2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Test Drive Review
A brand-new design helps the Tucson stand out amongst the competition.
The angular new Tucson arrives with enough space, a fresh-look cabin, and a refined suspension to compete within the superheated compact crossover segment. And, with the hybrid powertrain, it delivers compelling performance and driving dynamics, too. Small families and shoppers looking for an engaging car capable of handling all types of day-to-date duties will want to keep this one on their list of options.
Look and Feel
It feels like just yesterday when the Hyundai Palisade arrived, showcasing an impressive design that would help launch Hyundai’s general popularity toward the stratosphere. With the big Palisade and the slightly smaller Santa Fe, the Korean automaker had unlocked a visual design that was both unique and universally appealing. Fast forward a few short years, and the all-new Tucson has met the proverbial fork in the road and, along with the new Santa Cruz “Sport Adventure Vehicle,” opted to take the other path.
The undisputed truths: the 2022 Hyundai Tucson wears a dramatic new face. It features sharp, angular cues across the fascia and down its sides. The vehicle is longer. It is wider. No shopper in the market for a Tucson will accidentally buy a 2021 model instead of the all-new 2022. And if you think that’s stating the obvious, just look across the segment at Subaru, whose redesigned styles are rarely obvious.
Considering the Tucson a bit more subjectively, it’s hard to see the fourth generation’s exterior styling aging particularly well. Yes, the previous Tucson had a more bubbly, less aggressive design, but it was also safer and more widely appealing. Some shoppers may love the hard creases along the 2022 Tucson’s profile, but the overall exterior aesthetic is more of a risk, a big bet that may pay off… or may not.
Similarly, the Tucson and Santa Cruz share a grille unlike anything else on the road. It blends almost seamlessly with the LED headlights, running lights, and turn signals. Flip those on and the result is a dramatic, futuristic look. Turn them off, and they all but disappear, especially if you opt for the top-tier Limited trim, which paints the grille with a dark chrome finish.
The base-level Blue trim shares a lot of the same design cues as the mid-level SEL Convenience trim, although it wears 17-inch wheels instead of 19s. the SEL Convenience also includes a panoramic sunroof and a hands-free smart tailgate. At the rear of all Tucsons, you’ll see a small cutout in the glass with a plastic half-moon showcasing the brand’s “H” logo. It’s not altogether bad-looking, but it does make one wonder if the Tucson design team finished up the rear before remembering that they hadn’t made space on the sheet metal for the company’s badge.
On the interior, shoppers will find heated front seats, cloth upholstery, and an eight-way power driver seat on the Blue trim level. A proximity key is also included as standard equipment. The SEL Convenience trim adds a 10.25-inch digital driver information display, wireless device charging, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a 10-color ambient lighting kit.
The Limited upgrades that kit to 64 colors, adds heat to the steering wheel, ventilation for the front seats, and memory for the driver’s seat.
Regardless of trims, the Tucson features an impressively open and airy interior. The center console feels bulkier than necessary, but because the infotainment display is integrated into the dash and the driver information display has no hood, the view at and just below eye level is nearly unobstructed.
That hoodless driver information display, in particular, looks very sharp. It doesn’t suffer from any noticeable glare, but it does tend to gather dust. And, because of its big windshield and our Limited test car’s big sunroof, we found that the Tucson’s interior got very hot, very fast. Thank goodness for fast-acting air conditioning and those ventilated front seats.
We were fortunate to drive both the gas-powered and hybrid-powered Hyundai Tucson. While the gas model and its 2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine felt uninspiring, the Tucson Hybrid was much more impressive. All Tucson Hybrids get AWD and a 1.6-liter turbo-four. The engine alone makes 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, but add in Hyundai’s electric motor and the combined system horsepower jumps to 226, while torque climbs to 258 lb-ft. It feels noticeably quicker than the gas-powered Tucson.
The Tucson’s steering is responsive, quick, and direct. A six-speed automatic transmission manages everything admirably, considering the increasingly common seven- eight- nine- and ten-speed competition. And, although they don’t do much to liven up the driving experience, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are included on all trims.
Further, the Tucson’s suspension is outstanding. It soaks up bumps, ruts, dips, cracks, and other road imperfections, but it doesn’t feel bouncy. It does a terrific job keeping the Tucson Hybrid balanced through corners.
