Upgrade: The review and rating have been changed to reflect the Tucson’s recent software update, which added Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
In the past, American car buyers frequently chose station wagons, or estates and tourings for those on the eastern side of the Atlantic. It was the ideal family vehicle, with plenty of room and luxury. The minivan, and later the sport utility vehicle, replaced the American station wagon (SUV). The crossover utility vehicle was introduced in the previous ten years (CUV).
Despite having a fancy new moniker, whether or not automobile purchasers would admit it, the station wagon is what led to the development of the CUV. Theoretically, a CUV combines the elevated seating position of an SUV with a car’s comfort, maneuverability, and fuel efficiency. Actually, it’s a station wagon or hatchback with more ground clearance.
Whatever you want to call it, Hyundai offers a brand-new compact CUV called the Tucson that has a simple but classy appearance. Hyundai provided me with a stunning Caribbean blue 2016 Tucson Limited AWD, which retails for $34,945 (compared to £30,930 for the comparably equipped Tucson Premium SE 1.6 T-GDI Petrol 4WD DCT automatic or AU$43,490 for the Tucson Highlander 1.6 T-GDI petrol AWD). The Tucson Limited AWD is equipped with the Ultimate Package.
I like the Tucson’s new appearance; although it isn’t overly aggressive, the front end has a wicked grin to it. The car has a subtle appearance that is more akin to premium vehicles than the mass-market models it competes with. Additionally, Hyundai limited the use of chrome to specific areas of the grille and door handles, which I greatly like because I detest chrome accents on automobiles.
The new Tuscon welcomes you inside with soft-touch materials that give the interior a luxurious sense. The doors, which are well-insulated, open and close with a loud “thunk” that is typical of luxury vehicles. With integrated thumb grips, the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels comfortable in your hands.
A pair of analog gauges for the tachometer, engine coolant temperature, speedometer, and gasoline are displayed if you look forward. A 4.2-inch multi-function LCD that shows information about your travel, fuel economy, driver assistance, turn-by-turn navigation, and music is sandwiched between the gauges. Through the small LCD, Hyundai gives you access to settings for driver assistance and vehicle conveniences, such as how long the lights remain on after you exit the vehicle, the sensitivity of the automated headlamps, whether to enable or disable the smart trunk, and more.
At first glance, everything seems to be in order, but when you reach for the shifter, you realize the lower center console is made of hard, inexpensive plastic and has false stitching, giving it a very unpretentious appearance.
You move your right knee a little and discover a vinyl surface that is cushioned. Until you reach for the center console, the Tucson’s interior appears luxurious for the most part. The use of less expensive plastics in the lower portions of the dash is understandable, but I don’t think the transition from a luxuriously equipped, padded knee rest to the least expensive plastic in the interior works well.
Although I might be nitpicking, I’d prefer Hyundai to forego the padded knee rests in favor of a center console of a higher caliber that matches the rest of the interior. The Tucson we examined is not a cheap vehicle, and adding a padded knee rest feels like covering up deeper issues.
However, the Tucson’s interior is thoughtfully designed with the driver in mind. The infotainment display and climate controls are located in the center stack, which leans slightly in the direction of the driver. The majority of the roof is taken up by a huge, motorized panoramic sunroof that illuminates the completely black interior. There is a motorized sunshade that covers the entire glass panel if the sunshine bothers you.
At CES 2015, Hyundai unveiled its Display Audio infotainment system for the first time in front of the general public. Hyundai’s 2016 Tucson is the first model to include the new technology.
Finally, the CD player is no longer present in Display Audio. I haven’t bought a CD since the Alpine KCA-420i’s introduction of in-car iPod compatibility, so I won’t fret over it.
The middle stack’s top is mounted with an 8-inch LCD with an 800 x 480 resolution. You’re not spending a lot of time staring at the screen from a few inches away, but it’s also not high-DPI like your smartphone. Clearly labeled buttons that give quick access to frequently used features and knobs, including volume and radio tuning or music file navigation, are mounted directly beneath the display.
I like the buttons since I like tactile feedback when I’m driving. Function is always more important to me than form, even though it might not look as slick or simple as a touchscreen-only design or a panel of capacitive touch buttons that is all black.
Basic volume, next/previous track or preset, voice command, audio source, and phone capabilities may all be controlled via the steering wheel. In the car, I discovered that I used the steering wheel controls the majority of the time.
