Test Drives

Hyundai Tucson Turbo 1.6 2016 Review: Tech’d Up A Notch

Hyundai’s Tucson gets exactly what it always needed: 175bhp of turbo driven thrust

SINGAPORE — Germany has lived in the turbo age for years now, but force-fed engines are spreading. And as the new Tucson turbo shows, the technology is finally becoming part of what Korea offers Singapore. So, does it work? Read on… 

The Hyundai Tucson is already pretty good. Does it need a turbo? 
When we tested the new Hyundai Tucson when it debuted last year, we came away seriously impressed by the leaps forward the Korean company made in all areas, from design to build quality and vehicle dynamics.

Our only real gripe was that Hyundai missed a chance to go bigger, since it carried over the existing 2.0-litre ‘Nu’ engine from the previous Tucson, while overseas markets got the 175bhp, 1.6-litre turbocharged Gamma T-GDI engine. “It would have put the Tucson right up there with Euro-turbo competitors like the Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan,” we said.

Hmm…just add water and an instant winner?
Not quite, since the yardsticks have moved a bit since 2015, but the Tucson with turbo power has always been a scintillating proposition, and even more so because it’s not horrendously priced (more on that later). 

The Gamma turbo engine now resides under the hood of the Tucson 1.6 Turbo, though it’s not really new territory as the very same engine with 183bhp can be found in the Hyundai Veloster 1.6 Turbo.


So it is a big deal?
This Gamma-ed Tucson marks the first time a ‘mainstream’ Hyundai has had gasoline turbo power here, for one, and the first time a Hyundai has had a dual-clutch gearbox, since a seven-speed unit is mated to the engine. 

To us, this is a very good sign because it marks a shift in Hyundai’s decision making. Previously, turbos had all gone to the ‘big’ left-hand drive markets, like Korea’s domestic market, the USA and China. It’s a logical step since economies of scale already exist for the components, and you need RHD-conquests if you’re going to be number one – and Hyundai has made no secret of its ambition. 

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But how does it fare in an age when even Honda’s gone turbo?
While the 176bhp Civic 1.5 Turbo is designed to behave like a larger, non-turbo engine in contrast to the ‘Western’ or Continental approach with an obvious torque ‘punch’, the Hyundai straddles both lines quite nicely.  Peeking at the numbers proves this: the Civic Turbo’s peak torque is a relatively low 220Nm, the Tucson’s 265Nm, and a 2.0 Tiguan TSI 170bhp does 280Nm. For comparison, the 2.0-litre Tucson has 151bhp and 191Nm. 

Max torque is delivered at 1,500rpm, but in the driver’s seat there’s a slight pause – perhaps a second or so – and then the Tucson really starts to move as the needle hits 2,000rpm. There’s an audible, pleasing rort from the powerplant as you surge forward.  The 0-100km/h time drops by two seconds over the Tucson 2.0’s, although it feels much more than that in real life thanks to the turbo’s brawny midrange.


We shouldn’t mistake this for a lack of refinement – something the new Tucson has plenty of. Hyundai’s dual-clutch unit is actually amongst the smoothest we’ve tested. Driven gently and consumption will easily hover below 10L/100km. On paper, the 1.6 turbo’s slightly more efficient than the 2.0, but it’s more than a fair tradeoff for the power increase. It’s also very quiet, there being no vibration at idle whatsoever, and at speed there’s little wind noise or crashiness – the Tucson’s still one of the best riding cars in its class and price range. 

What is the price range, actually? 
Instead of being the top-dog of the range, the Turbo actually slots in-between the current petrol 2.0 offerings – it goes for $127,999 with COE, which is $7k more than the base 2.0 ‘GLS’ model, yet $3k cheaper than the GLS S/R model, which is the version with the most standard equipment. It’s still a bargain though – the only things you have to live without for that $3k are automatic aircon, 18-inch wheels, the sunroof, side/curtain airbags. 

What you still get are keyless entry, blind spot detection (very useful), rear cross traffic alert, reverse camera, GPS/infotainment, LED lamps all round and a powered tailgate. The Tucson itself is still relatively roomy for five adults, has adjustable second row seats and 488 to 1,624-litres of boot space. 

In conjunction with the added fun, drivability and incremental efficiency of the turbo, plus the fact that it doesn’t cost a whole lot more, rivals like the Nissan Qashqai  and Toyota RAV4 will have to be wary now that the Tucson has tech-ed itself up a notch with turbo power. 

Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo 
Engine 1,591cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 175bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 265Nm at 1500-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 201km/h 
0-100km/h 9.1 seconds 
Fuel efficiency 7.5L/100km 
CO2 178g/km
Price $127,999 with COE
Availability Now

Also Consider: Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DIG-T, Toyota RAV4 


about the author

Derryn Wong
Has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. Is particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.