With regards to fuel economy, the results are good, if not class-leading. The EPA lists the Tucson Hybrid at 37 mpg city, 36 highway, 37 combined (and 38 across the board for the Blue trim level). These numbers are a notable improvement over the gas Tucson, which delivers 24/29/26 with AWD. At the end of our test, we saw 36.5 mpg.
For maximum efficiency, shoppers may want to wait for the upcoming plug-in hybrid Tucson. Expected this fall, the Tucson PHEV will feature a similar powertrain plus a 13.8 kWh battery. The EPA rates that vehicle at 80 MPGe with 33 miles of all EV range.
Form and Function
Even with a longer and wider footprint than the outgoing Tucson, the new one doesn’t look huge. Yet this vehicle packs a ton of cargo space. The trunk will swallow 38.8 cubic feet, and folding down the rear seat nets you 74.5 cubic feet. For reference, the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 offer 30.9 and 37.6 cubic feet in the trunk, respectively, and 59.6 and 69.8 cubic feet with the rear seat down (again, respectively). Moreover, the Tucson delivers great front and rear legroom, at over 41 inches each, and the rear seats recline.
The Tucson’s cargo floor has a dual-level system. Raise it for a flat loading floor, lower it to maximize space. All the doors offer decent, angled bottle holders. The front seats are also served by two cupholders in the center console, and the rear seat has a fold-down center armrest with two cupholders.
To top it off, our Limited trim’s ambient lighting systems did a nice job of adding a little flair to the cabin.
Across its lineup of vehicles, Hyundai’s tech is consistently good but often frustrating. The 10.25-inch touchscreen in our limited trim looked great when running the native software. But, like with many competing vehicles, the screen only utilizes roughly 8 inches of real estate when running Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. And projection on the 10.25-inch screen requires a wired connection, whereas the smaller 8-inch screen in the Blue and SEL Convenience offers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The interface controls for the infotainment and HVAC are also frustrating touch-capacitive buttons, rather than physical buttons or knobs. You’ll get tired of poking at them to change the radio station, turn up the volume, or adjust the air conditioning. Luckily, the infotainment commands can be handled via the steering-wheel controls.
On the bright side: the Tucson provides lots of USB ports (including two for rear-seat passengers), a beautiful touchscreen display, and our test vehicle had a Bose premium stereo.
The Hybrid is the Tucson to buy if you want safety right out of the box (or if you want good performance and AWD). Automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, cyclist detection, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, a driver-attention monitor, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, safe-exit warning, and rear occupant alert all come standard on the Tucson Hybrid.
Move up to the Limited to also get a surround-view monitor, highway-driving assist with adaptive cruise control, navigation, and two features currently unique to the Korean brands: blind-spot view monitor and remote smart park assist.
The blind-spot view monitor displays a video feed of the Tucson’s right and left blind spot on the driver information display, temporarily replacing the right or left gauge cluster. It’s a terrific feature that is particularly helpful when trying to avoid cyclists.
Remote smart park assist is, frankly, more of a gimmick. This technology allows you to pull the Tucson forward or backward into or out of a parking spot remotely, using the key fob. It’s a great way to impress your friends, but we have trouble seeing a plethora of real-world situations where it would be necessary.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to test the 2022 Tucson, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded it a Top Safety Pick+.
Our Tucson Hybrid Limited sported an MSRP of $38,704, including destination and floor mats. We also tested a gas-powered Tucson Limited with all-wheel drive. That one rang in at $37,580. At those prices, we’d take the better-driving hybrid models all day long.
However, nearly 39 grand isn’t cheap, particularly for a two-row, compact crossover. The Tucson doesn’t show the killer value for your dollar that we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, and in an automotive segment filled with competitors like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Hyundai needs an edge. The Tucson Hybrid Limited is a compelling option in the compact crossover segment, but at $38,704 (including destination and floor mats), it's also pretty expensive.
Of course, pricing for the gas-powered Tucson starts much cheaper: $24,950 for the lowest-level SE trim. The Tucson Hybrid skips that SE trim, so the cheapest you can find one is $29,050—before destination (and floor mats).
So, while the Hybrid is a better vehicle, it also effectively comes with a $5,000 cover charge just to get you in the door. If you’re comfortable budgeting north of $30,000 for your next car, the Tucson may be worth a look. But it’s hard to recommend the sub-$30K gas-powered trims.
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