians and this class is by far the best selling among SUV-type vehicles. Every major automaker has a compact crossover in its range and some have several. Even luxury brands have gotten into the act and Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Land Rover and Audi all have products for those with a bit more cash to spend.
My most recent experience with an all-new model was with a 2016 Hyundai Tucson, the third generation of this product, which was originally launched in 2004. It typifies the move upscale that the segment has made since it became popular. Earlier compacts were fairly simple with low-level trim and not too may available upgrades. Nowadays, products like the Tucson are close to what the luxury equivalents were like a few model years back and if you spend some money on options, the vehicle can become surprisingly opulent.
Hyundai’s design department did a great job with the new Tucson and it’s a lot more streamlined all round than the one it succeeds. Front and rear styling is very well executed and the vehicle seems all curves and flowing lines and it has the larger grille which now characterizes other Hyundai vehicles. Despite the rakish styling, it nonetheless remains a highly practical crossover with a roomy interior and lots of space in the load area - especially with the rear seats folded.
Power is supplied by either a 2.0-litre gasoline direct injection (GDI) four-cylinder or a 1.6-litre turbocharged GDI engine with 175-horsepower. Transmission is a 7-speed dual clutch automatic that makes maximum use of both powerplants. My tester had the turbo unit and it certainly gave the Tucson some useful power and acceleration. The transmission is very seamless and smooth in use and fits the power levels perfectly as far as the ratios go. In all, there are seven variants available - 2.0-litre FWD, 2.0-litre Premium FWD, 2.0-litre Premium AWD, 1.6T Premium AWD, 1.6T Luxury AWD, 1.6T Limited AWD and 1.6T Ultimate AWD - quite a list!
Safety features include six air bags, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, brake force distribution, brake assist, downhill brake control, hill start control and electronic stability management. In fact, this Hyundai has all the electronic and mechanical safety features you’d find on a premium class SUV. In addition, the body is very rugged, is reinforced in many areas and is designed to absorb collision loading progressively to protect occupants.
The interior presents a very upmarket ambiance to occupants and has that “class above” feel. Standard items include air conditioning, a multi-source sound system, a rear view camera, six-way power driver’s seat and lots of useful stowage space around the cabin. These comments cover the entry-level Tucson and if the buyer moves up the various classes, the goodies start piling up. The top Ultimate model (as its name might suggest) has an almost bewildering array of features, many of which have found their way from the luxury class. A touch-screen navigation system is available and the seats are leather. Electronic safety aids available include lane departure warning, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and other benefits. The steering wheel, which tilts and telescopes, is heated - a favourite feature of mine when the winter gets chilly.
The new Tucson is very comfortable to ride in and belies its compact size with the way it absorbs road undulations and potholes. It’s also commendably quiet on the freeway. For a compact crossover, there’s a surprising level of refinement and I’d be happy driving one of these Hyundais on a very long road trip where 1000-km a day is often the norm. Even the basic vehicle has an impressive spec sheet and added to all that is a very high level of assembly quality, inside and out.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Four-door compact crossover ENGINE: 2.0-litre four-cylinder or 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual clutch automatic (FWD and AWD available)
TOWING CAPACITY: 1,500 lbs (with package)
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.0-litres/100 km combined (2.0-litre)
PRICE: From $24,399 MSRP