SUV of the Year – Hyundai Tucson

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Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

SUV of the Year

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Sharp eyed readers should not be surprised. The bottom paragraph of the Tucson road test last year gave it away.

“The new and improved Tucson just may find itself on my year end Car and Truck of the Year list.”

I was impressed with Tucson’s performance and Hyundai’s well known habit of giving customers a lot of standard equipment for their monthly payment.

The fine performance comes from a 1.6-liter turbocharged four rated at 175 horsepower and 195-lb-ft of torque from 1,500 rpm through 4,500 rpm. It is matched to a fast-acting dual clutch 7-speed automated manual transmission (no CVT) that Hyundai said can handle more torque with minimal power interruption throughout the operating range. The dual clutch tranny is a first for this segment.

What this gives you is more than enough power for interstate entrances and back road passing of slow moving vehicles. A 0-60 in 8.5 seconds may not sound real quick, but it felt faster from the driver’s seat in the “Sport” driving mode. There are also Eco and Normal selections.

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For those of you technically inclined, the “Gamma” engine features a new water jacket inset that prioritizes cooling in the upper level of the cylinder block resulting in lower cylinder head temperatures and allowing for leaner air/fuel mixtures for better fuel efficiency.

The test Tucson was EPA rated at 24/28/26 mpg and I came away with 26 mpg in a week’s testing.

The All Wheel Drive system, developed by Hyundai and Magna Powertrain, includes a driver-selectable loc that allows differentiated torque split between front and rear wheels for off-road and slippery road conditions. It is a comfort now that winter has descended upon parts of the nation that were so warm flowers started to bloom, such as Washington’s famed cherry blossoms.

Also Active Cornering Control automatically transfers torque to the wheels with the most traction and this reduces understeer and enhances cornering. Handling was on a par for this type of vehicle.

For 2016, the redesigned Tucson is one inch wider and rides on a 1.2 inch longer wheelbase with an overall increase of 3 inches in length. One can see the difference where it matters – in the cargo hauling area that measures 31 cubic feet with the seats up, and a hefty 61 cubic feet with them folded, or more than enough for kegs of beer and sustenance for those inviting friends over for the NFL playoffs. (Patriots fan here, but after writing this I am going out to check the inflation in my tires.)

Very handy was the Smart Power lift gate. To open it, all you have to do is stand a few feet behind it with the key fob in your pocket or purse. That’s it.

Size-wise the new Tucson is larger than the Honda HR-V yet smaller than the CR-V and RAV4.

For 2016 it is made of more high strength steel than the previous model and further steps were taken to reduce road noise levels and improve handling. Front and rear suspension setups are now 20 percent stiffer. For those in the operator’s chair, the Tucson feels like one very solid piece of engineering.

If the bank account allows I would recommend stepping up to the Limited trim level with its huge list of standard equipment, improved interior trim, leather and ventilated seats, a six-way power passenger seat, dual zone climate control, navi, and more.

An eight inch color LCD screen came on the test vehicle and Pandora and Yelp are already integrated. If you are hungry, you can find restaurant reviews, ratings, hours and pricing. Decide on one pit stop and the system will provide directions without requiring passengers to input an address.

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There is a 405 watt, audio system with eight speakers, SiriusXM Travel Link with traffic, sports, weather, stocks, fuel prices and movie information, handy when you want to see Star Wars for the eighth time.

Check the right boxes and get the Remote package that helps the good guys find your Tucson if some bad guys have taken it away. Also there is Car Finder that answers the question, where did I park that thing?

There was ample room up front for six footers and the same to the rear. Controls were reachable and for the most part easy to figure out.

With two low cost options, the test Tucson Limited would roll off the lot at $32,510. If that is out of the question budget wise, a base model SE starts at $22,700. It is followed in the lineup by the Eco model at $24,150, and the Sport at $26,150. All include Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 5-year, 60,000 mile new vehicle limited warranty

For your signature on the purchase agreement, you get a fun to drive, well equipped, extremely easy-to-like vehicle that holds its own in the hottest sector of the car market.

The new and improved Tucson is a must drive if you are in the market for a compact SUV even if you live in Phoenix.

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