REVIEW: 2016 Hyundai Tucson ECO AWD – Shooting For the Middle

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If you are looking for a compact crossover with an attractive price point, great handling and a torquey engine, the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson Eco AWD may be the ticket.

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Be warned though, the Hyundai Eco AWD trim is a stand-alone vehicle trim in the Tucson line.  You can’t fancy it up with options.  Both the RAV 4 XLE and Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium we recently tested had more content at a price very close to this Tucson Eco (but slightly higher).

Inside and out the 2016 Tucson Eco AWD (all-wheel drive) is a new design.  The “Eco” is one of three Tucson trims that get the newish 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that debuted last year in the Sonata in limited numbers.   Hyundai’s design team led by a former Audi genius has finally gotten around to the Tucson, and the result is a vehicle that may well be the best looking of the affordable compact crossovers.  That is a serious compliment given the attractive designs of the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV 4.

2015-10-18 14.21.24Inside, Tucson Eco AWD scores points.  The seats feature power adjustment and lumbar for the driver, and all are very comfortable, but seat heating is not available.  The dash is an attractive design, and the audio is easy to use.  It’s easy to synch a phone and the infotainment system works intuitively, but note that navigation is not available on this trim.  The touch screen is  the smallest we have seen in a crossover in this price range and hard to reach.  There is a bigger, better one in the Tucson family on more pricey trims.  Rear seats have ample legroom, and the cargo area is roomy for the class.  Under the cargo floor is a compact spare.

2015-10-18 14.21.41The 2016 Tucson Eco’s biggest strength is its perfect blend of handling and driving comfort.  The 17″ wheels with 60-series tires strike an ideal balance between handling crispness and comfort over bad roads.  Here the Tucson beats the RAV 4 and Forester hands-down.  The Tucson is not sporty, but it steers very well, has little body lean, and it is easy to use on real roads.  The new 1.6-liter turbo engine is gutsy. Like the 2.0-liter turbo from Hyundai, this smaller 1.6-liter turbo is a gem.

The new dual-clutch transmission (DCT) has seven speeds. We regret to report that during our testing it revealed some bad habits.  When one is slowed, but not stopped, say at an intersection, and then one gives a goose to the throttle, the Tucson lags.  The problem is the DCT, not the engine.  It is in second or third gear.  If you come to a complete stop, and the Tucson starts out in first gear, it is fine.  The Tucson is also a little dull when already underway and one asks more from the drivetrain.  Again, the Tucson is in too tall of a gear.  Once it catches up with your wishes, it has more than enough power.

On paper, the Tucson Eco should feel stronger than a Subaru Forester, because of its added torque.  In real driving though we didn’t feel it.  Again we wonder if the Eco transmission tuning negated the possible benefit.  The “Eco” version of this Tucson AWD with its EPA-estimated 27 MPG combined, is one MPG better than its own Sport and Limited Trims.  Thus, the Eco matches the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V’s MPG.

2015-10-18 14.22.20We are not clear what is “Eco” about this Tucson trim since its fuel economy is not better than the that of the drivetrain in the top-selling Forester and CR-V models now heading in to their second model years.  We looked deeper at the Tucson Eco’s CO2 production per mile and EPA smog rating, and both were behind the Forester.

Given the content in the Tucson AWD, it is not a screaming deal at $26,570 compared to the prices of some of the top sellers in the class we have tested recently.  So in what way it this Tucson “Eco?”  Maybe we are overly sensitive to labels calling vehicles “green,” “clean” and “Eco”, but we feel these labels should have some valid and obvious meaning.

2015-10-16 12.47.49In terms of safety, the IIHS rates the 2016 Tucson “Good” in every crash test.  That makes the Tucson Eco AWD a Top Safety Pick.  Hyundai advertises the Tucson line as a Top Safety Pick Plus vehicle, but that rating does not apply to this Eco version.  It can only apply to the highest-priced Tucson Limited when it is equipped with optional FCP. That’s true of both the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, too. Only Subaru offers its Eyesight driver assist technology on a mid-level trim like the Premium. Someday, this technology will filter down to all trims like ABS did, but that day isn’t today.

If your search is for an affordable crossover, the Hyundai Tucson Eco AWD is worthy of consideration.  Its great handling and styling put it at the top of the segment in both categories.  Just bear in mind that if you want the features we note are missing above, you will need to look at a different Tucson trim.

Base Price: $25,550

Options: Carpeted Floor Mats $125
Price As Tested: $26,570 (Including destination charge)


  • Great Styling Inside and Out
  • Perfect Road Feel and Comfort
  • Spunky New Engine


  • Missing Content (Nav, Heated Seats, Sunroof) Cannot Be Added To This Trim
  • No Forward Collision Prevention System (On This Trim)
  • Annoying Eco Label