by Frank A. Aukofer

Hyundai jumped the gun in the race for buyers of compact crossover sport utility vehicles with its fully redesigned 2022 Tucson, which features eye-catching body sculpting and creative lighting, among many new features.

Moreover, this new contender comes in 10 different versions, called trim levels in the industry, including three hybrids and price tags ranging from $26,135 for the base SE model to $38,704 for the top-line Limited Hybrid version with all-wheel drive tested for this review. Hybrids come with all-wheel drive and other models also are available with front-wheel drive. Prices include the destination charge.

Even with its 38 grand as-tested price, the Tucson Limited Hybrid sells for less than the average price of a new car in the United States — now more than $40,000 — and presents itself more as a small luxury crossover than an economical utility vehicle, which it also can claim.

A crossover is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) built like a car, with unit body construction. An SUV is built with the body mounted on a frame, like a pickup truck. The Tucson is an example of the former; the Chevrolet Tahoe or Jeep Wrangler are traditional rugged SUVs.

Coming or going, the Tucson is a grabber. Its grille is highlighted by 10 (count ’em) LED daytime running lights. Hyundai says the idea was to craft a recognizable work of art. On the road, if a Tucson overtakes your vehicle, you will witness a tail gate that sports a full-width light bar and angular bright brake lights.

For all of its luxury and technological highlights, this Tucson will not disappoint at the gasoline pumps. It delivers a 37/36/37 mpg city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy rating, which some new owners already have exceeded.

The power train consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 90-hp electric motor. Together, they deliver 261 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, meaning this Tucson will never be embarrassed in the stoplight sprints or freeway wrangling. 

For peace of mind, every Tucson comes with modern safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. The tested Limited Hybrid also was equipped with adaptive cruise control and lane-following assist, blind-spot warning, driver attention detection and warning, rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance alert, and front and rear parking assist warning.

Inside, driver and passengers of the Limited Hybrid are treated to quality materials, well-designed equipment and accents, including perforated leather upholstery, and topped off by a panoramic sunroof. A large center screen handles infotainment functions. However, all controls are either touchscreen or pushbutton. You have to look at the screen to select functions, which could be distracting. A few knobs would be welcome for things like radio volume.

Outboard back seats are big and comfortable with plenty of head room and knee room. However, as usual in too many vehicles, the forlorn center rear passenger gets treated to a hard, high cushion and a big floor hump. 

With the rear seatbacks in place, the tested Tucson had 39 cubic feet of space for cargo, more than any conventional sedan on the market. To nearly double that, simply fold the seatbacks almost flat. There’s no spare wheel under the cargo floor — just a “tire mobility kit.” So, figure on calling for emergency service.

The Tucson Hybrid’s forte is serene distance cruising, with the gasoline engine and electric motor quietly working in concert. But it also is no slouch on twisting roads, though it would be a mistake to assume it handles like a sports sedan. However, with a supple suspension system mated to compatible tires, it is capable and secure with a comfortable ride.

Hyundai also offers a Tucson plug-in hybrid, which can deliver up to 32 miles of purely electric operation. An onboard charger can top up the battery in about two hours with a level two 240-volt connection. But once the electric juice dries up it simply switches to regular hybrid operation, so the current better choice is a standard hybrid like the tester, which doesn’t need to be plugged in.

The new Tucson competes in tough company against the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-30, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and the Kia Sportage from Hyundai’s sister division. It should prove to be a formidable foe.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 180 hp, 195 lb-ft torque; 90 hp electric motor. Total system: 261 hp, 224 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/39 cubic feet.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • Weight: 3,695 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 37/36/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,535.
  • Price as tested: $38,704.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Hyundai