The Road Beat 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
By Mitchell Weitzman
Style, style, style. Here's living proof that people-moving crossovers don't have to be boring.
How do you (attempt to) dethrone such normality like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V? By building something like the all-new Tucson. From Hyundai, everybody's favorite value brand they love to crack now-unjustified-jokes about, this is a new compact crossover SUV designed to ignite some creativity into a field defined by conformity. However, is it more than just its eye-grabbing exterior and charming interior?
Of course, the big talk is all in the design. Make no mistake about it—the Tucson is not a new product that's sprung up of out nowhere. This particular generation Tucson is new, but the vehicle named after the one-time territorial capital of Arizona has been around for long enough to have a driver's license of its own. Like most Hyundai and Kia products, Tucson's of old were emphasized by their value, being usually more affordable than American or Japanese competitors. The value aspect is still there and going strong (if by not as much anymore), but as I found in other recent Hyundais, there are virtually no compromises to be found anymore. In other words, you don't have to buy a Hyundai anymore just because it's cheap, but rather, you would buy one because it's both affordable and quite good; also rather upscale, too. The Tucson tested here does convincingly reinforce that trend to a good effect even with a minor couple faults.
Let's talk about that style for a moment. Or two. Suave and swagger are two ingredients added by the design team to create what is in fact little more than just a mobile family box into a shape that's compelling and quite good looking. Honestly, there is zero DNA from prior Tucson models that I can see here, and that's a good thing (no offense, Hyundai). Apart from the elegantly pretty Mazda CX-5, this is a staggering achievement in design for the normal family-oriented crossover segment. Cool details are sprinkled about everywhere and the whole bigger picture melds into a beautifully congruous design that points to a bright future. Speaking of future, when placed on a deserted desert road among a golden landscape like pictured, I reckon it looks bit like a lunar vehicle, and that's a mighty good compliment. My favorite part are the lights that make up part of the grille. It's so cool in person to see, and especially with the lights running. Some will find the bulges on the side panels to be in excess, but I like it because how different it is from any other of the many crossovers it competes against. The current RAV4 was considered bold when it first debuted, but this seemingly sends last season's offering to the outlets with a new daring shape.
Look inside and you're treated to a similarly startling experience as this Hyundai oozes class from each and every crevice even. I'm not going to call it luxurious, because that would be overhyping, but wow does it impress for what is still a budget-conscience choice of a vehicle. This Tucson Limited is the most top-tier trim Tucson you can buy, but stickers for just $38,704, which is several thousand less than a comparable RAV4 Hybrid Limited. And for less dough when equipped the same, this has the RAV4 beat for interior quality and wow factor for sure. A Mazda CX-5 is still the best made and with the best materials, but this is getting really close to taking that top spot. The light-colored gray leather looks and feels great, really opening up the atmosphere in the cabin with the bright hue. Another new design direction is a gauge cluster that has no hood/binnacle, which is odd to see at first, but you quickly learn to not only ignore it, but to like it, as it increases the dash space visually, making for a nicer view ahead on the road. It's also very inviting on initial ingress.
I was able to use Hyundai's center display control with ease during my time and liked the buttons for PRND. The buttons below the screen, like those for the A/C controls do not actually move when you press it, which would be fine normally, but they don't have any feedback here; some kind of haptic response would be welcome. Space and seating were perfect for four adults on a long 300-mile day of driving to the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay and made for a comfortable journey with almost zero complaints. I say almost because there is one issue that I'll get to later. As with most entrants in this class, there's an optional huge sun/moonroof overhead that lets in tons of light that is amazing to have the shade open at night or on days that aren't 100-degree scorchers. There are also some nice and colorful ambient lighting details to make a nice evening mood with.
