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2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

Isaac Bober’s 2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The Hyundai Tucson replaces the ix35 and in top-spec Highlander grade represents value for money.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander

Pricing From $43,490+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 130kW at 550rpm Torque 265Nm at 1500-4500rpm Transmission seven-speed dual-clutch Drive on-demand all-wheel drive Body 4475mm (long); 1850mm (wide); 1655mm (high) Angles 17.9-degrees (approach); 24.5-degrees (departure); 19.5-degrees (ramp over) Turning circle 10.6m Ground clearance 182mm Weight 1575-1650kg GVM 2190kg Towing 1600kg (actual based on 10% towball download – 1400kg) Towball Download 140kg Spare 18-inch steel Fuel Tank 62 litres Thirst 7.7L/100km (combined)

Editor's Rating

What do we think of the looks?
What's the interior like and how practical is it?
What's the communications and infotainment system like?
What's the performance like?
What's the ride and handling like?
How safe is it?
Practical Motoring Says: Buyers in the market for a smart-looking SUV that’s well equipped for comfort and safety should definitely consider the Tucson Highlander. Sure, you can get a cheaper variant with two-wheel drive, and while you probably won’t every need the on-demand all-wheel drive system this spec compares very well against key rivals at both Mazda and Kia, and manages to out-punch the Mazda CX-5 thanks to its five-year warranty. Sure, Kia’s Sportage offers seven years, but it can’t match the Tucson for looks.

REPLACING THE HYUNDAI ix35 late last year and resurrecting an old nameplate, Tucson, the all-new Hyundai Tucson took Hyundai’s SUV out of the compact SUV segment and into the highly-competitive medium category. This move sees the Tucson go up against the category darling Mazda CX-5, and Hyundai came out swinging, claiming the Tucson was shorter than the Mazda but offered more rear leg room and 85 litres more boot space. It’s also up against the latest entry into this segment, the embiggened Volkswagen Tiguan.

What is it?

The Hyundai Tucson replaces the bulbous-looking ix35 and moves Hyundai’s smallest SUV up into the medium-SUV segment. This leaves room for a compact SUV from the Korean car maker, and while it has a tiny-tot SUV in other markets, it hasn’t said whether we’ll see it in Australia. Given our demand for SUVs, you wouldn’t bet against a smaller Hyundai SUV showing up in Australia soon-ish. But, back to the Tucson.

Like other Hyundai models (with the exception of the iMax) the Tucson’s suspension was tuned locally (more on this later) with 103 different damper, spring and stabiliser configurations assessed. The Tucson is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; our top-spec Highlander variant is all-wheel drive only.

What do we think of the looks?

This Tucson is the first Hyundai to have been designed under the watchful eye of Peter Schreyer. Schreyer, for those of you who don’t know, was a design maestro at Audi before being plucked away by Kia to totally reinvent the look of that brand’s cars. And now he’s overseeing design for both Kia and its bigger brother, Hyundai.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

Quite often Hyundai lets its design teams in Germany, the US and Korea have a hand in its cars, but the Tucson was totally designed by the team in Germany. And that’s why, I think, to state the obvious, it looks very European. If you can’t squint and see touches of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the design then you’re not looking hard enough.

 

That said, the Tucson is clearly a member of the Hyundai family with the hexagonal grille tying the thing back to other models, like the i30, Sonata and Elantra. It also follows the theme set by Santa Fe by splitting the main headlights from the daytime running lights and fog lights.

Overall, I’m a fan of the way this thing looks and I reckon it’s easily the best-looking Hyundai in the local line-up, and quite possibly the best looking in the segment. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

What’s it like on the inside and how practical is it?

Climb inside and the Tucson feels familiar and will to you too if you’ve sat in a recently-released Hyundai. And that’s no bad thing, see, Hyundai is fast becoming a benchmark in its price range for the quality of its interiors, if not the design which is a little ho-hum.

Feel around the dashboard and there’s very little scratchy plastics, even in out of the way places, with plenty of soft touch stuff and good quality contrasting treatments. The fit and finish on our test car was excellent too, and I poked and prodded at roof linings, I also tried to jiggle the centre console and nothing budged.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

It’s always hard to judge things like longevity when you’ve only got a car for a week, but the materials, including the leather and carpets, all felt like they’d stand up to family wear and tear.

Sat behind the wheel, the Tucson feels comfortable, the 10-way adjustable seat is supportive enough without being overly bolstered (the front seats are heated and ventilated) and the vision to the front, sides and rear is good. The rear window isn’t as small as on some SUVs, although a reversing camera helps to ensure you don’t miss something that’s sitting behind the car.

