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2016 Hyundai Tucson First Drive Is a Minnesota Treat

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An invitation from Hyundai had us headed up to Minnesota where we hung out in the heart of the University of Minnesota’s campus and were introduced to the all-new 2016 Tucson. Hyundai’s come a long way since being the neighbor’s Korean knockoff and the new Tucson really showcases that fact. It may be the new benchmark for the small crossover segment, which is the fastest-growing segment in automotive today.

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson has a bold, striking appearance that promises good times behind the wheel. The new 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine option and its well-crafted seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission deliver on that promise. This is a match made perfect by the excellent sport tuning and stiffening of the new Tucson’s chassis. Hyundai managed to tease more than double the chassis stiffening while simultaneously lightening the crossover’s weight and making it larger in width, length, and wheelbase. No simple task.

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Hyundai’s Brandon Ramirez, Senior Group Manager, Product Planning and the guy who headed the 2016 Tucson’s development, showed us how the use of high-strength steel, hot welding, and other advanced techniques accomplished the larger, stronger, and lighter Tucson chassis and body framing. Then Jim Trainor, who heads up Hyundai Motors America, walked us through the crossover’s interior improvements.

All of this translated to a beautiful day’s drive through Minneapolis and out into the rolling hills and riverside farm country of Minnesota and Wisconsin. During that drive, we sampled some excellent small town food and lovely scenery to augment our experience behind the wheel of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson.

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The new Tucson is a sporty, fun drive, despite its practical nature. Far removed from the slower, less refined crossover of previous generations, the 2016 Tucson is much more elegant on the highway and far more sure-footed in the corners and turns than its predecessor. The little four-cylinder turbo outputs a respectable 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Compare that to the base two-liter engine which outputs 11 less horses and 44 fewer pound-feet. The real joy in the turbocharged 1.6, though, is its low RPM delivery. Peak torque comes at just 1,500 rotations, making this a punchy little drive akin to some sport hybrids we’ve driven in other vehicle classes.

Now add in the smooth-shifting, very quick 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and you can see where Hyundai is entering into what was once the exclusive territory of European makes. The fast-paced 1.6L turbo with its early torque delivery is coupled to that dual-clutch trans (completely designed in-house at Hyundai) to bring a drive that even serious car nuts like us can appreciate. Yet the everyman who doesn’t care much about performance will still enjoy it and find it has no intimidation for them. In short, this is the perfect combination of attributes for the “car guy” whose wife or girlfriend doesn’t like a stiff ride or hard shifting.

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Speaking of stiff rides, the 2016 Tucson has none of that. It’s extremely comfortable without losing its sport appeal. Adding to that, the combination of trim options and item availability makes it a good value. Especially if you count in the industry-exclusive warranty Hyundai offers. The interior of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is well-designed with plenty of storage, smart ergonomics, and more. We love the reclining rear seats, huge cargo space, and “big guy friendly” back seating.

Out on the road, the 2016 Tucson has very little cabin noise, with almost a full decibel less in-cabin noise from wind than the current segment leader, the Ford Escape. We drove both a mid-level Tucson Sport FWD model (priced at $27,170, delivered) and a top-level Tucson Limited AWD ($32,510 delivered) and found both to be equals in all respects except technology and cloth vs leather seating.

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From the outside, the new Tucson’s design is bold and stylish, utilizing a Z-shape throughout its side profile, especially at the rear fender and hatch. The front fascia comes in line with the trapezoidal look that the rest of the new Hyundai lineup uses and body lines push the Tucson forward, accentuated by oblong wheel wheels pushing back.

The new 2016 Hyundai Tucson is very impressive and smart.

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