Hiking in Southern California — especially in the San Gabriel or San Bernardino Mountains — typically requires driving to the trailhead. Sometimes the trailhead is a nice, paved parking lot at the end of a well-maintained road. Other times, it’s at the end of a bumpy dirt road that seems to go on for miles. Regardless of the trail, I always end up hauling a lot of gear: daypacks, backpacks, trekking poles, boots, my post-hike survival kit, and (if I plan it right) a cooler with cold drinks for after the hike.
My current Adventure-Mobile has served me well for over seven years, but it’s showing it’s age. When I was invited to check out the redesigned 2016 Hyundai Tucson, I jumped at the chance.
Friends of mine own a 2015 Tucson and love it. They haul around their two young kids and all the requisite paraphernalia that goes with that (child car seats, stroller, toys, etc.). I hadn’t driven in it or really gotten much more than glimpses from the outside. “Nice looking car…” summed up my knowledge of the Tucson. But could it fit the bill as the next SoCal Hiker Adventure-Mobile? I flew to Minneapolis to find out.
- Styling: The 2016 Tucson is a good-looking cross-over utility vehicle (CUV). It’s got sharp styling, with and aggressive stance that makes it look like it’s ready to pounce on the road. Check!
- Fit and Finish: The cars we drove were production vehicles and looked very well put together. The new body is more than twice as stiff as the old model, thanks to clever engineering and high-strength steel. It felt really solid. Check!
- Interior: The interior — especially on the Limited package — put my current AdventureMobile to shame. It looks great, with some really nice features for comfort and convenience. I really liked the big, crisp touchscreen for media and navigation. And the back seat was comfortable and roomy even for my large frame. Check!
- Storage: This one is important for me, as I’m always hauling a bunch of gear around. Incredibly, the new Tucson has more storage than the larger BMW x5. It’s big enough to hide a body — should you need to move one. Check!
- Fuel Economy: This is another area where the Tucson shines. The new 1.6 liter turbocharged engine gets better fuel economy and more horsepower than the old model. Check and Check!
- Technology: I only saw a demo of this, but being able to remotely start the car, and adjust the interior temperature from my Apple Watch had the geek in me drooling. Check!
So far, the 2016 Tucson looked pretty good as a potential SoCalHiker AdventureMobile. Of course, the real audition would require taking the Tucson out on the road. I teamed up with Aaron Turpen, and we headed for the hills, rivers and lakes of Wisconsin.
Hyundai Tucson Driving Impressions
We logged over 100 miles through twisty country roads, accelerating, braking, and even splashing our way around scenic Wisconsin. We drove two models, starting with the top shelf 2016 Tucson Limited AWD in Mojave Sand. The car feels and handles great. It’s quiet, solid and responsive.
There are three selectable driving modes: standard, eco and sport. Eco would be great for those long road trips, but my favorite mode? Sport mode FTW! In fact, I think they should rename it “Fun Mode” — because it was a blast! As you can see in this video…
The Final Word
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a great CUV. And with AWD in the Limited, it would be perfectly nimble on everything from a muddy dirt road coming back from the trailhead, or snow on our way to the Mammoth.
The Tucson passed the audition. It is on the call-back list for the next SoCalHiker Adventure-Mobile.
First update: As it so happened, my Xterra was totaled back in August, and I was suddenly in the market for a new car. In September I bought a ’16 Tucson Limited. Since then, I’ve put over 1,600 miles on it, including multiple trips to remote Sierra Mountain trailheads hauling my backpacking gear, and I love it!
Second update: It appears Hyundai liked my adventure-mobile idea.
More to Explore
- Check out Aaron’s perspective as an automotive journalist
- Get the details on the 2016 Tucson from Hyundai
Thanks to Hyundai for the opportunity to get a hands-on look at the new Tucson, and for flying SoCalHiker out to Minneapolis, putting us up and feeding us well. Now I need to go hike off those cheese curds…