Thursday, December 31, 2015

Matt Schmitt Represents Gary Rome Hyundai In The 11th Hyundai World Skill Olympics

In late October, the four top HMA technicians traveled to South Korea to compete in the 11th Hyundai World Skill Olympics. After week-long training sessions in Chicago and at HMA’s headquarters in California, the team was primed for success. The guys returned with two medals.

A team chosen at last year’s HMA National Skills Competition featured: Jafte Caldera, Burlingame Hyundai in California; Michael Gyory, Motorworld Hyundai, Pennsylvania; Matt Schmitt, Gary Rome Hyundai, Massachusetts; and Rick Byrne, Pearson Hyundai, Virginia. The team acknowledges that the time together was something special. Team alternate, Erik Koonce from Bill Hood Hyundai in Louisiana said, “The training for World Skill was impressive. From the coaches to the help of HMA administration, it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.”

Gary Rome Hyundai is proud to have Matt Schmitt on our service department team for over 13 years. We are incredibly happy for his success. This is the second time Matt has participated in the Hyundai National Skills Competition and the Hyundai World Skill Olympics.

“I love repairing vehicles for our customers because it puts a smile on their faces. Whether its maintenance or engine work, I love making our customers happy. HMA does a National Skills Competition every year where they choose 15 of the best technicians throughout the United States to compete; I was one of them and I won.” With the top four spot coveted, Matt’s next step was to compete in South Korea. Matt is also a Mensa member. Mensa is a high IQ society.

Former all-around gold medalist, Jasen Nowacki and Jason Emerson joined with regional trainers to prepare the team. Coach Jeff Wienberg spearheaded the vehicle bugging efforts. Some of the exercises were quite “nasty.” Additionally, the team had to get familiar with a few diagnostic tools not used in our market.

The training was not all work. The team enjoyed a few extra activities. Rick Byrne earned the top spot in go-kart racing. The guys also compared the finer points of Korean barbecue and good ol’ American barbecue.

Once in Korea, the team again had a full slate of activities. Tours and dinners accompanied the competition. It was a chance to rub shoulders with the technicians Hyundai recognizes as the best in the world. In the competition, Jefte Caldera took the gold medal in the Written & Component portion. Michael Gyory garnered Silver in the Chassis section. Congratulations to both men in their success against the best.

Our Gary Rome Hyundai family is filled with hidden gems. Individuals who are interested in self-improvement and helping others. We are very fortunate and love having Matt Schmitt as a member of our service department team. 

Parts of this article originally appeared in TechTimes Magazine

Hyundai planning to replace i30 with SUV

Hyundai is considering abandoning the popular family hatchback class in favor of a new compact crossover

Hyundai has hinted that it will not renew its i30 hatchback when the time comes, but instead replace it with a smaller SUV to complement the Tucson and Santa Fe.

Speaking at the launch of the new Tucson, a mid-sized SUV that replaces the ix35, a company insider told Telegraph Cars that Hyundai could leave the traditional family hatchback sector when the i30 reaches the end of its current product life-cycle in 2017.

In the i30’s place would be a small SUV designed to take on the likes of the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3 and Renault Captur, providing Hyundai with an entry into what is currently the fastest growing area of the car market in Europe.

The move would echo the step taken by Nissan in 2007 when it replaced its Almera hatchback with the Qashqai SUV. It proved a shrewd move for the Japanese car maker, with the Qashqai soon becoming a regular fixture in the list of the UK’s best selling cars. However, while other manufacturers have created Qashqai clones, they have been in addition to, rather than instead of, their hatchback offerings, and even Nissan has now re-entered the sector with the Pulsar.

The replacement of the i30 would be the latest step in what has been an aggressive strategy from Hyundai as it continues to gain ground on the established European opposition. This has included shortening the typical lifespans of its cars from the motor industry’s traditional seven-year cycle to just five years, as well as offering market-leading warranties.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hyundai's new luxury sedan to debut at int'l auto show in US

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's biggest carmaker, plans to introduce the first sedan under its premium Genesis brand to the global market during an international auto show to be held in the U.S. next month.

The G90 flagship model, locally named EQ900, is the first Genesis-line product since Hyundai launched the independent luxury brand in November in a bid to compete with global premium labels.

Hyundai introduced the model in the local auto market earlier in the month.

The carmaker will use the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to present the G90 to the global market.

Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun plans to offer a presentation to explain the vehicle's performance and vision in the Detroit auto show to run from Jan. 11 through 24.

The South Korean car will hit the U.S. market in the second half of next year as Hyundai is bracing for heated competition in the U.S. auto market where news models will be rolled out by major U.S. and German premium brands.

"The EQ900 is a state-of-the art premium sedan that we developed to target the global market." Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo said during a launch event in Seoul earlier this month.

The new Genesis-line sedan is 5,205 millimeters long and 1,915 mm wide, stands at 1,495 mm and has a wheel base of 3,160 mm, with a price range of 73 million won ($62,000) to 117 million won depending on the power train and other options.

The model is equipped with diverse up-to-date safety and convenience features and comes installed with a "highway driving assist system," intended to aid autonomous driving, Hyundai has said.


2016 Hyundai Tucson Written and Video Review

When Hyundai arrived in the United States some 30 years ago, Americans had to learn the pronunciation (rhymes with Sunday). Its first car stateside, the Excel, rode on borrowed Mitsubishi mechanicals. Car and Driver’s assessment? “The Excel won’t make your heart soar.”

The Korean conglomerate is now a force to be reckoned with, designing its own transmissions and engines and building them from steel out of its own foundries. The design staff is led by those who drew for Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini.

That brings us to the newest-generation Tucson, which competes with heavy hitters like the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and America’s most popular crossover, the Honda CR-V. These are top-notch products throwing fisticuffs in the most competitive segment in the industry.

Put simply, Tucson is worthy of attention in this class. Its balanced, muscular sheet metal is handsome. Overall driving dynamics are refined. A quieter cabin means occupants can converse, not shout.

Slightly larger now, the Tucson begins at $23,595 with front-wheel drive. The tested all-wheel-drive Limited model with Ultimate Package rises to $34,945. Shocked? Don’t be. It includes a giant glass roof, vented leather seats and a Volvo-like auto-braking system that detects pedestrians.

All but the base model run with a 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder that delivers 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque to your right foot. Shifts from the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox are nearly undetectable. Lockable all-wheel drive features hill-descent control.

With good linear response, the 1.6-liter engine has precious little turbo lag. Don’t expect a rocket; going from 0 to 60 miles an hour takes about 8.5 seconds. Body movements are well managed during cornering, though Hyundai has yet to discover the concept of meaningful road feel.

With all-wheel drive, the Tucson Eco model is rated by the government to average 27 miles per gallon. Limited versions knock one m.p.g. off that. Base models with Hyundai’s normally aspirated 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine drop to 23 m.p.g.

Tucson’s cabin appearance is par for the course in this class, with a mixture of basic and premium-looking trims. The touch-screen interface requires no fuss or muss. There are many places to stash, or misplace, small things. Tucson is so loaded with features (keyless ignition, blind spot detection and lane departure warning), it’s disappointing there is no heated steering wheel. Perhaps I expect too much.

