Thursday, April 30, 2015

Refreshing or Revolting: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

We first saw the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson in Geneva, but we didn't get to see it in U.S.spec trim until the New York auto show earlier this month. The new model sports much-needed design and engine updates, as the current model was introduced over five years ago. While the design changes may be more subtle than we expected, the new engine, a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder is enough to get customers excited. How do you like the new Hyundai Tucson's look compared to the old model?

For the 2016 model year, Hyundai has taken design cues from the larger Santa Fe to design the new Tucson. Up front, the first thing that is immediately noticeable is the larger hexagonal grille with big horizontal slats. Following the lines, your eyes are drawn to the updated headlights that are much wider than those on the outgoing model. The new headlights feature a more angular design, foregoing the rounded and curvy look of the 2015 model. The foglight design has also been updated, following the design of the headlights to create a more cohesive look.

The body lines of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson are much more sculpted, giving the model a muscular and sporty appearance from the side. At the back, Hyundai has also updated the taillight design, which now features a tapered design with a sleeker turn signal light underneath to complete the look. Gone are the bulky lights of the outgoing model. Aside from the updated taillight design, the rear bumper is more sculpted, with sharper lines to match the front.

Inside, the cabin feels more upscale than the previous model, thanks to better materials and little touches like the stitching on the dashboard. However, while the layout of the center stack is much more organized, the button layout is still on the busy side. It has a much better flow than the outgoing model, with the updated infotainment system and clean lines running the length of the dashboard, but some might find the amount of buttons both on the steering wheel and center stack to be a bit too cluttered. While we are fans of the exterior changes of the new Tucson, we feel that more attention could have been paid to the interior. What are your thoughts of the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco Drives Like a Hybrid But It Actually Gets the Unleaded Out

Whenever I tell a friend I am writing about an electric or plug-in hybrid car, the first question I am invariably asked is, "Will it get you to San Francisco?" Why yes. Eventually. The people asking don't drive to the Bay Area as much as I do; I have family up there. But the question points to a car-buying mindset that minimizes every-day driving because, I guess, people figure if a vehicle can take you 414 miles in one trip (with a stop or two to fill up), it will automatically take care of their shorter commuting needs.

Might I point you folks to the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco?

Those who fear an electric leaving them stranded atop the Grapevine and others who can't wrap their head around a car that uses battery juice around town and gasoline on the highway will be happy to know the Sonata Eco runs solely on unleaded petrol.

But Hyundai has squeezed everything it knows about saving gas into this really comfortable mid-size sedan. A standard Sonata has a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but the Eco packs a 1.6-liter turbocharged four. The standard also has a six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, compared to the Eco's seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

You know how at a stop a Prius or other hybrids will hesitate for a split second as the engine kicks back in? The Sonata Eco does this as well, and the result of all of this is 28 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway--which is 4/3 mpg more respectively than the standard Sonata.

From the outside, you would not notice a difference between the two Sonatas. My test vehicle would retail for just over $28,000 or $23,275 without all the bells and whistles. The 16-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and chrome exterior door handles gave it a look of a much more expensive sedan. Then you climb into the cabin and feel as if you are in a Beemer thanks to the leather seating surfaces with premium cloth trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and leatherette interior door panel inserts.

The power driver seat came with 10-way lumbar support and, like the front passenger seat, it can be heated.

The Eco drove like a dream on a long trip not to Frisco but San Berdoo, which thanks to the never-to-be-completed 91/215 freeway construction provided open-road, bumper-to-bumper and every traffic condition in between. Speaking of which, it took some getting used to the electronic brakes, which stop on a dime and give you change back.

Standard features that came in handy over my week with the Eco included the rearview camera, the automatic headlights and the color touchscreen display that controlled the navigation system, the SiriusXM satellite radio and the Bluetooth.

As I was being cut off on a clogged freeway, an added feature kicked in: a warning sound. A blind spot detection system with rear cross-traffic alert is among the extras, as is a remote you can keep in your pocket as you push a button to unlock a front door or start the car. The remote also includes a hands-free trunk opener.

