Reader Question: Turbo Hyundai . . . or Not?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

James asks: 2016 Hyundai Tucson. Which is better – less maintenance, fuel, etc. – the regular 4 cylinder version or the turbocharged 4 cylinder version. Thanks!

My reply: Nominally, the turbo gets better mileage but actually (having driven it) not so much. Unless you don’t use the turbo much – which is hard to do because without the boost, there’s not much engine. This is the shuck and jive behind the upswell of (supposedly) have-your-cake-and-eat-ito-too small engines that get good gas mileage and deliver high-power. A larger engine delivers the same power – and about the same gas mileage in real-world use… without the additional parts (i.e., the turbo, plumbing) and the stress (i.e., the boost). Which usually means more reliable and less maintenance.

But… it’s getting hard to find a powerful larger engine; the choice is between a lower-powered small engine and the turbocharged small engine.

So the question becomes: How much do you want to risk in terms of potential repair costs for the power? The mileage being largely a wash…

. . .

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  1. I have a lot of experience with Hyundai 4-cylinder motors from 2013 to present.

    The maintenance on the turbo model will cost 25% more than the non-turbo if you want it to last.
    The cost is not more for each maintenance item in the turbo, but you need to change the oil and air filter more often in the turbo and you need to change other items like the PCV valve more often.
    Both engines offered are Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), which take more maintenance than a non-GDI engine.

    One reason I see most of these cars is due to check-engine lights (CEL) coming on.
    The Turbo model has a few more things which can cause the CEL, so it tends to have more CEL’s than a non-turbo.
    Most CEL in a Hyundai 4 cylinder are caused by sensor issues, and usually don’t happen until well after 50000 miles on average. The Turbo has two additional parts which can cause a CEL, which are the boost solenoid and the blow off valve.
    Some never have an issue and some have both go bad.
    When you get a CEL in a Hyundai it is usually fixed with less than $100 in parts and under an hour of work.
    I would say that with either engine, your biggest worry for the first 120K miles will be a CEL and the ensuing 60 mins to fix.

    Now, the Elephant in the Room is the longevity of the Turbo.

    One thing I provide to anyone with a Hyundai or Kia is the ability to tune the turbo to make the engine run better.
    Hyundai and Kia run Turbo engines with a rich air-fuel mixture. This helps the engine run longer and you get better gas mileage.
    If you get a Turbo model and don’t tune it then you will notice the turbo lags badly and has very inconsistent power.
    Compared to the same Hyundai without a Turbo you may wonder how much the Turbo is helping.
    If you put in a small change to the fuel maps you will get in excess of 10% more horsepower, and lose all the turbo lag.
    On the Veloster (1.6l and 2.0l) you can get closer to 20% improvements.

    So, the Turbo will make the car faster, but probably not as much as you would expect.
    Get the Turbo tuned and you may never stop smiling behind the wheel again!

    Have tuned more than 20 Hyundai and Kia Turbos and have a 250HP 2016 Veloster with no aftermarket parts.
    Many of those cars are past 100K miles and still going.
    My Veloster likes to eat Hemi’s and Euro cars.

    Have repaired too many Hyundai to count, but only heard of one Turbo failure since 2005.
    I feel the industry does not know for certain if current Turbo engines will last long or not.

    WAIT! There are CRITICAL things you need to know with Hyundai and Kia which are MORE IMPORTANT than the Turbo:
    1. Vehicle service is performed by people who cannot fix cars.
    Hyundai and Kia claim to have a good warranty, but you will see them put out tremendous effort to avoid covering anything.
    2. Vehicle service will eventually be done incorrectly.
    The 3 Hyundai service centers in my state offer free oil changes, and have repeatedly put in the wrong, or wrong amount of oil.
    This is VERY BAD because most drivers do not know the oil level is wrong.
    3. Vehicle service takes 2 days minimum. When you get told to come in for a maintenance item you will find out you cannot wait for the work to be complete.

    If you go Hyundai or Kia you biggest issue will not be the Turbo.
    You will want to find someone that can check any work done by Hyundai/Kia, because eventually they will find something and it may cost you more than a new Turbo.

  2. The companies that produce only turbo engines, mainly the companies that use diesel power have been perfecting them for 100 years. The car companies have just reached out for a splint with no real world experience for turbocharged engine reliability. YMMV


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