Two adults fit fine in Tucson’s back seat, with heated seats at this trim level. Two gripes here — no rear power port for phone charging, and dropping the 60/40 split seat backs means opening the back door for a lever near the floor. Trunk-mounted levers are MIA.

Honda’s CR-V is the segment’s cargo champ, but Tucson’s hatch can be more helpful. Simply stand next to it with the proximity key in pocket or purse and it automatically opens. The cargo floor adjusts to create space to hide valuables like laptop computers. Measuring with bundles of warehouse bath tissue, Tucson’s trunk holds nine packs, equal to most in this class. The Honda holds a freakish 12.

People still pronounce the brand’s name in different ways, but Hyundai switched from fire-sale pricing to more of a bang-for-the-buck proposition a number of years ago. I’ll guess the people at corporate are less concerned with pronunciation than whether you buy one. Tucson gives crossover buyers a good reason to do just that. The next 30 years should be interesting.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hyundai Motor wins five 2015 Good Design awards

•Four vehicles and one art installation honored for successful design

•Judging panel evaluated submissions from thousands of leading manufacturers and graphic design firms from over 47 countries

•Award recognition highlights success of Hyundai Motor’s design-led approach to product development

Hyundai Motor has won five GOOD DESIGN Awards, in recognition of consistent successful application of its design philosophy. The company received awards for the upcoming IONIQ alternative fuel compact vehicle, All-new Tucson, All-new Elantra, Santa Cruz concept model and the company’s ‘Sculpture in Motion’ art installation.

“Being recognized as five-time winners in the GOOD DESIGN Awards strengthens Hyundai Motor’s position as an automotive design leader – not only for traditional combustion-engine vehicles, but also for eco-friendly vehicles and ambitious design concepts,” said Byung-Seob Lee, Senior Vice President and Head of the Hyundai Design Center.

The annual awards program has been developed by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, in recognition of the most innovative and cutting-edge industrial, product, and graphic designs from around the world. The oldest and the most prestigious architecture and design awards program organized worldwide, the GOOD DESIGN Award brought together an international jury of design professionals, architects, experts and cultural leaders in New York in November 2015 to select their favorite designs and graphics.

Among the thousands of world-leading industrial and graphic design firms and manufacturers being evaluated, Hyundai Motor stood out for its products and design approach, highlighting the competitiveness of the brand’s design strategy and output.

The soon-to-be-launched IONIQ, Hyundai Motor’s advanced alternative fuel compact vehicle, was recognized for its class-leading aerodynamics and striking design details. Shaped around the Visual Aero design concept, IONIQ was developed not only with aesthetics in mind, but also with careful consideration of efficiency, aerodynamics and functionality. The interior design concept of ‘Purified Hi-tech’ creates a futuristic overall image, with simplified surfaces and intuitive layout of buttons. The world premiere of the IONIQ will be on January 14, 2016 in Seoul, Korea.

The All-new Tucson adopts the strong proportions and profile of a sleek and agile SUV. The vehicle is longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, allowing for increased interior space and improved versatility. The front view presents a hexagonal-shaped grille, a key element of Hyundai’s design signature, flanked by high-efficiency LED twin-projector headlights. From the rear, Z-shaped character lines above the rear wheels accentuate an aggressive, sporty side-profile. All of these design features help to create an athletic, bold and striking appearance.

Also recognized in the GOOD DESIGN Awards and new to Hyundai Motor’s product line-up is the All-new Elantra. Building on the celebrated design of the preceding Elantra, the new model showcases the evolving design direction being adopted for all Hyundai compact cars. The All-new Elantra displays refined exterior body surfacing with simple-but-strong lines running along the body side from front to back. Design details all around the car show modern, sporty and advanced style, befitting of Hyundai Motor’s exclusive Dynamic Precision design concept.

Further complementing Hyundai Motor’s success at the GOOD DESIGN Awards, the Santa Cruz concept gained success for its interpretation of truck utility for a new generation of buyers. Having been introduced at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the concept truck was designed to meet the needs of those looking for greater design individuality, efficiency and maneuverability. The Santa Cruz delivers with a wide, sure-footed stance and an aggressive side-profile. To provide sufficient cargo room and access to the rear seats, the Santa Cruz offers an innovative tailgate extension that allows the bed length to be expanded. It also incorporates rear-hinged, reverse-opening rear doors that integrate seamlessly with the front door design.

Last but not least, Hyundai Motor’s design philosophy is realized in innovative ways through the Sculpture in Motion project, which earned its own GOOD DESIGN Award. The Sculpture in Motion project forms the look of a living wave, celebrating fluid motion as art and referencing the relationship between movement and car design in the natural and automotive worlds.


Monday, December 28, 2015

10 highest selling cars, SUVs in November; Hyundai Grand i10 overtakes Maruti Swift

NEW DELHI: Hyundai's Grand i10, the South Korean automaker's popular hatchback has finally broken into the top-four position in the highest selling passenger vehicles, which was held by Maruti Suzuki models for a long period of time.

To understand in a nutshell what is happening in the Indian passenger vehicle segment, consider this. Out of the top ten best selling PVs, nine come from the stable of either Maruti Suzuki or Hyundai.

Grand i10 sold 12,899 units in November 2015 to secure the fourth spot. This is 53.6 percent higher than 8,396 units sold in the same month last year.

It has replaced Maruti Suzuki Swift which has been one of the most popular hatchback in the segment but recently has been losing its base to new entrants.

Alto still continues to rule the passenger vehicle segment by selling 21,995 units last month. However, this is significantly lower than 24,201 units sold in November 2014.

Maruti still holds on to the second and third position with its Dzire and Wagon R models. While Wagon R saw only a marginal rise in its sales, Dzire sold 15,463 units in November to experience a year-on-year growth of 28.6 percent.

Hyundai's premium hatchback Elite i20, despite the festival season, saw a fall in its sales. From 10,552 units sold in November last year, the best-selling Hyundai sold only 10,074 units in November 2015.

This fall in Elite i20 numbers could be directly attributed to Maruti's Baleno which is hot on its heels at seventh spot. Launched in October, Baleno sold a healthy 9,074 units which leads us to believe that Maruti might be getting comfortable in the premium segment.

While Hyundai Eon jumped one spot to eighth in the list by selling 7,154 units, the ninth place was held by Maruti's Celerio which was not there in the last year's list of 10 best selling passenger vehicle.

The only non-Maruti, non-Hyundai vehicle to feature in the list is Mahindra's best selling SUV Bolero. The only SUV in the list sold 6,875 units in November 2015 which is 9 percent more than 6,300 sold last November.


Inside the Making of BuzzFeed's Latest Branded Video for Hyundai


'We've Spent Too Much Time on TV Trying to Sell and Not Enough Time Storytelling,' Says Hyundai's CMO

If you dropped by BuzzFeed Motion Pictures' old office in Hollywood on the afternoon of November 18, you may have thought the publisher's video arm was shooting a car commercial. Technically, that's exactly what was going on.