Best of all, like Sonata Eco buyers on Hyundai lots, I was given a new car with a full tank of gas. After the trip to the I.E., the long way home thanks to a stop in Westminster and normal daily driving in Orange County, I still never put any more gas in the Eco and gave it back with more than half a tank.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hyundai Launches New Elantra at Rs 14.13 lakh

Hyundai has launched the refreshed 2015 Elantra at a starting price of Rs 14.13 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). In the new model, the Elantra has been given mid-life improvements which include additional features and aesthetic enhancements, but no mechanical revisions.

Starting off with exterior enhancements, the 2015 Elantra gets a newly-designed front bumper, projector headlamp with daylight running LEDs, redesigned fog-lamps and chrome grille on the front fascia. Move on to the side profile and you will notice new set of 10-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome treatment on door handles and yet more chrome on the window belt line. At the back, updates come in shape of new LED effect rear combination lamps and a sporty dual-tone bumper. And yes, there’s a chrome tipped exhaust as well.

The interior of the 2015 Elantra get minor revisions. The cabin now comes in an all-black theme along with leather seats, metallic scuff plates, aluminium pedals, rear AC vents and ergonomically positioned console box with arm rest.

On mechanical front, the 2015 Elantra remains unchanged, implying you get the same engine options to choose from as before. The powertrain on the 2015 Elantra includes a 1.8 dual-VTVT petrol and 1.6 VGT CRDi diesel engine. The former is rated at 149.5PS & 178Nm, while the latter produces 128PS and 260Nm. Both the engines can be had with a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual gearbox.

Commenting on the launch of the 2015 Elantra, B.S. Seo, Managing Director & CEO, Hyundai India said, “The Elantra has always been the trendsetter in its segment and is now set to offer high standard in the premium segment. The 2015 Elantra will delight our customers with its high-class appeal and agility. Elantra being a global model is Hyundai’s first car and one of only 10 cars in the history of the auto industry to reach over 10 million sales globally. Designed in line with a vision of creating cutting edge driving innovations and delivering outstanding comfort features, the new Elantra is engineered for excellence to cater to various needs of the customers.”

Safety features on the new model include 6 airbags,vehicle stability management electronic stability control, ABS with EBD, hill-assist control etc.

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Review

On the outside
Nothing wrong with the Santa Fe, which plays it safe on the looks front. Take the badge off and most people would be hard pressed to tell what it is.

Room & Practicality
The bar is high in this segment and the Santa Fe clears it with ease. I spent the first couple of days just being impressed, listing nice little design touches that make life easier or safer. For example, there’s two 12v sockets in the front and a USB/aux input. The 12v sockets have a strong latch cover, the USB/aux input has a sliding cover and all three are located next to a little storage area… and there’s a hidden, pale blue light to illuminate the whole thing. 

There’s another 12v in the second row, and another in the cargo bay. There’s lights behind the sunvisors, and more around the top of the doors. Front and rear doors have two storage compartments. The glovebox is a decent size, and the rear aircon can be independently controlled relative to the front. The cargo system comes with a blind that retracts, and there’s two positions to place it in. It is these sort of little touches that makes the Santa Fe so good.

The rear tailgate is electric, which is one of those luxury items you don’t realise you need until you use it.  I’m sure back in the day people said central locking was a waste of time, and which lazy good-for-nothings needed electric mirrors or automatic transmissions.  Fact is, we (the family) found the tailgate useful. It is also auto-opening – all you need to do is stand close to the rear of the car and it opens, after a short warning. Some other systems require you to wave a foot under the car. The tailgate can also be manually triggered from inside the vehicle.

The list of niggles is not long, and mostly in the “could do better” category as opposed to a fail. The centre console, while deep, is only a single compartment although there is a tray.  There is no dedicated clock, so if the time isn’t displaying then you need to press a button to show it – if I had to pick one annoyance with the Santa Fe, that’d be it. The fuel release isn’t automatic when the car is unlocked, should be these days, but of more importance the electric tailgate button is in the roof.  People not familiar with the car will struggle to find it, and that is one switch random people would need to press.