On the road, steering is light and easy to command, making it very easy to place on the road. That 300-mile journey was “no problem” as they say, and at the end of a long day I wasn't tired in the slightest; this would make for a terrific vehicle for road trips. Noise is surprisingly hushed inside as well, allowing for conversations to be had at whisper volumes and makes the perceived luxury of this vehicle all the more apparent. The ride quality is comfortable, too, mostly, because it is the ride that registers the one large complaint I have with the Tucson: a suspension set-up that gives endless oscillations over large impacts or sections of road that seem to drop away from you. What you end up with is a pogo stick effect of the car going up and down over and over far too many times. It's like the dampers are completely shot, doing nothing to minimize and control the springs compressing and re-extending repeatedly. Passengers thought it was fun the first time in a theme park ride sense, but it's definitely an example of bad body control on larger bumps.
Handling isn't a priority nor concern for buyers of this type of vehicle, but when driven more aggressively, the Tucson will be more than capable for the casual goer with enough grip on tap before slipping into a careful (safe) state of understeer. So, while I found the Tucson a great vehicle to drive 95% of the time, it was those larger bumps that caused mass unsettling of the suspension to be the only real demerit. Where I live, closer to Sacramento, it was much less noticeable, but was apparent in the Bay with its many sections of crap asphalt and road work.
Performance and pep of this hybrid both come courtesy of a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four, bolstered by a battery pack and electric motor. Combined output is 226 horsepower and instills enough zip for anyone. 0-60 MPH happens in a respectable 7.2 seconds, making everyday driving an ease and passing a simple task in most cases. Yeah, it's not fast per se, but the numbers are among the best in this class, being even marginally quicker than the last RAV4 Hybrid I tested. If you don't fancy a hybrid, Mazda's CX-5 and its 2.5L turbo will dust any of them.
That hybrid powertrain is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission (instead of a CVT that's usually customary with hybrid vehicles) and to all four wheels as Tucson Hybrids come standard as all-wheel drive. It's possibly with the transmission, though, where I experienced a second disappointment: fuel economy. The tranny is fine on its, delivering smooth shifts that you never feel, but its 6 forward ratios do perhaps limit attainable fuel mileage. While the EPA ratings for this Tucson are a high 37 MPG overall, I was only able to average 31 MPG, with the same figure being achieved at 70 MPH highway driving. Not bad numbers, but they are inferior to what I attained in Toyota's RAV4 Hybrid (average of 34 and 36 on the highway). Honda's CR-V Hybrid, meanwhile, produced about the same MPG. If an eight-speed was used, better mileage could theoretically be achieved, especially on the freeway. For another option, Hyundai also has a plug-in hybrid variant for those would like to charge their Tucsons and is bestowed with about 30 miles of electric range.
I very much enjoyed the Tucson Hybrid. The looks are a standout feature on its own and against any competitors. Even Bob Barker would agree on the price, with this fully equipped Limited model hitting only $38,704. The only drawbacks I found were wayward suspension control from large bumps and middling fuel economy (verse its main hybrid competitors). A RAV4 Hybrid Limited is more expensive and not as nice inside, while a Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring is cheaper than them all but lacks in performance and interior quality. This Tucson strikes a brilliant balance then between its two chief rivals. But, as said in the beginning, we now live in a time where Hyundais aren't filled with compromises to meet their friendly prices. The interior is first-rate and is littered with all sorts of features, too. Plus, it looks terrific. No matter which way you put it, this new Tucson Hybrid is definitely worth your consideration.
2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Limited AWD
As-Tested Price: $38,704.
Pros: Striking exterior and interior; comfortable and quiet; priced right.
Cons: Only average hybrid fuel economy; damping is sometimes amiss.
Verdict: A fabulously updated entry in the crossover segment.
Mitchell Weitzman is a resident of El Dorado County and UC Santa Barbara graduate. He’s been around cars his whole life and loves racing, such as Le Mans and Formula 1. Mitchell is also a seasoned driver with experience at Laguna Seca and Circuit of the Americas. He loves being able to tell a story through his words and pictures.