On an empty lot outside the office, a silver Hyundai Tucson sat idling in front of some palm trees, its headlights running and tires turned at just the right angle. The setting sun added that amber filter that makes a shot look like someone poured ginger ale all over the lens. It looked like the shot at the end of a standard car commercial, the part right before the brand's logo and leasing details overtake the picture.

Even the conversation around the car typified a regular commercial shoot. BuzzFeed Motion Pictures Creative Producer -- and the shoot's director -- Jesse Burton huddled with Woojong Kim, Hyundai's senior manager of advertising collateral. The pair were discussing camera angles.

It would have been a perfectly fine commercial. Except it wasn't necessarily a commercial. For starters, instead of the Hyundai logo and leasing details entering the frame, it was a father carrying his daughter on piggyback. The father-daughter duo weren't professional actors, and the scene being filmed wasn't the hero shot of a 30-second spot; it was a transitional sequence for one of the minutes-long video's storylines. The video (below) also won't air on TV; it was posted on Dec. 21 to BuzzFeed's YouTube and Facebook channels, the fourth in the campaign's series.

"One of the sins in automotive is we've spent too much time on TV trying to sell and not enough time storytelling," said Hyundai CMO Dean Evans, who declined to say how much money Hyundai spent on the campaign. Since joining the auto brand in August 2015, Mr. Evans's marketing strategy has been to "build a nice, stronger, more well-loved brand while we sell more cars in the background," he said.

Selling through storytelling is tough. But it's easier if you know the story you want to tell. "The goal really is you want people to share. You want people to relate and identify with that message and ultimately the brand is the facilitator of that," said BuzzFeed's Senior VP of West Coast Sales Jennifer Klawin.

For Hyundai, that story was how people can recoup quality time with one another while they're in a car. "Our creative platform was called 'provoke change,'" said James Zayti, group media director at Hyundai's agency Innocean. "And we felt the Tucson can be a catalyst to provoking change. Really we looked at it [as] can the Tucson help people disconnect for a while and engage in other things, other things being more on the lo-fi side?"

The next question is how to tell that story. BuzzFeed has produced 10 videos for auto brands this year, according to Ms. Klawin, so its branded-video team had experience coming up with answers. But it took a different approach for Hyundai's campaign. Instead of a one-off video, BuzzFeed and Hyundai opted for a series of four. They would try out three different approaches in three separate videos, then regroup to assess what resonated with the brand's target audience of millennials and apply that insight in making the fourth video.

In mid-October, members of BuzzFeed's branded video team, Hyundai's agencies Innocean and Initiative, and Mr. Kim convened at BuzzFeed's Hollywood office to review the campaign's first three videos, which were released in late September, and figure out what to do for the fourth and final one.

Originally, BuzzFeed, Hyundai and the brand's agencies planned to see which one of the initial three videos outperformed the other two and recreate the winner for the series' fourth installment. That shouldn't have been too hard considering how different the videos were. One featured people trying to work for 24 hours straight. Another showed how people working in a coffee shop react when the wifi goes down. And the third recorded couples imitating each other while driving.

However BuzzFeed and Hyundai had a hard time picking out a single winner from the three videos. Not only were they successful collectively -- they received 6.7 million views as of the October 13 meeting, easily surpassing the 2.8 million views BuzzFeed had guaranteed Hyundai -- but they succeeded individually and in different ways.

The "People Try Working for 24 Hours" video had garnered the most views: 3.2 million, with 2.3 million on YouTube and 637,000 on Facebook. But the message of "What Happens When There's No Internet" -- the value of taking time away from your devices -- seemed to resonate the most of the three videos. And "Couples Imitate Each Other Driving" generated the most comments because viewers liked the people cast in the video, who were normal folks instead of professional actors.

BuzzFeed's head writer for branded videos, Erin Schmalfeld, threw out one idea for the fourth video. What if they filmed couples spending 48 hours together without access to their phones or the internet? The framework combined some of the top elements from the preceding three videos. BuzzFeed could have one or more real-life couples trying to perform activities like finding a restaurant, buying groceries or visiting a museum without help from technology. But there was a problem.

"I don't want this to be something where it's a challenge for somebody to not use technology," said Hyundai's Mr. Kim. "I don't want to force a map in their hands and have them try to find something old-school when we offer the best navigation [in the car]. I don't think that should be the message."

Mr. Kim wanted the message to be people living in the moment and how Hyundai's cars and the technologies they offer facilitate that. "It's not about how uncomfortable it is to be without a device or the internet. It's more about how liberating it will be," Mr. Kim said.

Eventually BuzzFeed and Hyundai settled on the idea of taking three couples and having them each perform a different activity without their smartphones that takes them out of their comfort zones. Initially the couples would be thrown off by not being able to grab their phones, but by the end of the video -- BuzzFeed's and Hyundai's teams hoped -- the couples would realize they can survive without their phones (thanks, in part, to the car's technology) and that becoming less dependent on the device made them more present with one another.

"We see great social sharing when a video makes a point," Ms. Schmalfeld said.

An older couple -- audience favorites from the campaign's earlier couples video -- learned how to salsa dance on the beach. A same-sex couple went to a magic show. And the father-daughter pair flew around Los Angeles in a helicopter that didn't have doors.

In each of the storylines, the couples would drive to the activities in the Hyundai Tucson, a way to incorporate the product at the heart of the promotion without belaboring the point. That idea stemmed from the "Couple Imitate Each Other Driving Video," which had "by far the most brand integration" of the three videos, Mr. Burton said during the October brainstorming meeting. "They're in the car for the bulk of the video, and we didn't see any negative outcomes from the audience about that," he said at the time.

The lack of pushback likely had to do with the fact that the car wasn't the star of that video. There were commercial-style shots of the Tucson parked or being parked, but for the most part the car was in the background. For about half of the video in which the couples imitate one another driving, it was the background -- as it is in the fourth video. In the end, BuzzFeed and Hyundai tightrope-walked the line between selling and storytelling by making the car being sold quite literally the vehicle for the story.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hyundai and Mitsubishi take two very different roads down the family crossover trail

We’re nearing the end of a year spent driving high-performance supercars, tanks, old cars, toy cars, and forbidden fruit, so it seems only natural to return to our control measure for the waning weeks of 2015: a comparison of two midsize crossover SUVs.

The midsize crossover is the new family sedan, targeted at parents with growing families who shun minivans as much as they do larger, gas-guzzling sport-utes. That’s territory where players like the Hyundai Tucson and Mitsubishi Outlander do battle.

Both crossovers were reintroduced for the 2016 model year, and each was restyled and reengineered to lure car buyers. The Hyundai Tucson, as we learned earlier this year, has matured into a refined and stylish offering with one very attractive bottom line. Sitting at the opposite side of the spectrum is a revised, but not completely rethought, Outlander, which Mitsubishi is positioning as a larger, low-cost alternative to other smaller crossovers.