The tailgate is one-piece not two, and that’s a personal preference but based on many years of using test vehicles and talking to those that have owned different styles, I do detect a preference for the split tailgate as in the bigger Discovery and 200 Series. However, the single gate design does make a handy umbrella, and easy access to the rear of the vehicle.

The Santa Fe has a keyless security system. There’s a push-button start, and to lock the car you just press a button on a doorhandle. To unlock, press the button again. You can also use the remote to lock/unlock from a distance.

Summary – busy families are going to love this car because it will make their life easier in so many little but important ways.

On the inside
The Santa Fe is comfortably spacious and practical. The driver’s seat on this top-end Highlander model is 8-way electrically adjustable, and the steering wheel is reach and tilt adjustable so everyone should be able to find their perfect position. Visibility is good in all directions.

The 60/40 split second row is a good place to be.  The rear seats on the Highlander can be heated or cooled, the seats themselves can be moved forwards or backwards and the seat back tilt angle can be changed.  All three seats are usable by adults, but naturally you’d prefer the two outer seats.

The third-row is intelligent. It’s a 50/50 split, very important as often you just need the one rear seat, and easy (and obvious) to operate.  The seats fold down entirely flat. Legroom for adults is good considering the size of the car, and that’s because you can poke your toes under the second row.  If the occupants of the seats ahead are kind enough to move their seats forward then there’s even more legroom, but that will do nothing about the headroom which adults will tolerate only for short distances, although kids would be fine.

There’s usuable storage space behind the third row when the seats are in position, and there’s also a compartment which stores the wheel changing kit. This is an important point, because it means that you don’t need to unload everything to change to a wheel. There’s also quite a bit of unused space in there which would be great to store towing gear, first aid kits or whatever else you want to keep in the car but don’t need all the time. 

There are four cargo tie-downs in the Santa Fe but they look pretty feeble so I wouldn’t be using a ratchet strap on them any time soon. The second row does fold down, but not entirely flat like the Discovery or Pathfinder, which are larger and more expensive vehicles.  Still, you could take pretty big objects in there. The roof load is a reasonable 100kg, and there’s roofrails but no crossbars.

Our Highlander had a giant sunroof which partially opens. This makes the car very light and spacious so is less of a frippery than you may imagine.

A nice touch are additional sunscreens on the rear passenger windows, useful for keeping the sun off small children, extra privacy or keeping the car cool.

Even the rear seat pockets are strong and spacious. Note also the extra rear air-con vent. The muddy mat is our own, not a standard part!

Performance, Ride & Handling
The Santa Fe accelerates surprisingly briskly and pleasingly smoothly, then on the way back down the brakes are feelsome and reassuring.  The automatic has no sports mode but doesn’t need one as it’s clever enough to be in the right gear at the right time anyway. There’s a manual shift should you want it which is going to be almost never.

Then we come to the corners, where the Santa Fe manages to be both boring and impressive.  Impressive because the car can be driven far more rapidly than its looks or market segment would suggest, able to enter corners and hold lines with surprising balance and control.  The reason is clever electronics – you can feel the car’s computer making tiny adjustments here and there to keep the car on a perfect line, flattering the driver.  The front-drive bias of the drivetrain comes to the fore here as well, you can feel the car pulling through the front wheels.

It is all rather boring because it’s so easy and unrewarding, but the Santa Fe is never designed as a sportscar, just to be a very competent, effortless onroad drive which is certainly a goal Hyundai has achieved.  A common bugbear with impatient drivers of automatic turbodiesels is slow initial acceleration, but this car is quick off the line.  If you’re late for the school run it won’t be this car’s fault.

Ride is good, on the floaty side for some people but very few will complain.  It’s good over rough roads too, poised, controllable and capable.

There are three modes of steering – Comfort, Normal and Sport – as usual, this only changes the feel-weight of the steering wheel so it’s a personal preference.

Offroad performance has been covered in detail in this blog post.

The Santa Fe will help you parallel-park itself, and on test we found this feature to be easy to use and work well.  It has a handy Auto-Hold feature; press the button, drive and when you come to a stop the car will hold itself on the brake, uphill or downhill.  To move off just accelerate.  This is definitely handy in stop/start traffic.

