Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tucson climbs ladder to become a contender

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­– My first memories of the Hyundai Tucson sport-utility vehicle were of it being a distant second place to the South Korean automaker’s Santa Fe model.

That’s not how I would call it today.

My recent week in the new, third-generation Hyundai Tucson showed me that the vehicle has done some serious climbing up the upscale ladder, while still maintaining its position as an affordable, entry-level crossover.

Simple translation: This bargain SUV is improved in its new skin.

My tester was the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Sport with all-wheel drive and equipped with a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.  The starting price was around $27,500, but keep in mind that there are other trim levels of the model that are more affordable.

The Tucson looks smooth and sleek in profile, and it's attractively styled on the front end.  Nothing over the top, but a nice aerodynamic wedge.

Hyundai touts a larger interior on this new Tucson, and I believe it.  My ride seemed much roomier than previous-generation Tucsons I sampled.  The interior controls are thoughtfully positioned, laid out in a wide sweep that gave me a comfortable feeling of ample operating room.

The 175-horsepower turbo-4 engine was responsive and surprisingly powerful, even on the low end of revs.  Hyundai claims that peak torque comes in at only 1,500 rpm, which creates some motoring advantages.  The Tucson had no trouble mixing it up in crowded freeway commutes, easily slipping into small holes in traffic.

The tester with all-wheel drive was remarkably adept at cornering.  I was able to round off sharp turns with much tighter accuracy than I’ve experienced in competitors’ crossover models.  The nicely tuned suspension offered few complaints when I executed sharp turns at relatively high speed.

A nice daily driver?  Absolutely.

Fuel mileage was good at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Passenger and cargo configurations were more than adequate in this segment.

One other note: The Tucson can be had with the hands-free “Smart Power Liftgate” at the rear, which is just way too much fun.  Makes you feel like a magician demonstrating it for the neighbors.

All in all, the Tucson has grown up to be quite the player in the entry-level crossover SUV segment.  It’s not cheapo.  More like primo.

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