Can a smaller, less powerful crossover from South Korea hold up against a proven nameplate from Japan? Read on to find out:

First Place: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

If the Mitsubishi Outlander feels outclassed among midsize crossovers, the Hyundai Tucson is exactly one of the reasons why we have this impression. In our first drive of the Tucson, we found it to be a stylish, powerful, and refined reason to skip over top-selling Japanese and European SUVs. With styling cues clearly borrowed from more expensive vehicles, the Tucson represents where the midsize crossover segment is going...and it’s a direction we like, a lot.

While most press cars arrive decked out to the nines, completely loaded and in the highest-spec trim available, it was a refreshing surprise to receive the mid-level Tucson Eco–as opposed to the Tucson Limited and Sport we got to know earlier this year. The “Eco”name is a bit of a misnomer, considering it’s infinitesimally more economical than the other Tucson variants. At its core, this model is one step up from the base variant, but you’d never know it.

Build quality and style remain the same, but you get slightly smaller alloy wheels and less in-your-face chrome trim. There’s something eerily empty about the interior of the Tucson Eco, however, considering its lack of a large infotainment system screen a steering wheel that’s heavy on the plastic, hold the soft-touch leather wrapping from other models. If you absolutely need more space and cargo room, Hyundai will happily sell you a Santa Fe.

No matter, because the Tucson still feels and drives even smaller than it is. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is gutsy, performs quietly, and more than enough power to compete against the Honda CR-V and its ilk. The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is tuned for fuel economy, but clicks off seamless shifts when engaged manually for quicker performance. No complaints about ride quality here: the Tucson isn’t perfect, but the Eco’s smaller wheel-and-tire combo showed off a softer, more favorable ride than Tucsons equipped with larger rims.

If we could suggest one improvement, it would be for Hyundai to rejigger the trim levels. The Tucson Eco isn’t available with any option packages, eliminating the possibility of factory-installed navigation, a better stereo, larger wheels, heated seats, keyless ignition, and driver assistance tech–that is, unless you upgrade the entire trim level. If you resist that urge, the Tucson still remains a really compelling choice.

Highs: Stunning looks, classy materials, refined powertrain, quiet interior.

Lows: Trim-specific options, lifeless steering, could use more power.

Conclusion: Simply a cut above.

Vital Stats: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

Price: $26,445 (Tucson Eco AWD, including $895 destination fee)

Powertrain: All-wheel drive, 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, 175-hp, 195 lb.-ft. of torque, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission

Fuel economy (mpg): 25 mpg city / 31 mpg highway

Second Place: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

The first thing you need to know about the Mitsubishi Outlander is that you can probably do better. It’s a tough pronouncement, but our hopes were relatively high for the heavily refreshed version of the Outlander that debuted in our backyard, at the New York auto show, last spring. After years of peddling bland products in the U.S. through a sparse dealer network, Mitsubishi seemed finally ready to compete again.

The Outlander, never a particularly strong seller for Mitsubishi at 13,068 units in 2014, was going to lead the charge for a reinvigorated brand. (For comparison, Ford sold 306,212 Escapes over the same time period.) It would be priced at just over $23,000, placing it in the competitive set of smaller, less powerful vehicles. And its styling was new, too! No longer would the Outlander live under the shadow of the cheapskate Mirage.

Execution fell short of expectations, however, as the Outlander has not emerged as the value-laden success story Mitsubishi pitched to us. On the positive side of the ledger, the Outlander does offer plenty of room for people and cargo, as well as a gratuitous third row, meant only for use by small children. (Hoist up the third row, however, and cargo space disappears.)

The darkness of the black interior feels cold and uninviting, and material quality–from leather to plastics–feels cheap. There is no redeeming the Mitsubishi’s outdated infotainment system, particularly in a market with some pretty stellar options. The Rockford Fosgate audio system was mostly bass. The leather felt slippery. Need we go on? (Yes, we will)

The Outlander we drove was equipped with the optional, 3.0-liter V-6 and all-wheel drive: a strong powertrain let down by lifeless steering, rough-riding suspension, and an inattentive 6-speed automatic transmission. All but top-trim Outlanders are powered by a four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic. That’s at least worth considering, if space (not pace) is your main object at this price point. We were let down more than slightly by the Outlander’s active cruise control system, which could benefit from recalibration in braking and accelerating.

In a way, we’re searching for reasons to venerate the Outlander’s sheer competency in a field of extremely worthy competitors. We’ve seen and riven the rest of the market, however, and it’s far more interesting.

Highs: Attractive starting price, heavy on feature content, big on value, plenty of power with the V-6, standard third-row seating.

Lows: Awkward styling, cheap-feeling materials inside, unsteady driver-assistance tech, overall driving dynamics needing a total retune.

Conclusion: Feeling out of its league amongst hard-hitting competition.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hyundai’s Prius-Fighting Ioniq EV/Hybrid Caught Undisguised!

Hyundai’s Ioniq, the brand’s upcoming hybrid/EV entry, has been caught undisguised during a video shoot. The Ioniq is scheduled to make its official debut next month in Korea, but you get to see it now.

Hyundai just recently rolled out a teaser image of the Ioniq, at which time the Korean automaker announced that the new model would be a dedicated green model, sold as an EV (Hyundai’s first), as well as a plug-in hybrid and a conventional hybrid.

From the spy pictures, we can see that although the Ioniq has a clipped tail like a hatchback, the new Hyundai actually appears to be a notchback sedan. The characteristic Hyundai hexagon grille features horizontal bands and flows into the headlamps, which have C-shaped daytime running lamps. Vertical fog lamps, rendered in LEDs, punctuate the lower corners of the otherwise smooth front fascia.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Green Car Reports 2016 Best Car To Buy Nominee: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid And Plug-In Hybrid

Hyundai is widely viewed as one of the most aggressive car companies in the world. In global industry terms, it's relatively young, having designed and sold its first car only in 1975.

But the South Korean company has ambitious plans, including many on the green-car front; it wants to have the industry's second-widest array of green cars, presumably after Toyota, which sells more than two dozen hybrids globally.

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is its third iteration on a hybrid mid-size sedan, and the Plug-In Hybrid model that accompanies it is the first for the Sonata lineup--all in the past six years.

The first 2011 Sonata Hybrid wasn't a very pleasant car to drive, and after just two years, Hyundai updated its control software and made some hardware tweaks. That made it into a much more pleasant vehicle, within the limits of a single-motor full hybrid system.

And Hyundai has always said that it designs its hybrids not only for fuel efficiency in low-speed and around-town operation, but also at highway speeds, which represent more than half of the miles covered by U.S. drivers (unlike in other countries).

The company waited an extra year after the launch of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata to launch the latest hybrid version (last year's Sonata Hybrid was a carryover), and our First Drive of the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid models indicates that it was worth the wait.

Like the earlier versions, the hybrid and plug-in hybrid Sonatas have unique frontal styling to set them apart from higher-volume garden variety versions--in this case, a larger and deeper grille.

The Sonata Hybrid is rated at either 41 or 42 mpg combined, depending on trim level, and unlike Toyota and Ford hybrids, its highway fuel-economy ratings are higher than its city ratings.

It competes with the new Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (projected 47 mpg combined), the Ford Fusion Hybrid (42 mpg combined), the carryover Kia Optima Hybrid (37 or 38 mpg combined) from its sister company, and the long-established Toyota Camry Hybrid (40 or 41 mpg combined).