There are plenty of hidey-holes in the front of the cabin with two decent-sized cup holders to the left of the gear shifter. I managed to stash a 500ml water bottle in the door pockets without issue. Forward of the gear shifter and just below the climate control functions are two 12v outlets, an Aux in and USB connection.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

Over in the back seat and I found the door openings to be of a decent size, which is important if you’re loading and unloading children from seats. My kids had no problems clambering into the back by themselves and locating my daughter’s booster seat was a cinch; both had plenty of legroom. When I climbed in and sat behind the front seat which had been adjusted to suit me, I had plenty of leg and knee room and found the shape of the seat itself to be comfortable. The middle seat, though, like in a lot of cars is more of a perch than an actual seat thanks to the transmission tunnel robbing foot space.

Over in the boot, the Tucson Highlander we tested offers an automatic tail gate while the boot width itself is now wider than the old ix35, up from 1080mm to 1094mm. Under the boot floor is a full-size 18-inch spare (our Tucson Highlander rides on 19s, meaning that the wheel itself is smaller but the tyre diameter is the same) and there are a couple of hooks for hanging bags on, or putting a strap on to hold something light from shifting about, but they’re probably not the sort of thing you’d want to lash a portable fridge to. The boot itself holds 488 litres with the back seats in place, fold them down (60:40 split) and this grows to 1478 litres, although the seats don’t fold totally flat.

What’s the communications and infotainment system like?

The Tucson Highlander we tested gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen while other models in the range offer a 7.0-inch screen. Because some Tucson variants come from one factory and another lot from another factory, the features aren’t all the same.

For instance, the Tucson Highlander we tested doesn’t get Apple Car Play or Android Auto connectivity, while other models in the range do. The cheaper ones. Don’t be put off, though, because the system in the Highlander is actually pretty good.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

The Tucson Highlander offers native sat-nav with Live SUNA traffic updates and three-year’s worth of HERE MapCare updates. I like to try and trip up the sat-nav when I’m driving but no matter how many deliberate wrong turns I took, the system recalculated quickly, and the speed warning was pretty handy too.

The touch screen is just sensitive enough that it’s not upset by fingers poking at it on a bumpy road, and even with the panoramic sunroof screen opened there was little glare on the touchscreen. The menu layout is pretty simple but, in all it does everything you want it to and, thanks to shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen you’ll get to grips with it in no time at all. Connecting a phone was simple and streaming music via USB was easy too. The audio quality of phone conversations at both ends of the call was good.

What’s the performance like?

The Tucson Highlander runs a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (built in-house by Hyundai). The engine is actually a de-tuned version of the one that runs in the Veloster SR Turbo and offers 130kW at 5500rpm and 265Nm of torque from 1500-4500rpm. Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.7L/100km (combined) and we got very close to that 7.8L/100km with a variety of around town and long highway stints.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

The engine doesn’t feel overly muscular, despite the 265Nm of torque across a broad rev range, but that doesn’t mean to say it feels laboured either. The seven-speed transmission is smooth and does a good job of getting the most from the engine, allowing for easy overtaking on the highway and fuss-free hill climbing with four on-board.

The 1.6-litre turbocharged four is quiet and smooth in its power delivery and even when you stomp on the throttle and the gearbox drops down through the cogs, the thing never seems stressed or strung out. So, while I’d probably prefer a little more grunt, but only because I drive up and down the Blue Mountains, this engine in the Tucson was pretty good.

What’s the ride and handling like?

The Tucson Highlander comes with an on-demand all-wheel drive system meaning that in usual driving situations the system acts as a front-drive car. Once slip is detected it activate and begin shuffling torque to the rear axle, and can send up to 50% of torque to the rear end. These sorts of systems are never going to be as good as a permanent all-wheel drive system, but on the road you’ll probably never really notice whether the system is working or not.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

Grip, thanks to a locally-developed suspension tune, is pretty good through the front, and the Tucson isn’t the sort of vehicle you’ll ever grab by the scruff of the neck and ram through a corner at full tilt. But, back to the all-wheel drive system. There is a 4×4 lock button which is designed, in theory, to bypass the computers and lock drive to the front and rear axle but this is speed dependent and for slow-speed rough road driving only… don’t press it when driving on the road, because it won’t work.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

Traction and stability control can be disabled, but I’d only recommend turning off stability control when on a dirt road. You want traction control to be working. Traction brakes the wheel that’s lost traction allowing the other one to drive… this is good. And you can get to this set-up via one press on the ESC button.