The park brake is electronic and operated by an easy finger-touch.  As usual with such things you can simply drive off and it deactivates, no need to manually deactivate it.

Towing is 2000kg braked, but as with any vehicle and especially this class of softroader you’d be very wise to invest in heavier-duty suspension if you wanted to regularly tow up to around that figure.  Hyundai had a Tow Pack for their previous model, but it’s not available this time around.

Excellent. Nothing seems flimsy, everything worked, trims looks reasonably hard wearing.  After a rather muddy, snowy, rainy and dirty weekend the kids and I spent an hour on the car which brought it back to a pretty reasonable condition considered we’d lived out of it for two days.

Pricing & Equipment
All Santa Fes are now 7-seaters, and they start from $38,490 MSRP for the Active manual 2.4L petrol, ranging to $53,240 for our test car, the range-topping Highlander 2.2 diesel automatic.   Value on this model isn’t bad, but the Elite at $10k cheaper for not much less equipment is probably a sweeter deal.   Resale is improving on Hyundais as Australia realises just how good these cars are.

There are three child restraint points in the rear of the seats, where they should be, and ISOFIX points all round.  Safety is of course 5 star with a 35.63 rating of 37, pretty good going and that was a 2014 test.  However, there’s no AEB even on the top-spec Highlander.

There’s hidden little touches – if you start the engine with the wheels turned the dash will flash up “Align Steering” before you move off.  If you attempt to drive off with the tailgate open the car will apply the parkbrake and warn you – I tried this during the internals photoshoot which is how I discovered the feature.

The Santa Fe sports a full-sized spare which is truly excellent news, unlike most of its peers. That alone should put the car high up on shopping lists as you try working with a runflat or space-saver midway into a weekend out of town.

This Highlander model has a lane departure warning system which, like most of them, is rather average and prone to false positives.  It’s best left disabled.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe

Though Hyundai just redesigned it in 2013, it appears as if the Santa Fe will nevertheless undergo a mild refresh as we head into the 2016 model year. Here to confirm this are some photographs from our spy photographers.

The Hyundai Santa Fe debuted in 2001 as the brand’s first SUV in the U.S. In 2007, the model underwent its first redesign, giving the Korean automaker a true rival to some of the bigger-name SUVs on the market. The model’s second redesign came in 2013, and in 2016, it will get a light refresh to help it match up with other models in Hyundai’s lineup.

The shots from our spy photographers actually reveal more about the 2016 Santa Fe’s interior than exterior, but the recent revisions to various Hyundai models hint at the new Santa Fe’s details.

Will this revision to Santa Fe help boost this already well-selling SUV in the 2016 model year, or will buyers start growing tired of the overall appearance of the model?


Like all of the other recent refreshes from Hyundai, look for only minor tweaks with the 2016 Santa Fe. These should include a bolder grille with a chrome surround and horizontal slats, redesigned bumpers, updated fog lights, and new taillight graphics.

Other than that, I expect the 2016 Santa Fe to carry over unchanged from the 2015 model.


The cabin will remain relatively unchanged from the 2015 model, but there will be a few minor updates here and there. From our spy shots of the interior, I notice repositioned buttons beneath the LCD screen and a slightly different gear shifter setup.

There have been no major complaints regarding the cabin of the 2015 model, other than its lack of a rear-seat entertainment option and its limited cargo space. The entertainment system may show up as an option in the new model, but the cargo room will likely remain limited to around 80 cubic feet.


In 2015, the Santa Fe draws its power from a 3.3-liter V-6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. This engine should continue into 2016, but it may see a mild uptick in power and fuel economy. There is also an outside chance that Hyundai will include a thriftier turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant for those looking for a few extra mpg.

The six-speed automatic transmission will likely carry, but if Hyundai decides to go with a more fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder, look for it to mate this engine to the EcoShift dual-clutch transmission to push the fuel economy even further.


In 2015, the Hyundai Santa Fe has a starting price of $30,150, and this will likely go up a little bit in 2016. Look for a starting price about $500 to $1,000 more than the 2015 model.