The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid (40 mpg combined, 27 miles of electric range) competes only with the Ford Fusion Energi (38 mpg combined, 20 miles of electric range)--and perhaps the smaller 2016 Chevrolet Volt (42 mpg combined, 53 miles of electric range).

Like all plug-in hybrids except the Volt, the plug-in Sonata can't do its entire electric range on battery power alone.

Still, its 27-mile rating is higher than any other non-Volt plug-in hybrid in current production.

Both models, said our reviewer Bengt Halvorson, drive better, get better gas mileage, and are more refined than the Sonata Hybrid they replaced.

Given Toyota's 14-year head start on Hyundai in hybrid design and production, and Ford's seven-year lead, the company has made impressive strides over the relatively short time it's been selling hybrids.

And its first plug-in hybrid offers far more electric range than did Toyota's sole plug-in Prius (though a new model of that car is coming for 2017).

Hyundai and Kia together intend to have nine separate advanced technology models on sale by the 2018 model year, including the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq "Prius fighter" (and a Kia model as well), which will come in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric models.

If the example of the two hybrid 2016 Sonata models is anything to go by, they'll be not only fully competitive but might even outdo other makers on some of their specs.

For that reason, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid together are one of the five finalists for our 2016 Best Car To Buy award.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hyundai Elantra GT is a cozy, compact five-door

Even though the 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT is classified as a midsized car, it feels and behaves like a compact. The egg-shaped side profile of the GT provides the appearance of a small four-door hatchback, but look inside and you will see a well-equipped and comfortable interior for four adults.

Under the hood is a 2.0L 4-cylinder producing 173 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. Power from the engine is smooth and adequate for a car of this size. The transmission offers a manual setting so you can manually change gears if you wish.

Exterior styling is simple and fluid. The egg-shaped profile I mentioned earlier is evident from the moment you see it, but it is not unattractive. Up front, the pronounced grill flanked by projector headlamps and fog lamps are a part of the refreshed design for 2016. Follow the body lines to the rear tailgate and you will see full LED lights and a hatch to open and load your stuff. The trunk area is useful, but will not hold large items like hockey bags or large pieces of luggage.

Interior design and layout follow other Hyundai models and are extremely easy to learn and use. Push-button start/stop, Bluetooth and touch-screen navigation are all nice options in a car of this price. Available remote start from your smart phone is another option Hyundai provides that may be attractive to consumers. Seating is comfortable and even the rear seats are large enough for adults. My sons' car seats fit well and had plenty of room as to not intrude on front passengers. Rear-view camera is another option you can add for a sense of safety.

On road the GT handles well, but not as tight as I expected. At the same time, it behaves like a car of much higher pedigree. Doors feel solid, steering is responsive and adjustable, but the car overall feels a little bigger and heavier than it should. Interior refinement and quality masks the fact that it doesn’t react on road as well as it should.

There are definite pros when speaking of the GT, though. Gas mileage is very good and I averaged 28 to 30 mpg during my evaluation; Hyundai claims an average of 27 mpg. Seating for adults is very comfortable and the options available for this car make it an attractive option for people looking for a midsized five-door vehicle.

Cons include the underwhelming driving characteristics. Entering into corners, the car feels a bit loose, and bumps are fairly harsh, although that may be due to the 17-inch alloy wheels.

MSRP for the Elantra GT is $19,800, but after you add the Style and Tech packages the bottom line jumps to $26,675. The style package adds the larger wheels, fog lights, sport suspension, turn signals on the mirrors, aluminum pedals and the push button start with smart key. The Tech package adds the panoramic roof, leather seats, LED tail lamps, vented front seats, navigation, rear camera and auto headlights.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander v Kia Sorento Platinum

It’s said that competition breeds excellence, and it’s certainly served protagonists Hyundai and Kia with big forwards strides towards greatness in recent times. That they’re corporate cousins, with a degree of resource sharing, might have fostered laziness in badge-engineered camaraderie in difference circumstances, but quite the opposite is the reality.

Their fierce rivalry – the Reds versus Blues as they playfully refer to themselves – not only propels Korea’s continued march across motoring’s map, its producing cars of leap-and-bound improvement with distinctive differences as each maker bays for one-upmanship.

The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe seven-seater SUVs are perfect cases in point. Both are marked improvements over their forebears and key for strengthening their respective brands. Both share DNA – conspicuously and not – though even a cursory glance suggests each has an inimitable character. And each throws the proverbial kitchen sink at highly specifying the affordable, family-swallowing format.

Where the pair differs is in lifecycle. Launched locally in June, the fourth-generation Sorento has been revised down to its platform, making it the, well, the newest. The Santa Fe, however, has been around in third-generation form since 2012, but its November Series II update not only makes it the fresher offering, its introduction creates the impetus for this two-way comparison test.

Each has a solid track record in review past. A perennial test victim, this new Sorento range has been reviewed five times already (including two long-termer reports to date), returning strong eight and eight-point-five scores each time.

The Santa Fe Series II range also scored an eight at its recent launch, though it updates myriad Series I variants CarAdvice has tested extensively since 2012, consistently rating between seven and eight from ten in overall scoring. So far, so close, then.

Our choice of variants reaches as high as the respective ranges go, the ultimate Platinum trim for the Sorento and the flagship Highlander version of the Santa Fe. Each is equipped with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel and six-speed automatic powertrain driven through all-wheel drive. And, as we’ll discover, their similarities end far from there.


Proof of how centered Kia and Hyundai are in each other’s crosshairs, is merely suggested by the identical $55,990 (plus on-road costs) prices of their flagship seven-seaters. Digging through their respective, richly appointed standard features lists, though, pretty much cements the level of parity between these two competitors, especially given that neither has any options fitted.

So comprehensive – and frankly exhaustive – are both their equipment lists that space here permits merely the highlights.

Outside, both sit on 19-inch wheels shod with 235/55 R19 tyres and feature automatic on/off, self-leveling HID xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, heated electric folding mirrors, roof rails, rear privacy glass, panoramic glass roofs and hands-free powered tailgates.

Reverse-view cameras, along with front and rear parking sensors, are par for the SUV course. Both family haulers also feature suspiciously similar infotainment systems with Suna-equipped (live traffic information) sat-nav, USB/AUX/Bluetooth phone and media streaming/iPod integration, and Infinity-branded 10-speaker audio.

Here, the Hyundai pulls a slim advantage in adopting an 8.0-inch touchscreen against the Kia’s 7.0-inch unit, though the Sorento uses a huge, 7.0-inch circular TFT driver’s screen in the instrument cluster against the Santa Fe’s modest 4.3-inch display. Both get digital speedos, but the Santa Fe sits alone in providing Siri Eyes Free and Google Now voice control.

Both SUVs adopt seating trimmed with a blend of real and artificial leather throughout, with heated/cooled front pews and heating in the outboard second row positions. Both cars feature dual-zone climate control with – hallelujah – air vents covering all three passenger rows. The Kia also gets an exclusive heated steering wheel, though the Hyundai counters with a cooled glovebox.