So, the traction’s good and, as mentioned, the ride was tuned by engineers here in Australia who went through a variety of different damper settings to ensure the Tucson was a consistent handler across a variety of Aussie roads. And they’ve done a great job, because the ride is both comfortable and able to keep body roll to a minimum. Even on our test car’s 19-inch alloys there was little harshness to the ride across broken surfaces.

 

The steering is probably the key letdown about this car, for me anyway. Sure, it’s well weighted and precise, but there’s very little fee through the wheel, is dull in the straight-ahead position and disconnected and woolly through the turn. Steering in the Tucson Highlander runs through a Drive Mode select system offering: Normal; Sport and Eco, and we’d suggest you just leave it in Normal as the other two modes feel very artificial; the modes also have an effect on throttle and transmission mapping, and while Sport does feel a little sharper it ruins the steering.

The brake pedal felt nice and progressive with good retardation of the vehicle and no snatch in the action.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review

In all, the ride and handling of the Tucson can best be described as satisfying if not exciting, but given the target market and its expectation of this vehicle, I’d say it walks the right line feeling both competent, comfortable and easy to drive.

How safe is it?

For a start, the Tucson’s body is comprised of 51% lightweight high-strength steels and hot stamping to ensure joins are strong too. These stronger structural elements feature in the engine bay, in the b- and c-pillars and both under the cabin and over the roof to create a shell. Most car makers are using ever stronger, ever lighter materials in their cars to improve occupant protection.

 

Beyond the shell, the Tucson gets six airbags and a five-star ANCAP safety rating, scoring 35.33 out of 37 when it was tested late last year. The Tucson Highlander we tested gets the full suite of active safety systems, including trailer stability assist which is designed to reduce the risk of trailer snaking from crosswinds; the system is able to brake either one or more wheel to try and keep the car and trailer straight. There’s also four-sensor front parking assist and an autonomous emergency brake system that works between 8-70km/h for pedestrians and from 8-180km/h for vehicles in front. At speeds below 80km/h the system is able to provide full braking, but above that it applies partial braking only (it’s suggested this might allow the driver to counter manoeuvre around the obstacle).

The Highlander also offers lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear traffic cross alert which is great at picking up pedestrians when you’re reversing out of a driveway or cars that you might not be able to see because of parked cars in the way.

What’s the price and range?

Our Tucson Highlander lists from $43,490+ORC while the diesel variant which runs a conventional six-speed automatic transmission lists a little higher at $45,490+ORC. The second model down, Elite, is at least $5k cheaper on both petrol and diesel variants, and we’ve listed the key features on both those models here.

Elite (key specifications above Active variant):

  •  17” alloy wheels with 225/60R17 tyres
  •  Trailer Stability Assist (TSA)
  •  LED headlamps with static bending lamps
  •  Electrically adjusted driver’s seat (10 way incl. lumbar)
  •  Electronic Park-Brake (EPB) with Auto Hold function
  •  Dual zone climate control air conditioning with auto defog function
  •  Proximity smart key with push button start
  •  8” touchscreen satellite navigation with 3 year map update plan
  •  Smart Tailgate function (hands-free power tailgate)
  •  Rain sensing wipers
  •  Solar glass with Privacy
  •  LED side repeater integrated into side mirrors
  •  Steering wheel mounted phone controls Key specifications below ActiveX:
  •  Cloth seats instead of Leather appointed* seats
  •  No Apple Car Play or Android Auto support
  •  No matte grey effect insert on exterior side garnish

Highlander (key specifications above Elite variant):

  •  19” alloy wheels with 245/45R19 with Continental ContiSportContact5
  •  Front parking assist system (4 sensors) with guidance
  •  Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) High line system
  •  LED tail lamps with bulb turn signal & reverse lights
  •  8 way electrically adjustable front passenger’s seat
  •  Leather appointed* seats
  •  Heated & air ventilated front seats
  •  Panoramic glass sunroof
  •  Blind Spot Detection (BSD) incorporating Lane Change Assist (LCA)
  •  Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  •  Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
  •  Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  •  Twin tip trapezoidal exhaust
  •  4.2” TFT LCD colour display in Supervision cluster

Why would you buy it?

Simple, if you’re after a well specified car with an impressive five-year warranty that can handle a rough-ish road, with the sort of looks that put competitors to shame then the Tucson Highlander makes sense.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Highlander review


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Steve-O
Steve-O
4 years ago

Agree on the looks. It’s a stunning looking car.

Conrad
Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve-O

I had the older IX35 , but the new Tucson is beautiful car and great to drive.

Huw G
Huw G
4 years ago

“I’d only recommend turning off stability control when on a dirt road.”
Surely only on a slow and really rough one?

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober