Hyundai Tucson Active X 2016 review: long term video

4 January 2017
, CarsGuide

Peter Anderson is spending six months living with the top-selling Active X version of the Tucson SUV.

July 11, 2016

The Tucson is a big step forward for Hyundai. That’s something we say a lot about the Korean brand, but the steps keep on coming and the cars keep on getting better.

Spending a few days in these cars like we usually do for reviews gives us a good idea of what they’re like compared with the competition, but we’ve chosen to live with the Tucson for half a year to really expose its warts – if it really has any.

The Tucson is a vastly better car than the ix35 it directly replaces.

The Active X is the top selling version of the Tucson mid-size SUV, starting at $30,490 for the six-speed manual and $32,990 for the six-speed automatic.

The vast majority of Active Xs sold are automatics, and rather than choose the cushy, top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Highlander, we opted for the most popular Active X.

The Active X is part of that ever-growing band of SUV-bodied cars that look like they could hit the trails but won’t. Not just because nobody ever does but because it’s front-wheel drive and therefore somewhat limited in its off-road ability (despite the mystifying inclusion of hill descent control).

The Tucson is a vastly better car than the ix35 it directly replaces - the detailing is far better both in the construction and the drive.

Our Tucson will act as a family workhorse, make the inevitable trips to the airport full of bags, horrifying journeys to Ikea, helping people move, a road trip or two and we’ll even use it to haul video equipment around.

We’re already fans of the Tucson’s Apple CarPlay (only Active and Active X get Carplay/AndroidAuto – the upper models have a different head unit with integrated sat nav). We like the standard air-con and the excellent refinement – this is one very quiet car unless you really push it.

Ruining the interior quiet is a mysterious rattle we haven’t yet traced, so we’ll report back on that. We’re also not completely convinced on the fuel economy, but as the brand-new engine is yet to loosen up, we’ll reserve judgement. Lastly, the lack of front sensors makes the car hard to park in dark spaces or where there’s low obstacles.

August 1, 2016 

Our second month with the Tucson already and things are starting to loosen up nicely. The fuel economy is still a bit peaky, but we’ve had a busy driveway which has meant little in the way of longer trips in Hyundai’s newest SUV. 
As sure as night follows day, however, when people get a sniff you’ve got an SUV, the requests start flooding in for lifts to you know where – the airport. 

In this case, it was a mother and her two young kids who had been staying in Australia for six months. They’d arrived with a huge suitcase each, a big three-wheeler pram and a soft bag and that’s how they were leaving us, albeit with those bags stuffed absolutely full. 

The travel bag for the pram was crammed full of odds and ends and the three large Samsonites were just about bursting. Added to that, there was a rambunctious three-year old who needed a car seat and his seven-year old sister who probably wasn’t keen on being left behind. 

The Tucson, surely, would need two trips – all this stuff, along with the two kids, mum and chauffeur. Surely. 

Well, no. The boot’s 488 litres were put to the test (these are VDA figures) and after half an hour of luggage Tetris, the 40 part of the 60/40 split fold was dropped and all was well. 

Master Three was fairly happy in his booster seat while Miss Seven was made to feel a little claustrophobic as she wedged herself into the middle seat. 

Four up and with almost 100kg of luggage, the Tucson was perfectly capable on the run to the airport, with the car behaving impeccably despite the heaviest load it had so far undertaken. 

Oh, and the rattle? Still there but since neither of its regular drivers think to put a passenger in the back on a fact-finding mission, it’s not really the car’s fault anymore. 

2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X 

Acquired: June 2016 
Distance travelled this month: 263km
Odometer: 534km 
Average fuel consumption for July: 12.2L/100km (trip computer)

September 7, 2016

Month three and the keys for the Tucson were wrested from our hands by Editor Mal Flynn who - in a moment of mad heroism - decided that he would be responsible for moving his worldly goods to his new home in the Blue Mountains.

Having tired of the inner-city kale and tumeric latte-sippers (does anybody actually sip lattes?), he needed the voluminous boot and easygoing motorway manners of the Tucson to help forget the nightmare of the three-tonne truck he was using for moving the larger items.

The boss covered 1000km over a period of four days, largely loaded-up and doing laps of Sydney's nightmare road, the M4. Not known for his light touch on the right pedal, he managed a dash-recorded average of 9.3L/100km.

The big mirrors and reversing camera helped wipe out the disadvantage of all 1478 litres (VDA) filled with washing machines and boxes of car magazines blocking his view out the rear window. He was also convinced he regularly nudged the maximum 506kg payload and despite it never being a rocket, it coped very well with its role as cargo container.

It was returned with typical over-verbosity (see me, Ed) - "It's a good thing."

The aforementioned rattle disappeared for a while but returned with a vengeance one morning on the way to the station. It seems to be in the rear seat area (thank you for your suggestions, commenters) so the first free weekend will be spent potholing to find the source.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X

Acquired: June 2016
Distance travelled this month: 1033km
Odometer: 1567km
Average fuel consumption for August: 11.7L/100km (trip computer)

October 4, 2016

It was a quiet month for the Tucson as various events conspired against extended seat time in the Active X. Ironically, it was the arrival on the driveway of other versions of the Tucson over a period of two weeks, namely the Tucson 30 (based on Active X spec) and the diesel top-of-the-range Highlander, that kept us out of "our" car.

This helped put the long-termer into perspective. The Highlander, while certainly very good, does suffer from the lack of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and is also quite a bit heavier, knocking the edge off the ride and handling. The latter probably isn't helped by the big 19-inch alloys and added equipment. The brakes don't feel as convincing either.