Auto-dimming mirrors, push button start, rain-sensing wipers, manual second-row sun blinds… their features lists go on and on, both brimming with equipment that some European seven-seaters approaching twice the price want added optional cost for.

These Koreans are almost equally generous in kit, but neither really nudges ahead by any meaningful measure in the bells and whistles count.

That is, until active safety weighs in…

Both SUVs enhance core ABS/ESP active chassis systems with advance stability management and hill-start assist. Further, each adds lane departure warning, ‘smart’ adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane change assist systems for thoroughly comprehensive active safety credentials.

However, the Santa Fe alone bolsters its credential with autonomous emergency braking and hill descent control.

More convenient than ‘safe’, per se, is Hyundai’s all-singing, all-dancing parking assist system, offering automated self-steering during entry and exit parallel and reverse-entry perpendicular parking.

The pair offers five-cap ANCAP surety, but the Hyundai ups the airbag count to seven against Kia’s six, adding a driver’s knee bag to the shared suites of front, front-side and curtain airbags.

It’s advantage Santa Fe, then, moving into their cabin spaces.


The most conspicuous differentiator here is the highly subjective topic of styling. Canvassing the CarAdvice crew, the consensus is that the Santa Fe’s new nip’n’tuck has produced, against its Kia rival, a more modern aesthetic. They are, though, essentially revised bumper, light and grille changes to a familiar old friend, but it’s the Sorento’s more restrained, less-masculine design that is more comprehensively ‘new’.

Its maker calls Sorento’s exterior look “sleek” and “sinuous”, though it’s a little more sonorous in the flesh compared with the angular Hyundai.

Some of the effect is by the pen, some by proportions – the Sorento’s slightly more elongated appearance is no doubt due in part to almost identical dimensions to the Santa Fe in every measure except length and wheelbase, where the Kia is exactly 80mm longer for both.

While we’re certainly not about to rate their respective styling, that both SUVs are so evenly matched on price, equipment and perceived value must surely mean that looks will weigh in substantially in some buyers’ eyes.

Speaking of sight, Blind Freddy could see where inspiration may have struck a design chord at Kia – a touch of Mercedes-Benz in that diamond patterned grille, perhaps..?


Further still, anyone who has sat behind the wheel of Stuttgart-made sports cars of recent generations might see some familiarity in both the Sorento’s steering wheel and instrument cluster (though Kia adopts a speedometer for its central roundel).

That’s no slight. The driver interface of the Kia is clearer and simpler than that of the fussier and more angular treatment inside the Hyundai – though the more technical look, particularly with the tactile button and switch treatment on the door trims and centre console, will appeal to many SUV shoppers’ tastes.

However, the stylized multi-function wheel – which, like the Kia, has simple and intuitive controls – doesn’t afford much hand grip with those fat spokes.

The Santa Fe feels reasonably upmarket – if no more than its predecessor – and not necessarily finer than its Kia rival, which uses a lot of almost rubberised textures that include fake ‘moulded’ stitching – and is a little plasticky despite its own neat ‘clicky’ button treatment.

The Sorento has had a deep dive into glossy wood trim territory in the Platinum variant, while the Santa Fe’s slightly pretentious ‘matte carbon’ sporty trim inserts couldn’t be a more different, though no more convincing, approach.

Nitpicking aside, both exude a level of class, solidity and integrity beyond their affordable, unified mid-fifties price point.

Similarly, their infotainment systems punch above their weight and are, on face value at least, identical bar software tweaks. Both are quite intuitive to use, super quick in response with excellent navigation systems. One markdown is that, as we’ve reported in the past, the Santa Fe lacks the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality that’s being made available in the smaller Tucson stablemate, and given the technical commonality here the same criticism must be aimed at the Sorento as well.

Seating wise, the Santa Fe offers 12-way driver/four-way passenger electric adjustment, the Sorento 10-way/eight-way respectively, though realistically neither lacks any fine-tuning for the perfect seating position.

Both offer relaxed and supportive long-haul comfort, along with entry and egress heights that even the most vertically challenged owners won’t struggle with.

If there’s a major ownership differentiator in the cabin, it’s the glass areas and the effect on outward vision. The Sorento’s flat window line simply provides better vision from all three rows, while the Santa Fe’s swooping, angular glasshouse taper presents more limited vision the further back in the cabin you sit. It’s a small point made large, given how otherwise similar this pair is for accommodation.

In the socket stouch, the Hyundai runs single USB, single auxiliary and dual 120w 12V outlets up front; as well as single 120w 12V in both rows two and three. The Kia matches the first row count and uses 180w 12v outlets throughout, though where it lacks third-row power it compensates for in a second row USB port. Kids – and tech-addict adults alike – will love that.

If the Sorento’s extra 80mm affords extra row two legroom, it’s not immediately noticeable. And as each SUV’s 40:20:40 split-fold bench offers sliding and backrest adjustment, you’d need adults in all three rows to pick any (slight) compromise in knee room…somewhere. For all-round roominess, they’re very close, though the Kia is slightly better for headroom.

So far, so even. But wait, there’s more.

In either vehicle, all three rows get air vents and controls, the final row featuring 50:50 split-fold that can be dropped with remote switches in the cargo area walls. It’s awkward to climb into or out of the rearmost seating of both SUVs, each requiring two hands and elbow grease to put the second rows back in play.

If there’s a small victory, it’s the Sorento’s slightly superior third-row shoulder room and headroom, nicer air-con controls and, once again, better outward visibility. By contrast, the Santa Fe is slightly more claustrophobic.

Make no mistake. This pair is so close, and so good, at interior packaging and treatment that you will not go wrong with either. They’re tough to separate even when sampled back to back.

The Sorento, though, has a little more luggage space, offering 605 litres against the Santa Fe’s 516 litres with the third row folded, and 1662 litres versus the Hyundai’s 1615 litres once the second row is stowed. Call it a fractional and academic advantage to the Kia.

On the road

With the same 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder producing 147kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm – well, okay, Kia claims one semantic extra Newton meter for a 441 total – and mechanically identical six-speed automatic and all-wheel-driven drivelines, one might expect an identical driving experience with these Koreans. That’s not the case.

Oily motivation aside, they’re not twins under their skins. The platforms that underpin the two are fundamentally different: technically, the Sorento is newer. The Kia is, at 2036kg, also heavier than the Santa Fe, if by a paltry 52kg.

None of this impacts how this pair drives quite as much as ride and handling development, and while each has benefited from bespoke Australian tuning and calibration, neither the engineering teams, the degree of work or targets set are likely to be identical.

We’ve long rated the R-Series engine as a refined and gutsy unit and little has changed. It’s torquey and responsive from the depths of the rpm range, spirited yet untasked when duty bound to haul each SUV’s considerable heft swiftly.

Both SUVs offer Sport mode powertrain calibrations that provide noticeable if hardly marked leaps in characteristic response, and in their default drive mode the Sorento treats forward progress a little more leisurely, particularly in the transmission program. Not better nor worse, just different.

