New Hyundai Tucson hops into hot compact SUV segment
Superior Township — Hyundai Motor Co. hopes to gain traction in the red-hot compact SUV segment with its new 2016 model year Tucson.
The Korean automaker’s redesigned small utility — which hits dealer lots in mid-August — will feature a new engine option, new trim level and new technology that Hyundai expects will compete directly with popular offerings like the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
It should help curb Hyundai’s slumping SUV sales — down 14.5 percent so far this year —and help turn its fortunes in North America. The automaker posted disappointing second-quarter earnings last week.
“Our stagnation has been about our inability to capitalize on the truck (and SUV) side,” Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski said at a media event Thursday.
Of Hyundai’s 725,000 sales, Zuchowski said 80 percent are slow-selling sedans.
The new, all-wheel-drive Tucson has a larger wheelbase than its predecessor and includes 19-inch alloy wheels — an inch bigger than the previous generation. Its most fuel-efficient model can get up to 33 miles per gallon on the highway.
It comes standard with a 2-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, and most models come with the option of a new 1.6-liter turbocharged direct-injected four-cylinder that gets 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The new engine is coupled with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It includes new safety features like sensor-based lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and blind spot detection.
Hyundai is introducing a new Sport model to go along with the base SE, Eco and high-end Limited models. The SE model starts at $22,700, and prices can exceed $31,000 for the full loaded Limited.
The newest Tucson joins a Hyundai SUV family that includes the larger Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. The smaller Tucson is meant for singles or couples whereas the other offerings are for families who may need a third row.
“It’s very important everyone understands we’re not just a one-trick pony,” Zuchowski said.
The Tucson has averaged about 45,000 sales per year, but as the number of offerings in the segment has increased, Hyundai’s segment share has dropped from 4.5 percent to 2.5 percent.
Zuchowski said the automaker hopes to build 65,000 Tucsons this year, and increase that number to 90,000 next year to increase share.
Hyundai will soon begin an $80 million marketing campaign for the new utility, which will include television spots and other media.