Hyundai Motor bosses in Seoul "are extremely, extremely anal when it comes to QRD issues," says Hyundai Canada product and strategy director Mike Ricciuto. He's not kidding about quality, reliability, durability. This is critical news for shoppers of the reinvented 2016 Hyundai Tucson.
After six years puttering along essentially unchanged, watching Nissan's Rogue, Honda's CR-V and Toyota's RAV4 zoom past with major upgrades, the Tucson has caught up and passed its competition in critical ways. About time. Canadians have gone ga-ga over crossovers and sport-utility vehicles. They want this sort of thing.
Hyundai's tardy effort starts at the heart of this tall, front-drive station wagon with available all-wheel drive. Under the hood of pricier Tucsons is a new powertrain that you should sample before buying anything.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine (175 horsepower/195 lb-ft of torque) is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) – Hyundai's first DCT. A superb combination.
Power pours on seamlessly and the shift quality is clean and pure. No small feat. Dual clutch gearboxes are two gearboxes in one – technically challenging to design and difficult to build with top QRD. See Ford for lessons in problematic DCTs.
Hyundai's 1.6-litre/seven-speed delivers 13 per cent better fuel economy than the clunky 2.4-litre four it replaces, too. Despite their complexity, DCTs should be lighter if designed properly, they're more efficient for fuel economy and they deliver race-car driveability. Any F1 driver will explain.
Alas, to get the new powertrain, you'll need to step into the $31,509 Tucson Premium with AWD. Less expensive Tucsons get the carried-over 2.0-litre four and a traditional six-speed gearbox. Ho, hum.
As for the rest, the new design is crafted to match models such as the newest Sonata. Pleasant, especially from the back end. The cabin is roomier than before. And safety and infotainments do-dads are as good and comprehensive, perhaps better, than anything from Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Mazda and Honda.
I'd like more feel in the Tucson's steering – especially the 2.0-litre – but I am not worried about QRD. For years, third-party research from Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and Associates and others consistently ranks Hyundai among the industry's best. It's hard to imagine Hyundai introducing a problem-plagued DCT.
If you're a consumer, cheer the anal quality bosses.
You'll like this crossover if ... You want a small rig with the most modern power train in the segment – the 1.6-litre with the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
- Base price: $24,399
- Engines: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and 2.0-litre four-cylinder
- Transmissions: Six-speed automatic and seven-speed DCT
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.9 city; 8.4 highway, using regular fuel with the 1.6-litre turbo, AWD
- Alternatives: Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester
- Looks: The new design is immediately recognizable as part of the latest fleet of Hyundais. It’s not a contrived or ostentatious look, but instead a tidy one with details such as LED headlights, accents, daytime running lights and taillights.
- Interior: The biggest improvement is in the quality of the materials, although more space is certainly welcome. The priciest Tucsons have interiors that look as good or better than the standard-level Audi Q5.
- Performance: The 1.6-litre four mated to the seven-speed DCT is what you want. A lovely performer. The 2.0-litre four is cheaper and aimed at budget buyers who don’t get worked up about powertrain performance.
- Technology: Hyundai’s closest rival with a small turbo engine – also a 1.6-litre – is the Escape EcoBoost. The Escape has an edge in handling without a doubt, but Hyundai’s turbo is smoother and the Tucson’s DCT might be the smoothest gearbox in its class.
- Cargo: The bigger space is welcome, as are the dual level floor and 60/40 folding rear seats. A hands-free power tailgate is available and its operates on proximity, not needing you to kick your foot to get a tailgate lift.
Hyundai hopes to double its Tucson sales with the new model and that seems likely.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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