The Series II Santa Fe is more firmly set than its forebear – for both “load carrying” and “a more responsive car” says the company – and this tauter tune is certainly noticeable, compared with the slightly wallowy Sorento that we’ve found wanting for dynamic ability in tests past.

While handling prowess as driving enjoyment isn’t a primary priority for seven-seater family hauling, a sense of surety with the road, the provision of driver confidence in vehicle placement, rates highly in my book of Moving Loved Ones. And the Santa Fe offers more of that confidence.

Almost conversely, the Sorento is a little more jiggly across small road imperfections and there’s more thudding through the suspension over square edges and ‘cats eye’ lane markers.

In isolation, it feels nicely compliant – against the Santa Fe, its ride is a little more terse.

The Santa Fe takes the edge off large bumps, potholes and square-profile speed humps with more resolve, too. As an all-round tune, the Hyundai’s suspension is more multi-faceted and flexible.

The Sorento’s steering is very light and almost completely bereft of connection with the road, which is great for low-speed parking maneuvers, but not so flash when your SUV suddenly understeers in first rain or over black ice and you’re left with the stability system’s intervention to keep you informed.

The Santa Fe, though, communicates – heightened safety in itself – through its slightly weightier steering, and boasts a marginally tighter 10.9-metre turning circle against the Sorento’s 11.1m figure.

Achieving fuel consumption figures close to their combined-cycle claims of 7.7L/100km (Santa Fe) and 7.8L/100km (Sorento) requires a light load and plenty of light throttle long hauling out on the open road, and both are really in their elements lunging across grand distances.

In being tailor-made for the great Aussie family getaway, this pair makes any dual-cab 4×4 ‘lifestyle’ ute you could name feel torturous and agricultural by comparison, and no less handy if you’re planning serious off-road work. Each does offer a degree of light broken road capability – each has an electronically lockable centre differential – though the gravel road to the farmhouse or camping site is about the extent of their wild roaming abilities. The main inhibitors being on-road tyre design and meagre underbody clearances, their all-wheel-drive system more about traction surety in slippery road-going conditions.

Perhaps the biggest letdown here is, unsurprisingly, one shared between the two: their active safety systems. It’s not that they don’t work – they most certainly do – it’s just that the on-the-move systems tasked with overseeing lane and collision protocols aren’t tuned sharply or intelligently enough for the mild chaos of Aussie urban traffic and the confined environment in which it lives.

So invasive are both cars’ incessant beeping and flashing, even during the most passive driving, that they distract more than they assist, forcing you to turn much of it off out of frustration.

With its inherent friendliness to driver and passengers alike, it’s the Santa Fe that pulls ahead on the move…


The Kia steals the march here with its “triple-seven” scheme of an outstanding seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, seven years of roadside assist and capped-priced servicing for the same duration. Nothing else on the Australian market can match the Kia in terms of longer-term ownership.

Meanwhile, the Hyundai brings five years of surety with no kilometre limit and five years of capped-priced serving but pushes the roadside assist pledge out to 10 years.

Both apply capped-price service intervals of 15,000kms or 12 months, whichever comes first. However, the Santa Fe is cheaper to service: the total cost after 60 months/75,00kms is $2015 against $2442 for the Sorento.

So, added confidence or a hip-pocket saving? We’d favour the former, though buyers may well be more enticed by the latter.


Picking the nuances of each SUV and then stacking the few (and largely inconsequential) together in comparable piles to attribute a victory here unfortunately avoids the most glaring conclusion one might draw: the buyer wins opting for either of these SUVs.

Both play key and more-or-less equally significant roles in moving the game forward for their brands and their nationality, while improving and enriching the price-savvy, seven-seater SUV segment.

During the pair’s week-long tenure in the CarAdvice garage, one question really qualified this pair’s goodness: what else beyond what each SUV offers might a buyer reasonably expect from a mid-$50K price point?

Yes, the Santa Fe is slightly more polished on road, but only by a matter of shades. Equally, the less-stylised – if no less stylish – Sorento provides a marginally more occupant friendly cabin for vision and cargo space if, again, by measures of fractional degree.

If ever there was a two-way comparison where subjective buyer tastes should sway the decision-making process, this is it. You won’t lose, whichever the choice.


All-New Tucson Fastest-Selling Hyundai Across Europe

Hyundai's all-new Tucson SUV has become the fastest-selling product from the Korean manufacturer in the UK and across Europe since its launch in September, with the Czech plant running at full capacity.

There have been over 10,000 orders in the UK and 85,000 orders in Europe for this model in a relatively short period of time, which is a direct indication of this car's new found success among buyers from the old continent.

Tony Whitehorn, CEO of Hyundai Motor UK stated that "The All-New Tucson has now overtaken the award-winning i10 as the fastest-selling Hyundai model launch in the UK."

"Launched in September this year, we have taken over 10,000 orders in the UK alone and the best-selling model is the 1.7-litre SE Nav with over 34% of the total number. Like the Tucson, 90% of our cars sold in Europe are designed, developed, and manufactured in the region ensuring products that meet the needs of our discerning customers. Our Czech plant plays a key role in our business enabling us to fulfil high demand," added Whitehorn.

The 1.7-liter SE Nav model is powered by a 115 PS turbodiesel unit, which isn't much for performance (takes 13.7 seconds to hit 100km/h) but estimated fuel consumption looks quite impressive at an average of 4.6 liters per 100 km/h (61 mpg UK).

Recently, Hyundai's Czech plant (HMMC) celebrated its 7th anniversary, which is a solid accomplishment considering that more than 1.8 million cars have been produced on location.

With the HMMC at full capacity and the 200,000 units shipping out from their Turkish plant, Hyundai Motor now has an annual production capacity of 500,000 cars, primarily for European buyers.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2016 Hyundai Tucson Review

Station wagons, or estates and touring's for those on the eastern side of the Atlantic, were once a staple for the American car buyer. It was the ultimate family vehicle that was comfortable with tons of space. Americans ditched the station wagon for the minivan and later the sport utility vehicle (SUV). The last decade paved way for a new type of vehicle: the crossover utility vehicle (CUV).
While it has a fancy new name, the CUV is the result of car buyers circling back to the station wagon, regardless of whether they'd admit it. Theoretically, the CUV combines the tall seating position of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with the comfort, drivability and fuel economy of a car. In reality, it's a hatchback or station wagon with extra ground clearance.

Regardless of what you call it, Hyundai has an all-new Tucson compact CUV that looks simple but quite upscale. Hyundai sent me a gorgeous Caribbean blue 2016 Tucson Limited AWD, loaded with the Ultimate Package that retails for $34,945 (£30,930 for the similarly-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) to test for a week.

I dig the Tucson's new look: the front-end has a mean grin to it, though it's not too aggressive. The car has an understated look that is more typical of luxury cars than the mainstream ones it competes with. Hyundai also reserved the use of chrome to some parts of the grille and door handles, which I appreciate deeply - I despise chrome accents on cars.


Step inside the new Tuscon, and you're treated to soft-touch materials all over that give the car a feel of luxury. The heavily-insulated doors open and close with a heavy "thunk" that's typically associated with premium cars. Grab the leather-wrapped steering wheel, and your hands feel at home with the integrated thumb grips.

