Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Hyundai Tuscon Active X with specs, fuel consumptionand verdict.

Hyundai’s old Tucson wasn’t really missed when it disappeared, because it looked weird and it wasn’t very good. The ix35 kind of jumped on its grave a bit by looking a hell of a lot nicer and being a better car, particularly after its mid-life refresh to fix the ride.

MORE: Read the full Hyundai Tucson 2017 review

Progress continues apace at Hyundai, as usual, and the ix35 was last year replaced by the new-from-the-ground-up Tucson. Same old name, completely different car.

Other Tucson variants

Hyundai Tucson Active 2017 review | long term

Hyundai Tucson 30th Anniversary Special Edition 2016 review | road test

Hyundai Tucson Elite AWD 2016 review | road test

Hyundai Tucson Highlander CRDi diesel auto 2017 review | road test

Value

The Tucson range is made up of front-driven and all-wheel drive cars as well as two petrol engines and a diesel, with manual and automatic transmissions to keep you poring over your options for hours.

The Active X is what you might call the sweet spot – Hyundai has clearly put a lot of effort into working out what people want, and this is the result. Front-wheel drive, 2.0 litres of engine and most likely an automatic transmission.

There’s nothing shouty or over-compensatory about it, it just looks great.

Our car had the auto (surprise!) and for $32,990 ($1500 more than the manual), you get 18-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, USB and Apple CarPlay, air-con, reversing camera, reversing sensors, cruise control, remote central locking, leather trim (some real, some not), auto headlights and wipers, power windows and heated folding mirrors, roof rails, electric driver’s seat and even a full-size spare wheel.

Our car was Platinum silver, the only available option, at $595. Only white is a no-cost colour. It’s worth pointing out the Hyundai’s 5 year/unlimited km warranty with roadside assist and lifetime fixed price servicing.

Design

The Tucson has design chief Peter Schreyer’s fingerprints all over it. Sleek and Germanic looking (Schreyer used to work for Audi) it’s a contender for Best Looking SUV In The Segment. There’s nothing shouty or over-compensatory about it, it just looks great, from the surfacing to the proportions to the little details.

It looks even better with the X’s bigger alloys and will always look stronger with a set of 19s in the wheelarches too.

Inside is rather more sober than the ix35 and is in line with the character of the new Sonata (another revived nameplate stuck on a vastly better car) and box-fresh Elantra, all of which can be traced to the Genesis. Materials are good if not VW quality, and ergonomically speaking everything is where it should be and works well.

The front seats are generous and comfortable while the rear outboard seats are welcoming as well, with plenty of leg and headroom for a six-footer. The less said about the tremendously unpleasant middle seat (for an adult, at least) the better.

The boot is a very respectable 488 litres, outpunching the red hot Mazda CX-5’s 403 litres but losing out to Toyota’s RAV 4 with its huge 577. Seats down, the Hyundai loses ground to both of them. The Tucson beats its sister Kia car, the Sportage, in both measurements by about 20 litres.

First and second rows get a pair of cupholders for a total of four while each door has a bottle holder suitable for a 500ml bottle. There’s a space underneath the air-con controls for your phone and a decent sized bin under the front armrest.

Front-wheel drive Tucson 2.0s are rated to 750kg unbraked and 1600kg braked.

Safety

Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, brake assist and reversing camera add up to the maximum allowable five ANCAP stars in the January 2016 test.

Sadly, the option to add safety features like city emergency braking, blind-spot detection and rear cross traffic alert is not available, as these are only offered on the $45,490 Highlander.

Features

Only Active and Active X spec levels get the very excellent Apple CarPlay for the seven-inch screen set into the dashboard. The Hyundai head unit is fine if you don’t want the extra features or you want to wait for the advent of Android Auto, with good clear controls and a responsive touchscreen.

CarPlay obviously transforms the user experience and lets you use Pandora and Spotify in addition to your iPhone library, as well as Apple Maps and all the Siri functionality for calling and texting. It’s a good, consistent interface and raises the bar against more expensive cars, including Elite and Highlander Tucsons that use Hyundai’s premium head unit.

Engine and Transmission

The Active X is only available with the 2.0 GDI unit, developing 121kW and a slightly disappointing 203Nm. Both are available high-ish in the rev-range at 6200rpm and 4700rpm respectively. Both figures are higher than the Active’s 2.0 MPI (114kW/192Nm) and ahead of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage’s corresponding units.

The immediate impression from behind the wheel is that the Tucson is very fleet of foot.

With the six-speed auto fitted, Hyundai says you’ll get 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle (we got 9.4L/100km) from the 1584kg weigh impost. There’s no claimed 0-100km/h figure - always sure sign that it’s not exciting enough to boast about - but it’s bound to be around 10 or 11 seconds.

Driving

The immediate impression from behind the wheel is that the Tucson is very fleet of foot. There are a couple of reasons for this; the steering is very light at low speeds which amps up the turn-in, and the ride is impressively smooth and refined. Start to push on a bit and the grip is there for the taking, up to a certain point when it starts to ease into gentle understeer. Most owners are fairly unlikely to want to find that out, obviously.

The now highly Hyundai familiar locally tuned suspension is a key feature of the Tucson. Korean “home” tunes are quite soft whereas Australians want and need more control because we’re a bit keener about driving and have rubbish roads to do it on. The basic architecture is very quiet and it bests every other car in the segment by some margin.

The 2.0 GDI is hardly going to set the world on fire at any point and really could do with stop-start to cut fuel consumption – our sub 10L/100km figure came courtesy of a long highway run. Apart from that, as long as you keep the revs under about 4000rpm, you’ll barely hear or feel it.

Between the quiet engine, suspension and tyres, you’ll find that the Tucson’s cabin is amazingly church-like. The ix35 was a bit crashy and bashy, with noises coming from all directions, but the Tucson is in another league. It’s also much quieter, even when you nail it, than its competitors.