Today’s Tucson joins the Palisade in showing what makes Hyundai a well-regarded automaker. The updated-for-2019 Tucson isn’t just popular with female car-buyers, its platform may form the basis of the upcoming Santa Cruz pickup. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and has been since its 2016 redesign. However, the 2016 Tucson is also the Hyundai SUV used buyers should avoid as much as possible. Here’s why.
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson’s issue with acceleration
According to Car Complaints, the 2016 model year is the single most-complained-about Tucson on record. The most common complaint is the SUV’s inability to accelerate from a stop. While this may not sound as bad as the 2007 Toyota Tacoma’s sticking accelerator, it’s still a serious issue.
The problem lies with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Consumer Reports rates the 2016 and 2017 Tucson with its lowest reliability score because of this transmission. It was something brand-new for the 2016 redesign. Glitches with new features are the biggest reason why Consumer Reports recommends not buying vehicles right after a redesign.
Owners reported the clutch slipping, and their SUV either not moving at all or experiencing a significant delay before accelerating. While annoying, that may not seem all that dangerous compared to ‘unintended acceleration’. But what happens if you need to get away from a semi barreling towards you, and you can’t move? One owner stated on Car Complaints that they were afraid of driving their Tucson for this exact reason. Not just for themselves, but for their grandson in the backseat.
This issue was so serious and prevalent that Hyundai issued a recall on the 2016 Tucson. The recall stated that “certain driving conditions and elevated temperatures” were to blame for the delay/complete lack of acceleration. Hyundai technicians updated the transmission control module’s software, which according to Consumer Reports, did resolve the issue for some.
Other 2016 and 2017 Hyundai Tucson problems
However, not every single 2016 (and 2017) Tucson’s transmission was fixed by the recall. Both Car Complaints and Consumer Reports have owner reports of jerky shifting and hesitation before shifting and accelerating. Some Tucsons would allegedly jerk or lurch during normal driving conditions. And while software updates did fix these problems for some, for others they offered at best a temporary improvement. The problem would disappear, then reappear a few weeks later. Not only was this a safety and driving experience issue, it was wreaking havoc on owners’ fuel economy.
While the transmission is the 2016 Tucson’s biggest issue—126 complaints on Car Complaints—it isn’t the only one. Both Consumer Reports and Car Complaints report issues with the SUV’s A/C system. The A/C would stop blowing cold air, and blow hot air instead. Car Complaints notes this was sometimes resolved by replacing the thermostat. On the other hand, Consumer Reports has owner records of the radiator fan motor failing intermittently. However, Hyundai never recalled the Tucson over this, nor issued any technical service bulletin.
The Tucson today
Fortunately, Hyundai appears to have resolved the problems with the transmission and A/C associated with the early redesign years. It’s one of the KBB’s Best SUVs under $25k and has managed to gain Consumer Reports’ highest reliability rating for 2019. So, while the 2016 model year should be avoided, the Tucson does show that automakers can and do drastically improve their vehicle quality.