2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO review: Mother says, sure, go ahead

2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd

2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd

Remember that game we played when we were kids, Mother May I? One child would tell the others what kinds of steps they could take. Well, the Hyundai Tucson just got one giant step.

Just like the Tucson did for the 2010 model year, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson takes a big stride in the first year of the third generation. Not only is the look thoroughly updated but mechanical upgrades numerous and substantial.

Of course the most noticeable change for the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is the new face. The new hexagonal grille of the new model is large, per the current fashion for Hyundai (and others), replacing the 2010 Hyundai Tucson grille that was generic—not unappealing or distasteful, but just bland, at least compared to today’s competition. The headlight clusters sweep back halfway to the windshield base the lower front corners house fog lights. From directly ahead, our test 2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO, fitted out in white, looks like a Star Wars storm trooper.

2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd interior

The steering wheel of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd is covered in buttons and switches. (click to enlarge)

The side windows of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson are almond-shaped, with a character line running up the side with a Z-crease above the rear wheels. The 2016 Tucson has a high rear end, with a standard roof spoiler and taillights that wrap around the rear corners.

At the front, projector headlights with LED accents are standard on all trim levels—base SE, ECO, Sport and Limited—with LED running lights and fog lights standard ECO and above. “Bending” (adaptive) HID headlights optional on the Limited only. Taillights are LED on the Limited as standard equipment.

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is bigger than its predecessor, longer by three inches, wider by a smidge over an inch and has a wheelbase 1.2 inches longer. That translates into more room inside, with more than five cubic feet more cargo capacity, although oddly back seat passengers don’t gain room, actually losing a half inch leg room with shoulder room staying exactly the same. On the other hand, the liftgate opening is larger, and the cargo area has a dual level floor. With the floor in the raised position, the cargo area has a surface flat with the rear seatbacks folded for sliding large objects to the rear of the front seats. Lowering the floor maximizes overall luggage capacity.

2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd instrument panel

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd instrument panel is a study in black and white. (click to enlarge)

The interior is serviceable with a sculpted dash with a hood over the instrument panel and center stack. The instrument panel is straightforward, with simple white on black dials with a white on black driver information center between the speedometer and tachometer. The 5-inch multi-information display in the center stack is the base unit and looks shrunken within a frame filling the opening that’s big enough for the optional unit. Don’t look at the upper trim levels’ dashes if you want to be happy with what you get with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO.

Our test Tucson ECO came with an inoffensive camel and gray interior. The seats are a durable-looking fabric, and the front seats, though contoured for a variety of derrieres get a little hard after several hours in the saddle. Rest stops are advised.

The 2016 Tucson’s storage is designed for the connected generation. In addition to the well-spaced cup holders, the center console has two small bins plus a large enough for your device of choice, and it’s equipped with two 12-volt charge points, plus a USB and an aux port.

2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd cargo area

The cargo area with the load floor lower for max capacity. It can be raised to make a flat floor to the backs of the front seats. (click to enlarge)

The steering wheel on our 2016 Tucson ECO was loaded with buttons and switches. Just about anything can be done from the spokes short of voting and doing your state and federal taxes.


The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is available with two engines, a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter engine for the base SE, and a 1.6-liter turbocharged four for the higher trim levels. The 2.0-liter, despite being limited to the base level, is a sophisticated engine from Hyundai’s Nu series, with direct-injection and an 11.5:1 compression ratio. A six-speed automatic is standard. With front-wheel drive, the Tucson SE is rated at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. All-wheel drive is also available for those in the Snow Belt. Compared to front-drive, AWD kills highway mileage, at 21/26 mpg city/highway. On the other hand, getting stuck is bad for fuel mileage too.

2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd rear

The character line of the sides of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO fwd makes a “Z” shape over the rear wheels. (click to enlarge)

The 1.6-liter direct-injected turbo four powers the ECO, Sort and Limited trim levels. It doesn’t make all that much more horsepower than the 2.0—175 bhp versus 164 horses—but the 1.6 turbo is a torque standout. While the 2.0 is rated at 151 lb-ft of torque, the 1.6 starts making 195 lb-ft at 1500 rpm and holds it all the way to 4500 rpm. The effect of the torque spread is more relaxed acceleration around town, and with less need to put the pedal down for the same performance, better fuel mileage.