The entire user interface, including the Optima, is recognizable and identical to that of other Hyundai and Kia automobiles. On a split home screen, the music and navigational features are shown side by side. Most of the time, I was utilizing the SiriusXM interface.
SiriusXM, HD Radio, USB audio, Pandora compatibility, and iPhone or iPod support are all aspects of Display Audio. You can start over or play Taylor Swift songs as many times as you want with the SiriusXM tuner’s time-shifting feature enabled for stations set to the first preset.
The middle console has one USB port and a spacious cubby that comfortably holds phablets like my Nexus 6 with enough to spare. Your phone or common MP3 flash drives can both be connected to the USB connection. There is enough power to charge your devices, but it won’t charge them nearly as quickly as a dedicated 2.1-amp or QuickCharge-compatible charger. I measured the power output on the USB port using a Drok USB power meter at 0.8-amps with my Nexus 6 plugged in and 0.5-amps with my iPhone 6S.
Flash drives have a simple interface. I like to choose my music by folder, but you may navigate by track information like artist, album, song, or song title. There won’t be any nasty surprises if you’re fastidious about how you organize your music folders because Display Audio keeps the organizational structure of your flash drive.
The Android and iPhone operating systems support Pandora connectivity. While iOS requires a wireless USB connection, Android relies on Bluetooth audio streaming. Surprisingly, Pandora on my Nexus 6 through Bluetooth sounded just as rich as the cable connection on my iPhone 6S, and was a vast improvement over the AVN 4.0-based systems in the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, which featured apparent compression artifacts and muddy bass.
Hyundai has not specified what modifications were made to Display Audio to significantly raise the audio quality. In order to support the AAC audio codec, I believe Hyundai improved the Bluetooth stack utilized in Display Audio. Support for low complexity subband coding (SBC), which prioritizes bandwidth effectiveness above audio quality, is all that is necessary for your standard advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP) audio implementation.
Additional codecs supported by A2DP include MP3 and AAC, but infotainment systems normally do not allow receiving these extra codecs. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be much of a difference in audio quality between wired and wireless connections assuming the receiver supports MP3 or AAC decoding. The audio quality of Pandora streams is only as good as the digital-analog converters (DAC) in the car if it can provide the raw AAC signal to the car and let the infotainment system decode it. Pandora broadcasts are encoded in AAC at bitrates up to 192kbps (Pandora One).
The conventional Bluetooth audio streaming method, which uses SBC, necessitates decoding the audio source, re-encoding it to SBC, sending it to the receiver, and then decoding it once more. As a result, the sound quality is terrible and rivals SiriusXM for bad compression and low bit rates.
There are no surprises with the Tucson’s navigation system. You can search POIs or enter addresses. The maps aren’t as elaborate and 3D as high-end cars, but they still serve their purpose. I applaud Hyundai for not deploying safety lockouts that would have prevented using the navigation system while the car was in motion. Every time the automobile begins, a disclaimer asks for your consent and disappears after a little period of time.
In the US, SiriusXM NavTraffic is supported and costs $3.99 a month, while foreign versions of the vehicle use radio data from the traffic message channel (TNC). SiriusXM NavTraffic isn’t something I like at all. The subscription is excessively expensive for something that is available for free on my always-with-me smartphone. There’s also the problem that SiriusXM won’t report any traffic even though I can see it.
Bluetooth can be used to couple smartphones. When attempting to pair my Nexus 6 and iPhone 6S, I had no problems. Without any problems, the two devices linked and downloaded their call logs and contact lists. Although in-car text messaging is not supported, it is preferable to use Siri or Google voice recognition to send hands-free text answers.
Although voice commands are supported, unlike the majority of offline, automotive voice recognition systems, this technology is sluggish to understand, imprecise, and has poor functionality. The Tucson does not yet offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but I have yet to use in-car voice recognition that can compete with Siri or Google Now.
When connected to an iPhone that is compatible, Siri Eyes-Free is available. Holding down the voice recognition button on the steering wheel will activate Siri with Eyes-Free. Due to Siri’s built-in in-car speech recognition capabilities, I found myself utilizing it by default in the Tucson.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
At CES, Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity were highlighted when Hyundai unveiled Display Audio and displayed development boxes. In May, a software upgrade made it possible for the 2016 Tucson to support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Simply plug in your iOS or Android smartphone and follow the on-screen instructions to use the implementation, which is identical to the 2017 Elantra’s and functions just as well. Hyundai allows you to smoothly switch between the built-in navigation system and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
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