The interlopers did show up the Active X's only real letdown - the engine. The 2.0 MPI is willing enough but it's a bit thirstier and noisier than the smooth, torquey 1.6 turbo of the 30. We can't help thinking a 1.6 turbo Active X would fly off the shelves even faster - it only has nine more kilowatts, but has 65Nm more. Having said that, the fuel economy of the MPI is finally beginning to improve, with 10L/100km, down from 11.7L/100km.

The Highlander also demonstrated what a sensible, value for money car the Active X is - it's got all the good stuff and there's almost nothing on the Highlander's spec sheet you'd miss.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X

Acquired: June 2016
Distance travelled this month: 532km
Odometer: 1999km
Average fuel consumption for September: 10L/100km (trip computer)

November 3, 2016

October was an even quieter month for the Tucson as even more cars piled up on the driveway, but it didn't feel that way. Despite the low mileage, the the Active X saw plenty of action in its faithful role on the school run, shops and seemingly endless requests for airport pick-ups. As always, it performed without fuss or drama and there is never, ever the feeling, "Oh, we have to take that car." 

Often it is chosen over more exotic machines because it is an easy driving companion. Everyone who tagged along for a ride was impressed with it and I haven't had a single unkind word in five months. The proprietors of our local cafe bought one because they liked the look of ours and have gone on to heap praise liberally. Still no free coffee in exchange for the advice, but there you go.

As promised, the Tucson was pressed into action as a camera car on one of our (in)famous video shoots. The boot, as ever, presented us with an excellent load area and is just the right height when you're faffing around with lenses and other camera detritus. It also means that the Tucson would be a good makeshift work surface for laptops or whatever else.

The smooth ride also proved itself useful as a way to shoot the other car on the move. This sort of driving is much harder than it looks, so being able to hold speed (with or without cruise control activated) and give the camera operator a steady platform is endlessly handy in a situation like this. Niche, yes, but speaks to the Tucson's smoothness and liveability.

The rattle has returned with a vengeance, however. It does seem to be coming from the boot, so we'll deploy the time-honoured method of open-handed percussive maintenance before a trip to a dealer to see if they can sort it. It's the only drama we've had the entire time we've had the car and would have been fixed long ago if I'd been less lazy.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X

Acquired: June 2016
Distance driven this month: 270km
Odometer: 2269km
Average fuel consumption for October: 11L/100km (trip computer)

December 7, 2016

Our six months with the Hyundai Tucson Active X at Casa Anderson has come to an end and once again, we're bidding a fond farewell to a long-termer. The Tucson quickly slipped into our lives and was declared A Very Good Car by everyone who sailed in her.

So inspired was one passenger that they went out and bought an identically specified Active X, right down to the colour.

There was plenty to like about the Tucson - the load space, the refinement, the finely-judged specification. The inclusion of Apple CarPlay (and later addition of Android Auto) meant that the lack of in-built sat nav wasn't missed and trouble-free integration applauded.

The interior came in for much praise - the leather on the seats isn't all real, but was soft to the touch and didn't heat up too much in the sun. The real leather on the steering wheel felt like reasonable quality and it was an easy car to clean out when things got grubby. Editor Flynn used it to move house and packed it with numerous full loads of stuff, leaving just one or two marks (I’ll swear they were there when I collected it – Ed) on the boot's plastic lining.

The car's overall refinement also drew many approving nods. While the 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated MPI isn't the best engine in the Tucson line-up, the six-speed automatic transmission certainly is. In concert they are mostly very quiet and agreeable, with just the engine buzzing a bit under high loads.

The suspension's tune was also judged as excellent, with a particularly comfortable ride (probably best in class) and a chassis that wasn't averse to being hurled at corners at moderate speeds. The local team have done a fine job getting it right. If they're not smug, they should be.

Less smug should be the person who chose the headlights - they're a bit weak out of town. And the 2.0 litre engine could do with being replaced with the 1.6-litre turbo, or at least offered as an option. It's a terrific unit in other Tucsons but apparently is only available with the dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive.

We'd previously lived with an ix35 and while we liked it, it wasn't outstanding in any way. The Tucson proved a much more capable and comfortable car than the ix and buyers agree, with the Tucson quickly establishing itself in the sales charts ahead of the Toyota RAV4, beaten only by the perennial favourite, Mazda's CX-5.

The Tucson firmly cemented my - and others' - view that this is one of the best, if not the best car to wear the Hyundai badge. It arrived completely finished, there was nothing I thought, "Oh, they'll fix that in a running change." It's good value, is a good family car and it's hard to find anyone who doesn't like it.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Active X

Acquired: June 2016
Distance driven this month: 748km
Odometer: 3017km
Fuel average for November: 10.3L/100km (trip computer)

Is the Active X the right Tucson for you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Hyundai Tucson pricing and spec info.

2min Insurance Quote Pricing & Specs


  • Price From $32,990
  • Fuel consumption 7.9L/100km (combined), 185g/km CO2 Tank 62L
  • Safety 5-star ANCAP
  • Seats 5
  • Warranty 5 years/unlimited
  • Service Interval 12 months/15,000km
  • Engine 1.999L 4-cyl unleaded, 121kW/203Nm
  • Transmission 6-spd automatic, FWD
  • Spare Full size alloy
  • Turning circle 10.6m diameter
  • Dimensions 4477mm (L), 1850mm (W), 1655mm (H)