Emma Jayne Williams

Hyundai rolls out the 2017 Tucson Night model with turbo engine and a menacing exterior look

By Emma Jayne Williams

Special to the Star-Telegram

Hyundai redesigned the Tucson compact crossover last year for the third time, and, except for a few interior technology updates on the higher-end trims, the 2017 and 2018 models are mostly the same.

Following the crowd, Hyundai introduced a special-edition black-accented Night trim for 2017, positioned between the Sport and the Limited. Black accents give the vehicle a slightly sinister look, especially the one with the black exterior.

Typical of the genre, the Tucson Night wears first-ever 19-inch Rays black alloy wheels, and features black accents on the grille, mirror caps, lower rocker panels, and low front and rear fascias, along with black fender flares.

Exterior elements also include tinted windows and panoramic sunroof, and black roof rails. Four exterior colors are available: Coliseum Gray, Dazzling White, Caribbean Blue, and Black Noir Pearl.

Rays Engineering produces the high-end wheels – for street and motorsport use – using an exclusive high-tech forging process.

First-ever interior features include aluminum-alloy sport pedals, a perforated-leather steering wheel, and front and rear LED map lights.

The changes are mostly cosmetic, with equipment levels and mechanicals dictating the Night’s place in the seven-trim Tucson lineup. The SE model is priced at $22,700, the Sport comes in at $25,900, the Night starts at $27,800, and Limited starts at $29,775.

Front-wheel drive is standard (hot, sunny states) and all-wheel drive (popular in icy road states) adds $1,400 to the base price.

My Tucson Night was deep Black Noir Pearl, very striking with the black V-spoke wheels, featuring red valve stem caps and red Rays hub covers.

The Night offers only YES Essentials stain-resistant black cloth seats with a subtle black-on-black geometric design on the seat and back inserts.

A turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine, producing 175 horsepower, and sending power to all four wheels through a high-tech seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission, supplied motivation to my tester.

Dual-clutch (one for even-numbered gears, one for odd-numbered gears) is actually a manual transmission controlled by a computer, which automatically pre-selects the next gear at the most efficient time when the driver accelerates. Drive Mode Select offers Normal, Eco, and Sport settings, adjusting throttle response and steering effort to suit driving style or preference.

The small turbo engine is EPA rated for 24 mpg city/28 highway/25 combined – pretty good mileage for an SUV. In my week of mostly highway driving, I averaged even better with 27.7 mpg.

Active on-demand all-wheel drive adds a driver-selectable lock to split engine torque between the front and rear wheels for heavy snow at lower speeds, for example. In all weather, torque vectoring (normally reserved for sports cars) gently brakes an inside wheel and sends additional torque to the outside rear wheel to improve hard-cornering performance. Tucson also has Downhill Brake Control and Hill Start Assist.

The current Tucson has more-conventional styling, for a cleaner, sculpted appearance, with a short greenhouse, hexagonal grille, and geometric headlights.

Lower front and rear bumpers were gray, and five sides and the three grille bars were gray metallic plastic, sharply angled at the junction with the headlight housing (projector with LED accents), which wrapped around the front quarter.

LED daytime running lights housed in the sculpted outer bumpers were surrounded by matte black, the window surround was matte black, and the lightly creased side sills (below deeply creased doors) were matte black. Door handle LED approach lights were welcoming.

A character line angled up from the top of the front wheel well to the top of the taillight housing, and along with the upswept side window, gave a dynamic look to the vehicle even when sitting still.

The rear view was wide, with the wraparound taillights extending out past the fenders. LED brake lights finished the dramatic rear spoiler, and chrome-tipped dual exhaust outlets peeked from under the right bumper.

Tucson will seat five – four adults comfortably – and has lower anchors and tether hooks for all rear seating positions. Cargo space is 30.1 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split folding/reclining rear seat, and 61.0 cubic feet with the seats folded. The cargo floor can be lowered by two inches to accommodate taller items or more luggage.

There is a slight lift-over with the floor in the lower position.

Loading is made easier by a power liftgate, which opens automatically when the driver stands near the rear of the vehicle with the key fob in pocket or purse. There is one 12-volt outlet, cargo tie-downs and a bag hook in the cargo area.

Tucson’s interior is simply elegant with gray metallic trim on air vents, center stack/console, and steering wheel, and thoughtfully laid out with controls for infotainment and climate logically grouped and separated.

Primary functions are button controlled, while the five-inch color touch screen is used for ancillary commands. Unfortunately, my Tucson did not have navigation or smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay/Android Auto) – odd for a vehicle in this price range. It did have Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

Climate controls and the touch screen (with rearview camera) even have a little gloss black trim for an extra touch of style. The instrument cluster is simple, with a 3.5-inch LCD multi-information display flanked by analog gauges.

The well-bolstered and heated front seats were quite comfortable for longer drives, with power-adjustable lumbar for the driver. Even the passenger seat was manually height-adjustable, relatively rare in this class, due to the higher windowsills. Narrow roof pillars allowed good visibility, and the light-colored pillars and headliner helped avoid a closed-in feeling.

Safety and driver-assist technologies included side-curtain air bags with rollover sensors, Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, energy absorbing steering column, and front and rear crumple zones. Tucson provides the same high level of protection for the front-seat passenger as for the driver.

The Night’s ride may not be as sporty as expected, but steering and handling is predictable and capable, even on twisty country roads, and the cabin is quiet at highway speeds. The Tucson is classy looking inside and out, comfortable, and versatile. The power liftgate is nice, but lower cost (or standard) safety options such as emergency braking would be nicer.

The turbocharged engine is adequate and the transmission shifts nearly imperceptibly. A few bumps were noticeable on especially rough pavement.

The Tucson is well assembled, with a good combination of features and value. My Tucson Night had carpeted floor mats for $125. With $895 in destination charges, total delivered price of my all-wheel-drive Tucson Night tester was $30,220.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.