by Frank A. Aukofer

With interest in electric vehicles at an all-time high, a comparison of two all-new versions of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson provides an enlightening illustration of which a potential buyer might choose.

They are the Tucson Limited plug-in hybrid (PHEV), tested here, and the Tucson Limited Hybrid, tested here last year. They are both high quality, capable vehicles with all-wheel drive that bear more of a resemblance to luxury crossover SUVs than more utilitarian compact crossovers.

For newcomers to the genre, a crossover is described as a utility vehicle built like a car, with unit body construction. A sport utility vehicle 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 Ford Bronco are traditional rugged SUVs.

The two Limited Tucsons have much in common, including power trains and transmissions. Both use a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to an electric motor. Total system output on the PHEV is 261 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, or twisting force. The Hybrid is slightly different at 261 horsepower and 224 pound-feet of torque. Both send the power to the pavement with six-speed automatic transmissions.

The major difference between the two is that the Hybrid automatically allocates power from the electric motor and the gasoline engine, where the PHEV can run up to 33 miles on electricity alone. Charging time for that electric range is two hours on a 240-volt level-two charger.

Once the battery pack is depleted, the PHEV reverts to standard hybrid operation. Overall range on gasoline and electricity combined is 420 miles.

There have been reports that PHEV owners sometimes don’t bother to plug in their vehicles, simply driving them as standard hybrids. That may be convenient for some but it is self-defeating.

The tested Tucson PHEV is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 80 miles per gallon equivalent on electric and gasoline power combined, and 35 miles per gallon on gasoline alone. That’s despite the fact that the 4,235-pound Tucson PHEV weighs 540 pounds more than the Hybrid, likely owing to the additional equipment on the PHEV. The Hybrid gets 38 miles to the gallon.

There also are differences in interior space between the two models, with the PHEV’s cargo area measured at 32 cubic feet and the Hybrid at 39 cubic feet. Each has 106 cubic feet of passenger room.

To nearly double the cargo space, fold the rear seatbacks almost flat. There’s no spare wheel under the cargo floor—just a “tire mobility kit.”

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 PHEV 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 PHEV Limited are treated to quality materials, well-designed accents and equipment, including perforated leather upholstery and  a panoramic sunroof. A large center screen handles infotainment functions. However, controls are either touchscreen or pushbutton. You must look at the screen to select functions, which can be distracting. Some twisty knobs would be welcome for operations 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 center-rear passenger gets a high, tight cushion and a floor hump.

 The most prominent consideration of whether an individual chooses the PHEV or the Hybrid is price. Earlier, a Hybrid Limited tested for this review had a price tag of $38,535, including the destination charge. The PHEV driven for this review had a sticker of $43,945, or $5,410 more.

You can almost hear the cavil of a prospective buyer: “Why should I pay more than five grand for 33 miles of electric range?” Well, the EPA lists the annual fuel cost for the PHEV Tucson at $1,300, versus $1,900 for the Hybrid, so you’d break nearly even in the PHEV in about nine years.

Bottom line, it’s a decision based on individual preferences and circumstances. Pay your money and take your choice.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited PHEV four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline, turbocharged; 90 hp electric motor and 13.8-kwh battery; total system output 261 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,235 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • Range: 33 miles electric only; overall 420 miles.
  • Electric charging time: two hours on 240-volt level 2 charger.
  • EPA miles per gallon equivalent combined: 80 MPGe; gasoline only 35 MPG.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,945.
  • Price as tested: $44,140.

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