The new Tucson follows Hyundai's new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design theme, with sculpted lines and a striking athletic presence. Up front is a hexagonal grille with high-efficiency LED projector headlights, LED accent lights and LED daytime running lights. The rear features a Z-shaped character line to complete an aggressive profile, while the rear end is accented with LED taillights. Twin bevel-cut exhaust tips and a rear spoiler complete the look.
The new Tucson is also larger overall than the model it replaces, which equates to more interior space. Cargo room is up from 25.7 to 31.0 cubic feet and features a dual-level rear cargo area for greater versatility. And with 60/40 split-fold rear seatbacks -- and rear seats with up to 37 degrees of recline -- ease of use has never been greater.
Four trims are offered on the 2016 Tucson: SE, Eco, Sport and Limited. The SE is powered by a direct-injected 2.0L four that makes 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual shifting mode, which includes an overdrive lock-up torque converter for increased fuel economy at cruising speeds. The 2.0 is EPA-rated at 26 mpg combined.
Eco, Sport and Limited models are powered by a new direct-injected 1.6L turbocharged four with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Peak torque comes on as low as 1,500 rpm for excellent responsiveness. This engine is paired with a new 7-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission, and on front-wheel-drive Eco models, the powertrain returns an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined. Front-wheel drive is standard on all Tucson trims, while all-wheel drive is available.
SE models are equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a 5-inch color touchscreen audio system, a rearview camera, a 6-way adjustable driver's seat and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
In addition to the 1.6L turbo, the Eco features upgraded front and rear fascias, integrated turn indicators in the side mirrors, LED daytime running lights and halogen fog lights and metal-look side sills. Inside, there's a power driver's seat with power lumbar support and auto up/down driver's window.
Stepping up to the Tucson Sport yields 19-inch alloy wheels, illuminated outside front door handles, a hands-free power liftgate, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and push-button start. Standard advanced safety features include blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.
Finally, the Tucson Limited comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, with a chrome grill and door handles. Also included is a leather interior with powered passenger seat, an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with premium 8-speaker audio, dual automatic climate control, an upgraded instrument panel, Blue Link Telematics and an auto-dimming rearview mirror and compass.
Two packages are available for the Tucson SE. The Preferred Package features LED running lights and halogen fog lights, roof rails and premium side sills, auto up/down windows and illuminated vanity mirrors. To the above, the Popular Equipment Package adds a power driver's seat and power lumbar support. For the Limited, the Ultimate Package includes HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Lighting, lane departure warning, a panoramic sunroof, LED map lights, ventilated front and heated rear seats, and a 4.2-inch LCD electroluminescent gauge cluster.
Standard safety features across the Tucson range include a tire pressure monitor, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and a host of front, rear and side airbags.
Sometimes, it's easy to forget how significantly a single car can vary in character and competency depending on the trim level and options chosen. These days, most vehicles are so thoroughly designed and vetted that it's rare for a bum steer to find its way onto dealer lots.
What we have here, however, is a rare exception to that rule.
Don't get me wrong -- the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a perfectly nice compact SUV in most trims, but the Eco seen here is a model I'd avoid.
The Good Hyundai's popular Tucson SUV is reborn with smart styling, good ergonomics and confident handling. Available with the buyer's choice of two engines and two transmissions, this clean-sheet redesign arrives just as compact SUV sales are exploding. The Eco trim promises slightly higher fuel economy than other Tucson models, too.
The Bad The Eco trim's 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and dual-clutch transmission are poorly calibrated, with disappointing overall refinement and drivability. Hard interior plastics and a lack of standard features and advanced safety options compared to other Tucson trims means the Eco model is best avoided.
The Bottom Line The 2016 Hyundai Tucson has a lot to recommend it, just not in this trim.
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The driver's side airbag may not be tightened properly, which could increase the risk of injury during a crash.