Look forward, and you're treated to a pair of analog gauges for the tachometer, engine coolant temperature, speedometer and fuel. Sandwiched between the gauges is a 4.2-inch, multi-function LCD that displays your trip, fuel economy, driver assist, turn-by-turn navigation and music information. Hyundai provides access to settings for driver assists and vehicle conveniences, like how long the lights stay on after you get out of the car, sensitivity of the automatic headlamps, enable or disable the smart trunk and more, via the small LCD.

Everything looks and feels good initially, but then you reach down for the shifter and notice the lower center console is made of hard, cheap plastics with fake stitching that doesn't look premium at all.

You move your knee around a little and notice there's a padded vinyl cover for your right knee. Most of the interior of the Tucson looks luxe - until you reach for the center console. It's understandable to use cheaper plastics on the lower parts of the dash, but the transition from a nicely-appointed, padded knee rest to the cheapest plastic of the interior doesn't match well in my eyes.

I'd rather Hyundai forgo the padded knee rests for a higher-quality center console that matches the rest of the interior, but I could be nitpicking. The Tucson as tested is not a cheap car, and the padded knee rest feels like slapping a Band-Aid to cover up bigger problems.

Nevertheless, the Tucson has a well-laid out, driver-focused interior. The center stack, where the infotainment display and climate controls reside, has a slight tilt towards the driver. There's a large, powered panoramic sunroof that occupies most of the roof and brightens up the all-black interior. If you find the sunlight annoying, there's a powered sunshade that covers the entire glass panel.

Infotainment system

Hyundai announced their Display Audio infotainment system nearly a year ago for its first public demo at CES 2015. The 2016 Tucson is the first Hyundai to integrate the new system.

Gone from Display Audio is the CD player, finally. I haven't purchased a CD since the early days of in-car iPod connectivity, with the Alpine KCA-420i, so I won't lose any sleep over it.

Mounted at the top of the center stack is an 8-inch LCD with a resolution of 800 x 480. It's not high-DPI, like your smartphone, but you're not spending a long amount of time staring at the screen from a few inches away, either. Mounted directly below the display are clearly-labeled buttons that provide direct access to frequently used functions and knobs, like volume and radio tuning or music file navigation.

As someone that prefers tactile feedback while driving, I appreciate the buttons. It might not look as sleek as a completely black panel of capacitive touch buttons, or as simple as touchscreen-only designs, but function is always more important than form to me.

Steering wheel controls are available for your basic volume, next/previous track or preset, voice command, audio source and phone functions as well. I found myself using the steering wheel controls most of the time in the car.

The entire user interface is familiar and identical to other Hyundai and Kia vehicles, including the Optima. There's a split home screen that shows navigation and audio functions side-by-side. I found myself using the SiriusXM interface most of the time.

Display Audio features HD Radio, SiriusXM, USB audio, Pandora connectivity and iPhone or iPod support. The SiriusXM tuner supports time-shifting for stations set to the first preset, so you can start over or replay Taylor Swift tracks over and over again to your heart's content.

There's one USB port in the center console with a large cubby that fits phablets, like my Nexus 6, with room to spare. The USB port can be used for standard flash drives with MP3s on it or your phone. I measured 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, so there's plenty of power to charge your devices, but it won't charge nearly as fast as a dedicated 2.1-amp or QuickCharge-compatible chargers.

Navigating flash drives is straightforward. You can navigate by track information, like artist, album, song or song title, but I prefer to select my music by folder. Display Audio maintains the folder structure of your flash drive, so if you're particular about how you organize your music folders, there won't be any annoying surprises here.

Pandora connectivity is available for Android and iPhones. Android relies on Bluetooth audio streaming, while iOS requires a wired USB connection. Shockingly, Pandora via Bluetooth with my Nexus 6 sounded just as rich as the iPhone 6S's wired connection, and a significant quality upgrade compared to the AVN 4.0-based system in the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, which had audible compression artifacts and muddy bass.

Hyundai has not confirmed what changed with Display Audio to drastically improve the audio quality. I predict Hyundai upgraded the Bluetooth stack used in Display Audio to support the AAC audio codec. Your typical advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP) audio implementation only requires support for low complexity subband coding (SBC), which focuses on bandwidth efficiency and not sound quality.

A2DP supports additional codecs, like MP3 and AAC, but infotainment systems don't typically support receiving the optional codecs. Theoretically, if the receiver supports MP3 or AAC decoding, then there's virtually no audio quality difference between wired and wireless connections. Pandora streams are encoded in AAC at bitrates up to 192kbps (Pandora One), so if it can pass the raw AAC signal to the car and let the infotainment system decode it, audio quality is limited to the digital-analog-converters (DAC) in the car.

The typical Bluetooth audio streaming that relies on SBC requires the audio source to be decoded, re-encoded to SBC, sent to the receiver, then decoded again, which results in awful sound quality that rivals SiriusXM for poor compression and low bit rates.

Navigation in the Tucson works without any surprises. You can input addresses or search POIs. The maps aren't as fancy and 3D as luxury vehicles, but it all does the job. I will commend Hyundai for not employing safety lockouts that prevent using the navigation functions when the car is moving. There's a disclaimer that pops up every time the car starts that asks you to agree, but it goes away after a short amount of time.

SiriusXM NavTraffic is supported in the US and requires a $3.99 per month fee, while International versions of the car use radio data via the traffic message channel (TNC). I'm not fond of SiriusXM NavTraffic at all. The subscription is too much to pay for something that's offered for free on my smartphone that's always with me. There's also the issue in which I can spot road traffic and SiriusXM will not report anything.

Bluetooth is available for smartphone pairing. I didn't encounter any issues with my Nexus 6 or iPhone 6S when trying to pair. Both devices paired, downloaded contacts and call history without any issues. There isn't support for in-car text messaging, but you're better off using Siri or Google voice recognition for hands-free text replies.

Voice commands are available, but the system is slow to comprehend, inaccurate and doesn't work very well, like most offline, automotive voice recognition systems. I've yet to experience in-car voice recognition that can rival Siri or Google Now, but the Tucson doesn't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet.

Siri Eyes-Free is available when paired with a compatible iPhone. With Eyes-Free, Siri can be triggered by holding down the voice recognition button on the steering wheel. I found myself defaulting to using my iPhone in the Tucson, because of Siri's inherent in-car speech recognition abilities.

Android Auto & Apple CarPlay

When Hyundai announced Display Audio and demonstrated development boxes at CES, there was a focus on Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity. Neither connectivity options are available yet. This is completely inexcusable, considering Hyundai's own Sonata and the Kia Optima have at least Android Auto support, albeit CarPlay won't be ready until next year.

The 2015 Sonata debuted without Android Auto support, but took a year before the update was rolled out to vehicles, so expect to wait for a while with the Tucson. It's a shame Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity aren't ready yet, especially when GM, Honda and Volkswagen, including the updated Passat, support it with 2016 model year vehicles.

I'll revisit the Tucson and update this review when Hyundai releases the software update to enable the two in-car phone tools.