If you were asked to pick a distinguishing feature of the 2015 Hyundai Tucson, you might choose its reliability. After all, Hyundai surprised the industry with the vehicle by topping the recent J.D. Power study of initial quality.
Or, you might mention the vehicle’s good value relative to its peers. But the second-generation crossover’s generically Asian appearance, didn’t endow the Tucson with much of an image or reflect its true quality.
That changes with the third-generation Tucson, the 2016, which wears the crisp, conservative clothes of its larger siblings, the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe.
All three now share similar design cues, with bold grilles up front, bookended by projector-beam headlamps or optional LEDs.
The sculpted side panels feature smaller glass openings and crisp lines that surge up as they sweep back across the body. In the rear, LED tail lamps and chrome exhaust tips complete the look.
The Tucson’s new presence is helped by its more generous dimensions. The 2016 model is 3 inches longer, 1.1 inches wider and rides atop a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase. This pays dividends inside, with greater passenger space and more cargo room. In fact, there’s a generous 31 cubic feet of cargo room, an increase of more than 5 cubic feet compared to the 2015 model.
Farther forward in the cabin, you will appreciate the vehicle’s feeling of spaciousness, but it’s the upgraded craftsmanship that impresses most. Touch points such as the steering wheel and shifter are covered in leather. All seats can be heated, while front seats can be cooled as well.
Infotainment is handled through an 8-inch touchscreen; base models get a 5-inch screen. Navigation, Pandora and Apple Siri Eyes Free are optional.
The new Tucson’s turbo engine is sufficiently powerful, with plenty on tap for a quick burst of acceleration. The new dual-clutch transmission is smooth and responsive.
Steering is quick and nicely weighted. The all-wheel-drive system uses torque vectoring to enhance handling as well as to ensure good traction. Body lean is well-controlled in corners, and bump absorption is firm yet forgiving. The ride is remarkably quiet.
Optional safety features include blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and automatic emergency braking.
It all adds up to a sophisticated package in a small SUV that’s big on value.