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If you were to ask us what we thought of the previous-gen Tucson, we would have said it was quirky, endearing. It was never going to win best in class but it had charm. However, that’s all changed for 2016. With a new turbocharged engine, dual-clutch transmission and a reinforced chassis, the all-new Tucson is upping the ante and is no longer playing the cute-ute card.

Like with any brand, there are multiple ways you can have a Tucson from four available trim options. The base SE starts at $22,700 and incorporate a carried over 164-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine. Noted as Eco, Sport, and Limited models now introduces the all-new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine rated for a respectable 175-horsepower. If you have some spare coin lying around, add another $1400 for all-wheel drive like our sampled Limited here.

Even though horsepower numbers are down from the last-gen 2.4-liter engine, the box of sweetness comes from its new seven-speed dual clutch tranny. Dual-clutch may sound like a scary fancy word for something to go wrong, but its something that works surprisingly well – it works like a manual transmission in a sense that you can feel it being more engaging and is constantly on alert for the next gear. It’s not quite a sports transmission but it gets the job done with smooth, responsive gestures and assists in its quick dash to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. The Tucson’s power band sits right in the middle of the pack against the Mazda CX-5’s 2.4L 184-HP, the Toyota RAV4’s 2.5L 176-HP and Nissan Rouge’s 2.5L 170-HP; however, it’s how it’s delivered. What the Tucson has is more torque; a lot more, at 195lb-ft – it comes in quick around 1500 rpm and holds its delivery to about 5000 rpms making it just a bit sweeter in its acceleration. Turbo lag is present from the get-go – however – it isn’t present when hustling through traffic – it snaps in at the moment its needed meaning we didn’t have to question the gap times between cars on the highway.

Solidness is something we don’t speak of too often, especially when it comes to Hyundai. But there is something new in the Tucson’s DNA. It feels solid, like an Audi Q3 and more robust and vibrant than a Mazda CX-5. The steering had a nice weight to it, and by choosing Sport through the different drive modes, the throttle responses became more crisp and lively. The Tucson feels well planted and balanced. And with that AWD it handles corners with more presence. With a stiffer chassis does bring in a harder ride, but it’s neither unpleasant nor uncomfortable – even on our standard 19-inch wheels it handles itself with grace – and looks pretty snazzy too.

MPG has also shown signs of improvement bumping up 1 mpg more from the previous generation averaging 25 in the city and 27 combined. During our weekly run, sadly we found ourselves more in the city and less on the highway seeing as we averaged 24 combined. Though not required we fueled with Premium Fuel getting the most out of its 420 mile range.

If you didn’t take the Tucson serious before, perhaps you should now. The interior is top shelf quality. Taking note from the German enterprise the Tucson has a very well executed design and use of quality finishes throughout. Every surface feels premium and well put together. The seats here are also firm and supportive making long distance driving comfortable. Rear seat passenger won’t have much to complain about either with spacious room throughout and nice seating position.

Our featured Limited was just about as fully loaded as you can get without opting for the Ultimate Package having Leather seats, Navigation, power lift tailgate, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and LED daytime- and taillights. However, we were greedy and ponied up the extra $2750 for that Ultimate Package cause, well, just look at that massive sunroof! Plus it also featured Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, adaptive swiveling HID Headlights, Ventilated Front Seats and Heated Rear Seats for extra passenger coziness.

So what happened to our little under-rated cute-ute? It grew up! Hyundai proficiently executed the new Tucson quite well for its new model year. It’s not only handsome to look at but features the quality and driving dynamics to boot.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited 1.6L AWD: $31,300
Destination: $895
Performance Specs:
1.6-liter Turbocharged 4-Cylinder – 175-horsepower/195lb-ft of torque – 0-60 MPH: ±8 seconds
EPA MPG: 24/28/26 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 24 MPG’s | Fuel Range: 420 miles
Featured Options:
Carpeted Floor Mats: $125
Ultimate Package: $2,750
Grand Total: $35,070